On 19 February 1819 King Vittorio Emanuele I proclaimed: «... the city of Turin will be enlarged from the village of Po to the river bank». The construction of piazza Vittorio - according to the wishes of Carlo Felice - the bridge and the Church of Gran Madre di Dio, inaugurated on 20 May 1831, gave a new shape to the city, the fourth time the city had been enlarged.
In 1835 a 30-year old wheelright by the name of Diatto, from the nearby farming village of Carmagnola, settled in the city, leasing from Count Francesco Gay a small strip of land on the right-hand bank of the River Po, for the manufacture and repair of carriage wheels. This was the beginning of what was to become a major auto manufacturer.
In 1861 Guglielmo Diatto purchased the land and house he had lived in for twentysix years on the other side of the Po for 69,000 lira (deed of 5 May, signed by notary public Guglielmo Teppati). The business was well-known at the time, featuring in local guide books. On 8 October 1862, the company expanded (drawings by Engineer Saverio Avenati), and was further extended in 1863, under the supervision of the Architect Luigi Formento. The workshops were in full swing when, on 16 October 1864, Guglielmo Diatto died at the age of sixty. The will, dated 6 September, left the company to the founder’s four sons, Vincenzo, Giovanni, Giovanni Battista and Pietro, the widow, Anna, and daughters Teresa, Angela, Giuseppa and Rosa. On 31 January 1867, the women made over their assets in the company to the male heirs.
The founder of Diatto, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of rolling stock, was Giovanni Battista. On 1st September 1868 the company was renamed Fratelli Diatto (Diatto Brothers) and expansion continued along the banks of the river Po, with the acquisition of new land covering the length of the area from the bridge named after King Vittorio Emanuele to the iron bridge of Queen Maria Teresa. By this time Diatto could be considered a large factory. From coach wheels, the company had moved onto the manufacturer of coaches and then to railway rolling stock, becoming a major supplier of the Italian Mediterranean Railway Company, the National Railway and Tramway Company of Rome and the Paris based Compagnie des Wagons Lits et des Grands Express Europeéns.
Vincenzo died, unmarried, on 10 August 1880, leaving his property and assets to his mother, brothers and sisters. Four years later, on 14 September 1884, his brother Pietro died. For the sake of convenience the manufacturing facilities were made over to the two remaining brothers.
On 23 July 1889 Giovanni and Giovanni Battista Diatto wound up the company and divided its properties and assets consisting of the land, manufacturing facilities and houses in the village of Po, on 6.059 acres. With this agreement, Giovanni Battista Diatto became the sole owner of the factory, purchasing his brother’s shares for Itl 590,000. On 4 March 1899 Fratelli Diatto was renamed Società Anonima Officine già Fratelli Diatto, with a share capital of Itl 3,600,000 which acquired from its President Giovanni Battista Diatto, the factory and land on the banks of the River Po for the sum of Itl 1,145,000. Technical Director was Dante Ferraris, the President’s son-in-law.
On 3 February 1909, in order to build a new bridge over the Po, to be named after King Umberto I, assassinated in Monza, the Turin City Council requisitioned part of the Diatto property. Since 1899 Diatto had been buying up land in the Crocetta area; in 1912 the company bought the factory and land owned by auto manufacturer Itala, the new corporate headquarters in via Rivalta 15, Orbassano.
Giovanni Battista Diatto retired at the age of seventy, appointing Engineer Ferraris, his son-in-law, to run the company. A few years later - on 23 April 1918 - before notary public Torretta, the company signed an agreement with Fiat, effectively a merger, becoming the Railway division of Fiat.
The company existed independently for 83 years, but the name Diatto continued to be used in the auto industry due to the work of Giovanni Battista Diatto’s sons Vittorio and Pietro (Guglielmo’s grandsons), who stipulated an agreement on 12 April 1905 between their company - Ingegneri Vittorio e Pietro Diatto-Fonde-rie Officine Meccaniche Costruzioni in Ferro - and the Société des Établissements Adolphe Clément-Automobiles Bayard based in Levallois Perret (Paris), for the manufacture of French automobiles under license.
