Several weeks ago we looked at buses built by Alfa Romeo – today, let’s review another storied Italian manufacturer better know for its svelte coupes, handsome sedans, and rip-snorting rally cars.
Like Alfa, Lancia manufactured cars, trucks, and buses from the early to the latter portion of the twentieth century. And again like Alfa, in the 1920’s and ‘30s, they built some extremely large coaches. The bus above is a Lancia Omicron L, built from 1930-36. As the GM PD 4501 Scenicruiser and other bi-level buses are referred to as a “deck and a half”, I guess we could call the Omicron L a “double deck and a half.”
The Omicron was a long distance bus used on the Rome to Tivoli route. It was powered by a big Lancia Type 77 706 cubic inch six cylinder gas engine putting out 95 hp. It seated 88 passengers, with the upper rear a first-class section. I couldn’t find any dimensions but it looks well over 40 feet long.
Here’s a slightly smaller deck and a half model from 1938.
After the war, in the late 40’s-early ’50’s, Lancia continued marketing both intercity and urban transit models – mostly conventional designs.
Then in in the early ‘50’s, they developed their first semi-monocoque bodied model; the “Esatau” built from 1951 all the way to the mid-60’s. Above is a schematic of the urban transit version, and a picture of the intercity model. They came with a variety of front-mounted engines, one being a large version of Lancia’s V10 gas engine, that had up to 144 hp.
Styling was updated every year or so – some fairly “unique”…
Lancia also built a double-decker model, the DDS, in 1964.
The Esatau was replaced by the “Esagamma” in the latter ‘60’s – here in urban transit form. Engine was moved from the front to underfloor amidships, behind the front axle. Most used a Lancia laydown six cylinder diesel, in various sizes.
This Esagamma chassis has a body by Spanish maker Pegaso.
Here is a nice looking Esagamma intercity step-up design, from 1969.
Lancia’s bus and truck division was winding down by the 1970’s. This 1974 ATM model was one of the last built. Interesting asymmetrical grill.
Lancia continued making trucks and buses until 1975 when it’s truck and bus division merged with Fiat, OM, Unic, and Magirus-Deutz to form IVECO.
Anyone know why many of these buses are right-hand drive? In Italy?
Trucks in Italy were right hand drive until the late 1970’s.
Usual reason given is to keep the driver close to the edge on a mountain road
Per diversi decenni, in Italia era obbligatoria la guida a destra per gli autobus e i camion pesanti
I hope Rome-to-Tivoli is flat and straight – the Omnicron looks awfully tippy
I would like the experience of riding in the upper area at the rear of the Omnicron. So high up and a long way behind the rear axle – it must have been quite interesting.
You may enjoy this video dating back to 1932 about the bus ride from Rome to Tivoli
Some cool stuff. The 51 Esatau answered the question of what a Buick bus may have looked like. And the 53 with the stereophonic grilles is just bizarre.
I had no idea that Lancia was part of Iveco’s family tree.
I think that’s come up before, but I can’t find the appropriate CC off the top of my head. The thinking was that on a mountain road with no guard rail, the driver should know exactly where the right front wheel was. In fact, buses were legally required to be RHD. Lancia cars for the Italian market were RHD standard, LHD optional, until ~1956.
Thanks for that explanation. I vaguely remember that discussion about mountain road buses.
The last picture shows a RHD articulated city bus from circa 1970. I would probably not volunteer to drive (or ride) such a bus on mountain roads…
Perhaps there’s another explanation for that one.
To avoid hitting the curb and those standing on it? That thing has massive blind spots, when compared to something just a decade newer.
Switzerland considered mandating the vehicles to be right-hand-drive while remaining right-hand-traffic in the 1950s. This was supposedly to help the drivers see the edge of the mountain roads better, adding extra level of safety for mountain drives. The idea was what Germans say Schnapsidee (crackpot idea) so the proposal was abandoned.
In 2016, I rode a mountain bike on Camino a Los Yungas (better known as Death Road) in Bolivia. All vehicles, including the tourists on mountain bikes and me, are required to drive on the left-hand-traffic when encountering the approaching traffic.
Italy didn’t standardise the rule of road until 1927 with cities switching from LHT to RHT while the countryside roads remained RHT. The Italians preferred the right-hand-drive vehicles for the same reason cited above.
For the same reason, Italian trucks were available in RHD configurations well into the 80s. Since we’re on topic, here’s a nice Esagamma truck.
Because if you’re driving something like this at 30 mph on a 1 lane wide mountain road, you’re not really worried about head ons, let alone overtaking anybody.
30 MPH? My uncle’s BIL used to drive one of those Fiats in Israel and trust me, going up loaded from the Dead Sea basin to the Negev Desert he’d be lucky to hit 10 MPH…
Being stuck behind one of these smoke belching beasts while queuing for hours at 10 mph on mountain passes is something we cannot forget.
Bless the clean Diesels and improved ventilation systems.
Thanks for these. Some beautiful buses.
There’s something about the buses with trailers that speaks to me, probably because I rode in some as a kid. I like the one with the passage between bus and trailer, it would make an interesting RV conversion, especially if one had kids. Separation of space, which is a bit challenging in an RV. And one could just unhook it and leave it behind.
My favorites are the more modern designs, like the coach in the first picture and the one with the Pegaso body further down. Both date back to the early seventies, I think.
The fronts of the coaches from the fifties and sixties are a bit too overwrought to my taste, compared with their clean and smooth sides.
Keep them coming Jim!
Jim, I really enjoy your bus series. Thank you for posting these pictures of italian buses of the past.
Some of the late models were the buses of my childhood and an Esagamma bus was really something to spot from a distance in a sea of FIATs!
As for the impressive Lancia Omicron L “double deck and a half”as you call it, these were named “Autoalveolari” (honeycombs) and were meant to be used as short range buses between Rome and its outskirt.
Your guess about max. length is correct: they were 12 m. long, 4.3 m high and weighed about 14 metric tons.Top speed was claimed to be 45 km/h.
This slowed down to 20 km/h on hilly roads.
Huge as they were, they proved totally unsuitable to serve in hilly and narrow roads around Rome and were soon destined to other uses. It was planned to build buses with a capacity up to 190 passengers but these never materialized.
Originally, this vehicle was intended to replace the steam tramways lines which were ailing after the Government dictated major overhaul work to improve urban tram/railroad lines. This happened in the late Twenties and resulted in many companies stopping their business, thus the need to find a stopgap solution which a normal capacity bus could not provide.
I look forward to see some OM Lupetto (the beater schoolbus of the Seventies) and Autobianchi buses on these pages.
Thank you for all the additional info Bruno – and for the suggested future posts…Jim.
50’s, 60’s, and even most 70’s buses just look so “right”, the detailing on many of them is suberb! Thanks for these, all Lancias are interesting and the buses, well, there is so much more of them to admire.
Anybody catch The Grand Tour yesterday? There’s a lovely Lancia Gamma Coupe in the main feature of the episode. As well as an Alfa GTV6, just so much goodness.
Another great entry Jim
Another great post full of great things – thansk Jim.
Most of those look like either stunning or evocative, often both, and the Lancia being in the IVECO history is new to me