Ingap Grand Prix

Ingap was an important Italian toy manufacturer in the prewar years. (see AS 4/08). Among many other toys they produced popular Italian racing car models. As soon as motorcars were invented, they started to race. Mastering the construction and opration of automobiles excited both their drivers and the public. In Europe, courageous competitions took place even in the earliest days of the 20th century. While the races were international, they were dominated by the cars of German, French, Italian and British manufacture.

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Italian Racing Tradition


In Italy, these races inflamed the imagination of millions, and some of the most famous early races took place here, like the "Mille Miglia" and the "Targa Florio". The race track in Monza was created early in the century, and Italian cars were among the most succesful in those international races. The winning drivers werde feted like national heros. As a result of this national enthusiasm the great Italian toy manufacturer "Ingap" began very early to produce models of racing cars. Not all of the early models were exact replicas of existing cars, as we would expect them to be today. They are finely lithographed models built in the spirit and the design of the time. The popularity of the big races created not only a new branch of the toy industry, but also a market for these new models. Only when civilian traffic increased on the country's roads were toys representing private cars and trucks added to the manufacturers' lineup.

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Posters in the style of the time contributed to the popularity of the auto races.

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Targa Florio


"Targa" is the Italian word for license plate and the "Targa Florio" was one of the first big international car races. It was run on Sicilian mountain roads and took place, for the first time, on May 6th, 1906. Ten cars took part and the fastest one, driven by Alessandro Cagno, was an "Itala", which did the course (it had to be run 3 times in sequence) in 9 hours and 32 minutes for the total of 148 kilometers. In 1919 the course was shortened to 109 kilometers, and many other changes were introduced until - as a result of a grave accident in 1977 - the race was abandoned, and since 1978 only a rallye is organized under the title of "Targa Florio". The most popular racing car model created by Ingap was a Bugatti 35, apparently because of this car's success on that traditional track.

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The picture above shows a Fiat-Racer of the early "Targa Florio" years.

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Autodromo Nazionale Monza


Building race tracks specifically for car races made these less dangerous for the viewers and, at the same time, easier to follow. The "Autodromo Nazionale Monza" was built in the Royal Gardens of Monza, a small town North-East of Milan, and it was one of the first of its kind in Italy. It began operations on September 3rd, 1922 and consisted of a 6 kilometer track for both cars and cycles. When Formula One Championships were introduced in 1950, Monza became the site of the Gran Premio d'Italia.

In the course of the years, the track was continually altered. Because of the long straights with high acceleration sections, obstacles in form of piles of tires were introduced in 1935. Although international drivers and cars regulary participated, it was mostly the Italians who won the races, driving Italian cars. But although the winners were often Alfa Romeo. Ingap never copied this brand as a model.


Mille Miglia


The "Thousand Miles" are certainly the best known Italian car race. It was run yearly on public roads between Rome and Brescia (a town about 60 km east of Milan), where a group of four young men wanted to make their home town a center of motor sports. They were the count Franco Mazzotti, the count Aymo Maggi, Renzo Castagneto and Giovanni Canestrini, and starting in 1925 they made plans for the race which finally was run for the first time in 1927. It covered about 1600 kilometers, which corresponds to about 1000 Miles, a unit of distance measuring which had already been used in anciant Rome (and is still in use in the UK und the USA, of course).

Again, it was mostly the Italiens who kept winning this race in the 1930's. This time, Ingap was on the ball and many of their models shown on these pages were designed to represent vehicles that had won that race. But here, too, after a serious accident in 1957, the "Mille Miglia" was terminated. Since 1977 a follow-up event, called "Mille Miglia Storica" is operated out of Brescia for vintage cars.

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A typical Fiat racer, from which the Ingap model "Diana"
was inspired.

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The first model racing car Ingap produced was the "Diana". It dates back to 1924. This small vehicle is constructed entirely of lithographed tin-plate and, like most Ingap models, is held together by small tin flaps. The wheels, made of pressed tin layers, are remarkably plastic in appearance. The model is run by a small clockwork motor, and it has the typical form of car bodies that were common in the first two decades of the 20th century. As such it looks more like an open touring coupe, and it takes the appearance of the daring driver figureo make you realise its a racer.

The model does not have a number painted on its side, which woukd have marked it more clearly as a racer. On the right side, under the driver's seat, you can see the initials of the two founders of Ingap "A & Z". Only 4 of these models are known to have survived, and they resemble a construction by the German toy manufacturer "Hess".

If you are looking for the car that must have inspired this model, you should take a look at the mighty "Fiat F2", with its 16 litres of compression ratio. You can still find the original car at the automobile museum in Turin.

Auto Corsa "Diana" - aprox. cm. 13,5

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The Ingap company had been founded at the time the racing car "Italia" was popular in Italy. The model became as fashionable as the original. It was produced by Ingap in five colors - light blue, red, orange, green and yellow, and with ten different starting numbers on its sides. Some remained simple carpet pushers and others had a primitive clockwork motor. The speed couldn't be controlled. These motorised models were very sturdy and still run well today.

The "Italia" was based on the "Tipo Unico", a racing car manufactured by Fratelli Temperino in Turin, who produced a variety of succesful racers between 1918 and 1928. The cars were all painted in the Italian racing car color red. A few "Monoposti" were made under a licensing arrangement in Great Britain.