The new company was called Società Automobili Diatto-A. Clément with a share capital of Itl 1,500,000, of which Itl 450,000 was paid up, and duration until 30 September 1935. The company was based in Turin, with 25,000 square meters of facilities between via Fréjus, Cesana, Revello and Moretta: 90 HP of power was installed, supplied by 3 three-phase motors driving about 200 machine tools, for 500 workmen. Corporate headquarters was at via Fréjus 21.
The following year the company launched the new models Turin 12/16 HP, 20/24 HP with 4-cylinder, 8/10 HP and 10/12 HP with 1,884 cc 2-cylinder engine. In 1906 a Diatto-Clément 10/12 HP driven by Giovanni Gagliardi, won first prize in its class in the Milan-Sanremo race and second prize in the 1 kl race. At Herkomer a 20/24 HP was awarded the Gold Medal and special plaque. Felice Buzio, driving a Diatto-Clément 12/16 HP won the Bologna Grand Prix, and Gregorio Vercellone driving a 20/24 HP won a number of events in the GT series Gold Cup. In 1907 the new 4-cylinder models included the 14/18 HP (2,724 cc), 20/25 HP (3,770 cc) and 25/35 HP (4,846 cc), with annual production of around 250 cars.
Umberto Boccioni, the futurist painter, moved to Milan in 1907 to record “...the fruits of our industrial times” as he wrote in his diary. On 1st September, Boccioni was at the Brescia race track, where he wrote: «It was like seeing a new generation of heroes! Can this be so? One thing is sure: those wondrous races represent the eternal ideal of conquest». Two weeks before, the Milan Arena had given a hero’s welcome to the winners of the Peking-Paris race, one of the most important events for the promotion of the cult of the automobile in Italy. The idea - a sort of journey by Marco Polo in reverse - was put forward half jokingly by the Director of the Paris newspaper Matin and, to his surprise, was taken up by 25 teams.
Only 5 teams actually started the race - three from France, one from Holland and one from Italy. Teams were required to pay 2,000 francs to the newspaper and to arrange for the vehicle to reach Peking, as well as paying all expenses for the race itself. A 3-wheel motor cycle ridden by Pons began the race but was soon forced to withdraw.
Italy was represented by an Itala driven by Prince Scipione Borghese accompanied by the mechanic and co-driver Ettore Guizzardi, and by the famous journalist Luigi Barzini, acting as correspondent for the Corriere della Sera and Daily Telegraph. The Prince was a meticulous man; the car was stripped down to remove anything not strictly necessary but still weighed in at around 2 tons. The weight was useful on the many dirt roads along the route.
At 7.30 a.m. on 10 June 1907 Guizzardi turned the crankshaft and started the engine. The race began at 8.00 a.m. The first article written by Barzini was telegraphed from Hong Kong, after crossing the Great Wall of China and the Gobi desert: it was the first telegram to be sent from the Hong Kong office after 6 years of operation.
The difficulties were enormous and practically an everyday event: rivers, the steppes, the Urals. Frequently local craftsmen were called on to make repairs as the cars were damaged or broke down. Very little news got through to European newspapers and rumours were frequent and frequently absurd (for example Pons and his mechanic were reported dead and eaten by cannibals). The return to Paris was a triumph. After Moscow and Siberia, everything was easy. Banquets and speeches were arranged for the final stages. The Itala led the race by thousands of kilometers.
On 10 August, 60 days after starting off, the Itala reached Paris after a journey of 10,000 miles from Peking, featuring the Gobi desert, Baikal Lake, Omsk, the Urals, Novgorod, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Berlin, Liege and finally Paris. This tough test for springs, suspension, the engine, tyres and brakes, was a major success for the Italian auto industry.
Domenica del Corriere (the Sunday supplement) dedicated two covers to the race. The second features the triumphant arrival in Milan of the winning team, met by a crowd of over 30,000, on 16 August.
