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SNAPSHOT 19: 1914 Armoured Car

Although pictures of this armoured car appeared in The Autocar in November 1914 there is a lack of people in the two shots therein and so it is difficult to estimate its size. In this photograph the presence of Charles Jarrott, who is credited with having designed the vehicle, gives a good indication that it is as described – a car – even though of substantial size, and it is not based on a lorry chassis.

In fact what lies beneath the armour-plating is reported as an “Isotta-Fraschini of 100-120 horsepower” which implies that it is an example of a 10.6-litre Tipo KM. Whilst it is not possible to tell if final-drive is by side-chains, which was a feature of the KM, the fact that the chassis-rail starts to drop at the point where the bonnet meets the bulkhead, plus the height of the bonnet suggesting that beneath it is a tall overhead-camshaft engine with four valves per cylinder, means that it probably is as described. Therefore, hidden within this gruff exterior is quite a car!

Jarrott had left his partnership with William Letts in 1910 and went independent. He sold quite a variety of new and second-hand cars, one of the former in the following year being a large Isotta-Fraschini straight from the Italian factory, so he had a level of direct contact with the firm. Sales of any Isotta-Fraschini cars in Britain were not numerous and with the KM being priced at £1,200 in chassis form it was hugely expensive and its potential market miniscule. Only 50 Tipo KMs were made between 1911 and 1914 and at the 1913 London Motor Show where the company had its own stand, the largest car thereon was a KM, 16 of which were made in that year, and only 4 in 1914.

Isotta-Fraschini had supplied 40hp armoured cars to the Italian army, along with Fiat and Lancia, and one can conjecture that Jarrott took an unsold KM to create this vehicle that was then supplied to the Russian Government. Whether it saw action, and its subsequent fate, are both unknowns.

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