NEW MODELS AT TUN DESPITE RECESSION
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By A. J. P. WILDING
IN direct contrast with the current optimism and activity in the British commercial vehicle industry, so apparent at the recent Commercial Motor Show, there was a generally depressing air about the Turin Show which opened last Saturday. The commercial section of the exhibition is devoted this year to passenger vehicles, and the existence of a serious economic recession in Italy has had a considerable effect on this side of the industry as well as on passenger car and goods vehicle production.
In spite of this, however, there are some completely new models introduced at the show. These include a Viberti doubledecker and 0.114., Lancia and Fiat single-deckers. Of most interest, from a British point of view, are two p.s.v. exhibited under the Leyland sign by Societa .Autoveicole Industriali S.p.A., Leyland Group agents in Italy. One is a passenger road train (four-wheel tractor and four-wheel trailer with a fullwidth. corridor connection) built by Viberti using a chassis built by S.C.A.L.L. with Leyland mechanical components for the tractor, and the second is a 5I-seat single-decker with an integral body by S.C.A.L.L. and Leyland components. There are also a number of new body designs.
Some idea of the effect of the recession in the automobile industry can be seen from the fact that for the nine months from January this year the number of commercial vehicles produced in Italy dropped to 47,561 from 58,072 (or 18 per cent) compared with the same nine months in 1963. In the same period registrations of new vehicles fell to 51,747 from 67,311 (23 per cent). The position for the last six months to September—the actual recession period—shows that demand was still further reduced, production figures being 24 per cent down and new registrations 29 per cent lower.
Overall, cars have not been hit so hard as commercials. but the percentage reduction figures for the six-month period are closer than for the full nine months because of an increase last April in purchase tax on cars. This tax has not been applied to commercials where the reduced demand is the direct result of the economic situation. Roads construction and building works have been cut drastically, because of restrictions and shortage of money. This latter aspect has affected sales of p.s.v., whilst the former is the main contribution to the low demand for goods vehicles. Both sides of the industry are said to have been hit equally badly and I was told by more than one manufacturer that bus companies were ready to place good orders but were unable to obtain the finance.
Whilst there can be no doubt that the -Italian economy is in a very difficult situation at present, the impression obtained, after an admittedly short visit to Turin, is that some parts of the industry are taking rather a defeatist attitude about the whole thing. This applies particularly to some of the automobile manufacturers making cars as well as commercials, where the biggest concern is the effect of Government measures—mainly the increase in purchase tax—on car sales. The tax is applied using an extremely complex formula, but the increase is reckoned to be about 20 to 30 per cent.
Instead of doing ffieir utmost to help restore the economy to a satisfactory situation, manufacturers appear to be doing little but blame the Government for the recession. Shorttime working Is fairly general, but there have been worse times for vehicle makers in the U.K., with high taxes and so on, and I cannot recall the same attitude being taken by manufacturers here.
In the circumstances, this 46th Turin Show may well have a beneficial effect on the Italian economy. And with the new models that are shown -having worthwhile advantages ovei their predecessors, this is very likely.
The name Viberti figures prominently in the new develop. merits at Turin and the most important vehicle exhibited by the concern is the new Monotral CV 63 referred to in The Commercial Motor last week. This is the successor to the Monotral CV 61, which was introduced in 1960 and 12 of ,which have been in operation for three years with the Turin Transport Board. The CV 63 is a completely different design to the CV 61, the two models being twoand three-axle machines respectivelyi although both employ integral construction. Fiat running units continue to be employed, but whilst the CV 61 has a Fiat 200 b.h.p. engine mounted vertically on the left-hand side of the bus, the CV 63 has a Fiat 412 II 61, 176 b.h.p.