Diatto took note and prepared a car for the St. Petersburg-Moscow race scheduled to start on 18 May 1908. 28 cars took part, but only 9 reached the destination. The Diatto (number 25) driven by Primaversi came home sixth. These race experiences influenced production, with heavy-duty vehicles equipped with excellent braking systems. One example was the 4,846 cc 25/35 HP produced in 1907, with chain transmission (conventional Cardan transmission from 1909). Although much more expensive than previous models (Itl 16,500), this car was enormously successful and was produced until 1910. On 30 June 1909, Vittorio and Pietro Diatto bought out the shares of Adolphe Clément, changing the company name to Fonderie Officine Fréjus.
All new cars would have the famous oval Diatto badge on the radiator, a logo that was used unchanged until the factory closed and still famous throughout the motor racing world.
(It should be remembered that, despite the similarity with the Bugatti logo, the oval Diatto logo was used from 1909 onwards and was submitted to the patents office on 5 June 1919, pre-dating both the invention of the Bugatti logo in 1911 and the registration on 1st May 1925).
A few months after becoming a fully independent company, the factory produced a new 4-cylinder 209 cc monoblock 15 HP engine, designed entirely in-house. The engine was coupled to a 3-speed transmission plus reverse.
With the war in Libya, the Balkan conflict and the First World War, the industrial revolution encouraged by Prime Minister Giolitti, was given further impetus. The war required arms and vehicles. The first reconnaissance planes and bombers were used in Libya. Machines became part of everyday life, power and speed no longer being thought of as unnatural or somehow devilish.
In mid-August 1905 Queen Margherita was the object of this kind of superstition. Four shepherds in the mountains of the Aosta valley saw her aboard the Sparviero, a convertible, followed by a second car, the Allodola, with devilish rays from the front of the cars: they broke the headlamps with stones and the car plummeted into a ditch, without falling further. «It could have been a catastrophe» was the comment of Illustrazione Italiana «but it was what we will come to call an accident». Margherita did not move, just looked at the St. Christopher she kept with her at all times. On her prompting, St. Christopher became the patron saint of motorists.
In 1908 the King’s car, on route from Racconigi to Piacenza, took an unexpectedly tight corner and finished in a ditch; the following year, near San Marino, perhaps after brake failure, 8 motorists from Padova were killed; in 1910, on a French race track, the Turin racing driver Giuppone, skidded off the track and was killed; three years later a powerful car travelling near Savona collided with two oxen.
These accidents created a partially negative atmosphere around the auto industry but did not prevent Diatto, in 1910, from arriving at the Brooklands circuit in England with a highly aerodynamic racing car, powered by a 15.9-litre aircraft engine - a clear indication of the ambitions of the auto manufacturer. In 1911, Diatto began production of a new vehicle, the 16 HP Unique Type with monoblock 2,212 cc engine and 3speed transmission.
In 1912 this model was transformed into a new 18 HP Unique Type, now with 2,413 cc engine and 4-speed gearbox; until 1915 this remained the standard car, with slight changes to front and rear width, distance between wheels and overall weight.
Diatto was one of the leading manufacturers on racing circuits throughout this period. On 21 June 1914, Eugenio Silvani won a 4-lap (160-mile) race in Tuscany on the San Pietro track from Sieve-Scarperia-Giogo-Fiorenzuola-Passo della Futa-San Pietro and back to Sieve. The outbreak of the First World War in Italy, in May 1915, removes the last few reservations about the use of powerful engines, now used in the war effort.
In October 1911 and January 1912, the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio had praised the war in Libya publishing “Canzoni delle gesta d’oltremare” in the Corriere della Sera, and in Paris, Marinetti’s “Guerra igiene del mondo” (War, hygiene for the world) praised «... the formidable symphonies of shrapnel and crazed sculptures created by our artillery in the enemy camp». To create these “crazed sculptures” and to fly over Trento and Vienna to drop propaganda leaflets, industry was required to produce aircraft and support vehicles.
For the war against Austria all available vehicles were requisitioned to move troops and arms to the front lines, the railway network having been built entirely defensively and serving almost no purpose in the war effort. The 3,400 vehicles requisitioned were nonetheless insufficient, mules being used in the toughest areas. Fiat provided the most vehicles with a new military truck called 18BL.
The war helped convince Italy that automobiles were here to stay; this was strengthened by the mountain terrain and shape of the peninsula which made railway building more difficult than in other countries. Road building went ahead quickly. In 1910 62 private companies managed 1,875 miles of road; in 1912 this had gone up to 5,235 miles, and on 30 June 1914 it was 7,344. Immediately after the armistice a further 200 licenses were given for the construction of 3,750 more miles, with petrol stations selling subsidized petrol below the market price. In 1924 Italy had a total of 33,000 miles of main and B roads, with GT routes and seasonal services for spa towns and health resorts.
In 1915 Diatto began production of light trucks, converting its standard frames to military use. These trucks proved to be strong and reliable. During the same year, a new body shop was inaugurated in via Moretta, Turin, and two new factories were acquired from John Newton in Turin and from Scacchi in Chivasso.
On 17 March 1916 Diatto bought the majority shareholding in the Société des Moteurs Gnome et Rhône, renamed Società Italiana Motori Gnome et Rhône, used to build famous 8-cylinder aircraft engines in cooperation with Bugatti, under the direct control of Diatto. A further two models were also produced, the 2,724 20/25 HP and the 3,969 cc 30/40 HP, both with 4-vertical cylinder engines.
In 1916 Enzo Ferrari and his brother Alfredo bought a red Diatto which he described in his memoires: «Alfredo volunteered for the war; it was the time Red Cross volunteers were taken if they had some kind of vehicle. The red 4-cylinder Diatto Torpedo we had bought went with him, to transport the wounded from the front to hospitals».
The war changed the working class. In July 1915 Critica Sociale (Social Criticism), the socialist magazine founded and directed by Filippo Turati, denounced the psychological damage of workmen producing entirely for destructive purposes for many years. «What will the consequences be» he wondered, «for the economy and finances after the War?». The War was gearing the mechanical engineering industry up to huge profits based on estimates for old, badly organized artillery workshops which had now been converted into standard production lines, with a fraction of the cost. Management chose this moment to challenge the proletarian movement.
Fiat, one of the largest producers of war equipment, returned profits of 80% of turnover, leading to a sevenfold increase in share capital and a tenfold increase in the number of employees.
At the end of the War, Diatto underwent a new change, becoming Società Anonima Fonderie Officine Fréjus Automobili Diatto (a joint-stock company) in 1918. The following year, its name was changed again, to Società Anonima Automobili Diatto, with a new organisation and new corporate headquarters in Rome (only in 1920), closer to the source of a credit of Itl 6 million (the equivalent today of Itl 300 bn) owed by the State for war equipment manufactured by Gnome et Rhône; this debt was never settled, creating negative repercussions throughout industry.
European factories, hit by the unexpectedly difficult conversion to a peace time footing, also faced a chronic shortage of money and government policy which continued to regard automobiles as useless - perhaps even damaging - luxuries, with narrow roads and asphalt surfaces suited to no more than 20-30 mph, partly enhanced by the aristocratic image of the automobile, the favourite playthings of Dukes, Princes, and members of the Royal Family.
In 1928 the German auto manufacturer Ferdinand Porsche spoke in less than friendly terms of aristocratics: «they talk about democracy but they want luxury cars».
Three years were to pass before the first Volkswagen, the “dream car” as it was called in September 1931 by Porsche, and a further three years went by before the first Balilla. Three years may not be much, but they were enough to finally rid the world of the idea of motor cars as playthings and to create the utility car for the masses.
Diatto had just been waiting for the moment. In 1919 it had produced three new car based on this concept: the 30 Type, on license from Bugatti, with a 1,452 cc engine with valves and overhead camshaft, the 10 HP Type with 1,018 cc engine and 3-speed gearbox with reverse, an early attempt to produce a utility car, and the model 25 HP 4 DA e 4 DC produced in the Gnome et Rhône factories, with 2,724 cc engine, produced until 1922 with a slight change to the distance between the wheels.