horizontal engine mounted transversely at the rear of the body. The engine drives towards the left-hand side of the vehicle into a four-speed gearbox, with an output shaft angled to take the drive into the centre of the rear axle. Gear changing is by an electrically actuated air-pressure system. Overall length of the bus is 36 ft. 1 in., compared with 39 ft. 5 in, for the CV 61, and overall height is 13 ft. 7 in.; the overall height is constant, because suspension is by a combined air and leaf-spring system. The body structure is of tubular steel members with . outside panelling in light alloy, and the complete roof is a reinforced-plastics moulding, The interior layout is interesting, there being two staircasesone at the rear for ascent into the upper saloon and one at the front for descending passengers. The upper saloon extends only as far back as the rear staircase and accommodates 28 seated passengers. Downstairs there are 18 seats on three.levels and there is space for 84 standees, making the total capacity 130. The entrance to the interior is behind the rear axle,and here there is a large platform with a seat and paydesk for the conductor and three passenger seats. A further four seats are located on a raised platform above the engine compartment; the stairs are next to the entrance to the forward part of the lower saloon. This is at a lower level and has eight seats and a large standing space, and to large exit doors. The front half of the forward door is for upper saloon passengers and the flow is separated by a handrail and barrier halfway along the door opening. As there is no upper deck past the rear stairs, the roof of the bus is sloped down from this point and mounted in the roof is a large mirror giving the conductor a complete view of the upper saloon.
As well as the double-decker on the Viberti stand, there are Iwo examples of the concern's road trains, one for city service and the other for inter-urban use. The tractor portion of the city model consists of a Fiat 410 chassis with Viberti body, the trailer section and coupling also being made by Viberti. There are 48 seats and space for 110 standing passengers, and four of the seats are positioned in the area of the full-width corridor between the two portions. Except for the seating, the second train is to a similar general design, but is on a Lancia 705 chassis and has 73 seats.
The road train on the Leyland stand has a rather complicated background, The unit was ordered from Viberti by Leyland Iberica of Spain, with the chassis for the tractor portion being built by S.C.A.L.L. using Leyland components. Viberti built the body on the tractor, the complete trailer section and the connections between the two portions, whilst the tractor chassis was built by S.C.A.L.L. to the order of Leyland's Italian agents, Soeieta Autoveicoli
Industrieli S.p.A., the wheelbase being 18 ft. 0.5 in. The units used are as fitted in the Leyland Worldmaster and include an 0.680 engine and five-speed, pneumocyclic, semi-autoniatic gearbox. For this application, however, the 0.680 has been uprated to 200 b.h.p., as compared with 150 b.h.p. when used in the WorIdmaster, the higher setting being the normal when the engine is used in goods chassis. A similar set of units is used in the integral 51-seater with S.C.A.L.L. body on the Leyland stand; this has many good features, including an attractively styled body.
In addition to the three passenger road trains, seen inside the exhibition hall at Turin, there is also a Macchi-Bussing unit displayed on the outside show area. Road trains are obviously gaining in popularity in Italy and also in other European countries. The first designs of four-axle trains were introduced by Viberti in 1960 and these followed articulated, three-axle outfits which had been in production since about 1949. The reason for the change to four axles was because of legislation introduced in 1961 which limited the length of three-axle artic buses to 14 metres (45-9 ft.). According to Viberti the only advantage obtained by having an independent trailer is that there is a danger of overloading the rear axle of the tractive unit in artic buses; there is no problem of "cutting in" by the trailer axle on the artics because the law is explicit on the requirements for inner and outer turning circles. On the road trains the rear axle of the trailer is steered by a connection to the turntable so that " tracking " is improved.
Added interest is given to the use of Leyland units in a road train and in the S.C.A,L.L. coach. Leyland has not done a great deal of business in Italy in the past and only appointed Societe Autoveicoli Industriali S.p.A, its agents in the middle of this year. With the form of Leyland's participation at the Turin Show some interesting speculations on the future can be made.
The growth of interest in road trains is probably the reason for a good deal of optimism for the future in the Viberti company in contrast with other companies. The idea of using passenger road trains cannot be patented, of course, but the concern has a considerable amount of experience in the design of such outfits and this know-how is valuable. Licences have already been granted to E.N.A.S.A. of Spain and to Berliet of France for the production of road trains to Viberti designs. Bernet is building 30 units for Lyon and E.N.A.S.A. is hoping for orders from Barcelona and Madrid for units with Pegaso engines. The latest development by Viberti is the negotiation with Van Hool of Belgium, who are body-builders and Fiat agents, for a licence to build road trains.