On 13 June 1920 a 6-lap race was held at the Mugello, in Tuscany, covering a total of 245 miles. 24 cars started the race; 5 finished. Augusto Tarabusi came second in a Diatto, with average speed of close to 40 mph, behind Giuseppe Campari, driving an Alfa Romeo. On 20 October the 11th Targa Florio race was held on the same track as the year before: 4 laps of the medium circuit of Madonie, 270 miles; Peter de Paolo and Peyron took part with their Diatto.
In November 1920, Trade Union disputes reached a peak of violence. Mechanical engineering workers in the Fiom Union (Federazione Italiana degli Operai Metallurgici) - a total of 160,000 factory workers led by Secretary General (and member of Parliament) Bruno Buozzi, a reformer along the lines of Turati, and former factory worker now at the head of the Trade Union - put in salary claims with 50% increases for women and apprentices, paid holidays of up to 12 days a year and compensation for job loss: these were moderate demands but, in a time of recession, owners broke off talks. Fifty thousand workers occupied factories, supervising plant and equipment round the clock.
The situation was extremely serious: «Anyone at that time», wrote the historian Morandi «who looked towards the Giovi pass, down the valley towards Polcevera and further afield, Voltri and Sestri, would have seen the red flags of the proletariat on the rooftops of factories. The same could be said for Lecco, seen from Resegone, and Greco milanese, towards Mirafiori, and in Biella and Brescia». The Prime Minister Giolitti waited and the occupation of the factories burnt out on its own.
In 1921 the 4 DS, a modified version of the 4 DC, with
sports car performance and a top speed of over 90 mph, continued the company’s
racing interests. In 1921 Diatto decided to move corporate headquarters back to
Turin; the company also dedicated more attention to motor racing and set up its
own racing team. Share capital was increased to Itl 10,000,000, a huge figure
for the time, enabling Diatto to acquire a number of new short-term projects.
In 1922, Giuseppe Coda became Technical Director, after winding up his own
business, Veltro Società Automobili, after only a few months. He brought Diatto
the company’s idea for a new 2-litre engine, used for the Diatto 20 Type.
Together with the 20 S Type, this car was enormously successful on race tracks,
winning with champions such as Tazio Nuvolari, Antonio Ascari, Diego De
Sterlich, Emilio Materassi, Baroness Avanzo, Alfieri and Ernesto Maserati,
Gastone Brilli Peri, Giulio Aymini, Tarabusi, Ghia, Cesare Schieppati and
The engine was slightly under 2 litres (1,995 cc), with 4 cylinders in a single block of cast iron with inserted head housing three supports for the camshaft controlling the interchangeable valves by rocker arms. The engine was silenced by equalisers on the camshaft, controlled by a vertical shaft with helical gears, also controlling the water pump, magnet, cooling fan and dynamo. The oil pump was fitted to the gear shaft and provided oil under pressure. A high voltage magnet was used for ignition, with manual control on the steering wheel.
The carburettor was automatic, with pedal or manual control. Cooling was by water pump with radiator fan. The clutch was dry and had only one disc, with a series of springs on the disc thrust device.
The four-speed gearbox had a trains balladeurs reverse gear. A shaft transmission was used, with single universal joint and rear torque with spiral Grearson teeth. The back end was in stamped steel. Braking was on all four wheels, with the handbrake applied to the rear wheels or the gearbox pulley. The frame was in C type 3 mm steel profile with rigid axis suspension with half-elliptic spring.
The Diatto 20, designed by Engineer Coda, was presented at the 1922 Milan Exhibition just before beginning close co-operation with the Maserati brothers, test drivers of the legendary 20 S.
To get the car ready for Monza, Alfieri and Ernesto Maserati moved to Turin. The 20 S was a modern, reliable and particularly; driven by Meregalli, it was placed high up the field at the 13th Targa Florio on 2 April 1922, winning the Parma-Poggio di Berceto on 14 May. Two Diatto 20 S started the Italian Grand Prix in 1922. Meregalli was a frequent winner of the tough Garda race, first with the standard 20 and then with the customised 20 S. Alfieri Maserati won the Autumn Grand Prix in Monza with a 3-litre car.
In 1923 Tazio Nuvolari drove a 3-litre Diatto in the Parma-Poggio di Berceto and at races in Cremona. Alfieri Maserati won the Susa-Moncenisio, setting up a new speed record, and drove a special 4.5-litre Diatto in the Aosta-Gran San Bernardo event; he took part in the 14th Targa Florio with a 3-litre 20 S. Bacini entered races on the Mugello race track with a Diatto 20 S and Giormelli was well placed in a Diatto 20 S in Savio (first race). In Pistoia Hills, two Diatto 20 S lined up, driven by Luigi Parenti and Gastone Brilli Peri, the winner.
In August 1923 the Alpine Cup hosted the writer and journalist Arnaldo Fraccaroli who later published his memoir of the event, co-authored with Sonzogno, a literary event which helped to popularise motor racing, just as Luigi Barzini had done with his coverage of the 1907 Peking-Paris rally. Fraccaroli’s diary focuses less on speed than on endurance. The mountain route included many places made famous or infamous by the War: Saga, Caporetto, Tomino, the Isonzo river, the Carso in Istria; people from Fiume waved, the Croatians did not wave. Drivers started out at around 4.00 a.m. and covered a distance of over 300 miles a day, in the heat and dust, up to a height of around 8,000 feet. In Tione they received a bunch of flowers, Italian flag and a plaque reading «for the courageous drivers on behalf of the most patriotic valley in the Trentino». 44 drivers started the rally, with only 24 finishing. Diatto was represented by no less than 4 competitors, each of whom obtained a good final placing.
Despite the fame and success of the auto manufacturer, Diatto was forced to stop production on 5 November 1923, in the middle of plans to hire qualified technicians and step up the production of sports cars for exports. The partners paid off the company’s debts, and were provided with capital by other industrial entrepreneurs and traders. In mid-May 1924, a new company was incorporated - Società Anonima Autocostruzioni Diatto which took over the previous business and immediately resumed its activities. In view of the victory of the 20 S with long chassis, driven by Schieppati and Ferretti at the 24-hour race in Monza and the excellent result at the Spanish Grand Prix in San Sebastian, with Alfieri Maserati, the company went ahead with its plans to develop a Grand Prix racing car. With the help of his brother Ernesto, Alfieri constructed a linear 8-cylinder 2-litre (1,995 cc) engine with 65.5 mm bore and 74 mm stroke. Initially, elektron pistons were used, by they were immediately replaced with aluminium pistons.
The cylinder head was made of aluminium, with inserted steel caps. The cylinder block, in aluminium, had screwed-in steel liners. The connecting rods were tubular, with two overhead camshafts controlled by cylindrical gears. The first tests were carried out with atmospheric feed and two or four bronze Zenith carburettors, of 16 diameter. The engine weighed 156 kg (about 343 lb.). The engine was fitted to a 20 S Type frame and won the Parma-Poggio di Berceto with Alfieri Maserati. Subsequently a Roots compressor was fitted with two pressurized Memini carburettors downstream of the compressor. A special mix of fuel, with Avio petrol and a small quantity of benzol, was used to deliver close to 150 HP. At the same time the company was developing the 1,995 cc 30 Type, with strong 4-cylinder engine, overhead camshaft, valves and axles, delivering 52 HP and a top speed of over 70 mph. The car was produced successfully until 1927, when it was replaced with the 26 Type.
At the 24-hour Le Mans in 1925, Diatto entered four cars, two 25 Type and two 30 Type, winning the 2litre category with the Garcia-Botta team, which also qualified for the prestigious Rudge Whitworth Cup (a 2-yearly event). The 20 S driven by François Lecot won at Limonest. On 6 September 1925, Diatto debuted with the 8-cylinder engine was driven by the impetuous Tuscan Emilio Materassi who died three years later on the same Monza circuit, driving a Talbot. 27 spectators were also killed in the most serious accident ever at Monza. The new Diatto Grand Prix had a successful debut in terms of speed and agility but failed on reliability, forcing Materassi out of the race, probably due to the lack of time to properly test and fine-tune the engine.