The newest of the Lancia exhibits is the Esagamma 715 coach chassis, which in fact is a prototype. This is really a new version of the Esagamma 718 bus, having a normallyaspirated version of the 10.5-litre turbocharged engine used in the bus. This gives 190 b.h.p. compared with the 237 b.h.p. of the 718 power unit; another difference is that whilst the 718 has a Swedish SRM automatic gearbox (made in Italy by 0.M.) the 71.5 has a fourspeed main gearbox with two-speed gearing in an auxiliary section of the casing to give eight speeds.
The two models have combined air and leaf-spring suspension, semi-elliptic springs being used to support the weight of thevehicle; the air suspension is designed to carry the load and maintain the vehicle at a constant level. The chassis frame layout of the 715 is of conventional construction with level side-members, but the 718 has a complex fabricated frame assembly incorporating front wheel arches.
Newcomers to the range of Fiat passenger vehicles, featured at the Turin Show, consist
of a 309 Granluce bus which is based on the standard 309 chassis but having a new body design with larger windows, giving a 15 per cent increase in glass area; a new 416 50passenger bus for city use, and an eight-seater version of the 600 van. The last is not a true passenger vehicle, so the most important is the 416. This model has a 110 b.h.p. gross engine mounted vertically at the rear of the body driving through a gearbox with angled output shaft to the centre of• the rear axle. The 416 is the first rear-engine passenger vehicle to be produced by Fiat and the overall dimensions are 21-ft. long and 7-ft. 4-in. wide. One of the features of the design is a low floor level which is 2 ft. 1.5 in. from the ground. Following the usual Continental practice of trying to get as many passengers as possible into each bus, instead of leaving them at the bus stop, there are only 12 seats, the 38 passengers making up the designed capacity of 50 being standees.
A rear-engined chassis is the more important development featured by 0.M., the Titano POS, which has a horizontal engine. The engine used in this chassis is in fact a horizontal version of the 10-3-litre vertical unit used in rear-engined Titano P-PS and, whilst the engine of the latter chassis can be supplied normally aspirated or turbocharged to produce either 187 b.h.p. or 230 b.h.p. net, only the turbocharged version is offered in the POS.
A smaller passenger chassis shown by O.M. is the Cerbiatto. This is for 18-seat bodies and has an 80 b.h.p. net engine.
By far the greatest content of the Show is bodywork, and a particularly attractively. new design—and one which is also of technical interest—is the Aerfer Raedapol integral singledecker. The body is constructed entirely of light alloys and it is claimed to be the first passenger vehicle in the world with this feature. Overall length is 36 ft. and as shown—as a 51-seater bus—the unladen weight is 6 tons. Fiat mechanical units are used throughout, the engine being the 9.16-litre, 153 net b.h.p. unit used in the Fiat 309, 30-ft.-long 39-seater.
There is little really new in the way of bodywork design except for the Aerfer and S.C.A.L.L. models already referred to. The general style of Italian bodywork has altered little since 1962, when the Turin Show last included passenger vehicles. Changes have been made in detail by most exhibitors but the only trend of note is to deeper windscreens and the square appearance resulting from flat sides.
Both leftand right-hand drive goods and passenger vehicles are operated in Italy, most of the heavy goods being righthand, whilst on the passenger side there seem to be two schools of thought. It appears that buses with right-hand drive are finding more favour for town use—the Viberti double-decker and road trains and a number of other bus exhibits have this layout—whilst for long-distance use the majority are left-hand drive. Probably accurate placing of the vehicle in relation to the kerb in congested areas is the reason for having the driver on that side of the bus. But there are some "don't knows because some urban-bus exhibits have the driving position almost on the centreline—only about 8 in. to the left-hand side.