The huge development cost of the car and its failure to clinch a top place led managers at Diatto into a period of rethinking, strengthened by the financial problems of the Musso brothers - new and important partners at Diatto and their textile businesses.
The work force continued to hope and produced a new model, the 35 Type, quite similar to the 25 Type, both with a 4-cylinder 2,952 cc engine with valves and axles on overhead camshafts, the former producing 75 HP and a top speed of 85 mph, the latter 70 HP and a top speed of nearly 80 mph.
On 21 September 1926 Giulio Aymini won the Susa-Moncenisio with an 20 S, establish a new record for the class. In 1927 a Diatto 30 came first in the 2,000 cc class and sixth overall at the Brooklands 6-hour race. In 1927, two experimental cars were prepared for the Mille Miglia, with 2-litre 8-cylinder engines and compressor, producing 160 HP and a top speed of over 135 mph! The Mille Miglia was the showcase the Fascist regime intended to use to attract world attention to Italy.
As Gioventù Fascista (Fascist Youth) wrote: «... the roads have been so well restored by Fascism, that it is now possible to drive through half Italy and back in one stage, at an average speed of 110 kph (68.75 mph)». The same writer added: «... in Italy the discipline brought by Fascism is so deeply rooted that 1,700 km of roads are open to traffic, day and night, in cities and the countryside, so that there are hundreds of speedy vehicles on the road at one time and no accidents occur». Hence «... Fascist Italy is a breeding ground of energy, science, engineering, work, organisation, sport». The Mille Miglia became one of the world’s foremost sporting events until the tragic accident which killed Alfonso De Portago in 1957, the last year of the race.
In 1927, Diatto took part with four 4-overhead valve and two experimental 8-cylinder engines. In the same year the company launched the new 2,632 cc 26 Type, producing 70 HP and a top speed of 87.5 mph. This was the last mass production car manufactured by Diatto, which hit a new financial crisis and went into voluntary receivership in 1931.
Politically, 1928-29 were years which should have favoured Italian products: but 1928 was marred by the tragic accident to the Italian airship flown by Umberto Nobile, which came down in the North Pole on 25 May, shortly after another negative event: the attempted assassination of King Vittorio Emanuele at the Milan Exhibition on 12 April.
The first half of 1929 was more generous with good news, at least seemingly: in February a new agreement was made between the Italian state and the Roman Catholic Church, a victory for Mussolini; the agreement was ratified by a form of referendum on 24 March. Tight monetary controls, as announced by Benito Mussolini in Pesaro on 18 August 1926, were relaxed, only to run into the Wall Street crash in October, the Great Depression and consequent world recession. Credit protection was granted to Diatto on 29 October 1931; the following year, Carlino Sasso, the company’s Technical Director, took over the business, rescuing it by good management and the focussing of activities on spare parts for Diatto cars no longer in production, and the manufacture of generating sets, compressors, pumps and pneumatic drills.
Mass production was beginning to rule the world, and cars were becoming the opium of the masses at a time of worldwide recession and sinister political developments in Europe. In 1930 Italo Balbo took 12 mass-produced hydroplanes over 6,000 miles from Orbetello to Rio de Janeiro.
Cinemas became a popular form of entertainment. People went on holiday in huge numbers, trains became a common sight; in January 1930 Prince Umberto married Maria Josè and the event was followed by Italy’s press for the first time; on 24 April Galeazzo Ciano married Mussolini’s daughter Edda, and a whole generation of women with the same name was born.
Diatto had ten relatively prosperous years in spare part and component manufacture while some gentlemen drivers continued to race, confident that spare parts would always be available. This was followed by the years of the war.
In 1945 Diatto tried to return to automobile manufacture for the Galileo company but the venture failed, the car remaining on the drawing board. In 1955, Diatto was taken over by Veglio & C. SpA and ceased to trade in its own name after over 500 successes in world motor racing. Diatto had a 120-year history and a well deserved reputation as high quality manufacturers of stylish, powerful automobiles. The company had a leading role in the development of the world automobile industry.