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Auto Corsa "Italia" - apox. cm. 17

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"Corsa Mini" - aprox. cm. 5,5

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The small racers, "Corsa Mini", are typical penny toys of the 1920's. They were stamped from a single sheet of metal and are lovingly lithographed. In size the fit a matchbox and were not motorised. The driver and the wheels make a three-dimensinal impression and the sideboards give the model a feeling of stability. The lithography came in various versions, in diffrent colors and with different starting numbers. Despite their simplicity they reflected the popularity of the real cars they represented.

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Victorious OM-racer in the year 1925.

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Among these were the famous "OM" racers built in Brescia. OM (Officine Meccaniche) were a traditional car manufacturer (since 1898), who after 1928 also produced "Saurer" trucks under a licensing arrangement. The Ingap models were based on the cars that took the first 3 slots in the category under 780 Kilograms in the first "Mille Miglia" race in 1927. The starting numbers shown here - 12 and 14 - were among the winners.

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The "Bugatti 35" by Ingap was also a simple penny toy, but it was twice as big as other penny toys. Since you got more "car" for your money, it was a great success. It, too, was produced in many versions including different rims and spokes.

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Ettore Bugatti in a racing car Type 25 in the middle of the 20's

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The Bugatti company wouldn't allow the manufacturer, a certain Zinelli, to reproduce the typical Bugatti horseshoe-shaped radiator grill, so an imaginary grill was attached, with the result that not always was it easy to identify the model as a Bugatti. The real "Bugatti 35", presented for the first time at the Grand Prix in Lyon in 1924, has gone down in history, because the new brakes, cast in one piece with the rims made of aluminium, failed and thus kept the car from becoming a success.

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Auto Corsa "Bugatti" - aprox. cm. 16 x 5 x 5

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Nevertheless, Ingap produced its "Grand Prix" models in many versions over the years. The first ones had a black chassis and black, spoked wheels. In the cockpit there were always two different colored figures.

Auto Corsa "Grand Prix" - aprox. cm. 26,5 x 9,5 x 8,5

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The models were elaborate reproductions as early as 1927 and 1928. (a later version even battery- operated lights), and were fashioned after the Grand Prix racer Fiat "Type 805/502", a succesful and well known competition vehicle until the end of the 1920's.

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The Grand Prix certainly is the most beautiful Ingap racing car. It corresponds very exactly to the model of the Fiat 805/402.

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Starting in 1928 the "Grand Prix" model came with only one driver figure and a red chassis. The wheels now consisted of stamped tin with lithographed spokes.

After 1929 more and varied color versions of the Grand Prix body appeared, but the battery operated lights were no longer available.

Auto Corsa "Grand Prix" Senza Luce - aprox. cm. 26,5 x 9,5 x 8,5

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And in 1930 the car came without a chassis as an "Auto Corsa" racer, thus losing its similarity with the Fiat original.

Auto "Corsa" - aprox. cm. 26,5 x 9,5 x 8,5

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Until 1934 the model was produced in orange, light blue, dark red and green. Towards the end, the red runners had yellow decorative lines along the sides. The air vents along the front hood were no longer out but were simply lithographed onto the tin.

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From the 30's onwards, Ingap produced in very large racing car models of more than 50 cm length, sporting stylistic art-deco elements but not based on any real cars. The wheels were again made of lithographed tinpate and thus the models appear bulky and not properly proportioned for a racer.In the Ingap catalogue these were listed as "Auto Corsa Gigante No. 2800". Again, many versions exist, of which two especially succesful ones are shown here.

Especially the starting numbers, printed in the style of the time, gave the models an unmistakeable charm. Weighing in at 525 grams, the "Gigante" was heavy, but still not as heavy as a comparable Distler racing car model of the same epoch.

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Auto Corsa "Gigante" - aprox. cm. 51 x 18 x 14

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The crocodile is an exceptional detail of the lithograph.

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In 1932, Ingap added the impressive Maserati racer to its catalogue. The model is driven by a strong clockwork motor and appears well-proportioned and well-reproduced. A battery-operated sidelight was attached near the cockpit. Next to the model shown here, order number 2000, you can see the very rare original box it came in.

Auto Corsa "Maserati" - aprox cm. 32 x 14 x 10

The racing cars produced by the brothers Alfieri and Ernesto Maserati in the beginning of the 1930's were the most modern and most successful at all of Italy's race tracks in all categories. The Ingap model is inspired by the 16-cylinder, 4-litrecompression ratio racer of 1932, but almost all the cars from this manufacturer came with a similar body and the typical, bent-backwards radiator grill.

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Italian racing drivers in the Early Years

Felice Nazzaro (* 1881 in Turin, ‚¬   March 21, 1940 in Turin) Italian Fiat factory racers.

Ferdinando Minoia (June 2, 1884 in Italy, ‚¬   June 28, 1940 Unknown) - Italian automobile racer, successful with OM-Rennwagen. In hiss striking long career, he achieved significant success.

Giuseppe Campari (June 8, 1892 in Lodi, ‚¬   September 10, 1933 in Monza) Italian race car driver, very successful with Alfa-Romeo Felice Nazzaro.

Tazio Nuvolari Giorgio (November 16, 1892 in Castel d'Ario, province of Mantua, ‚¬   August 11, 1953 in Mantua) was an internationally known Italian motorcycle and car racer on Alfa Romeo and Maserati

Achille Varzi (August 8, 1904 in Galliate at Novara, ‚¬   June 30, 1948 in Bremgarten) was an Italian racing driver‚   successful on Bugatti and Maserati

Antonio Brivio (January 30, 1905 ‚¬   February 1995) was an Italian racing driver in the‚   Alfa Romeo team and later racing official.

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In the 30's years, Maserati played an important part in car racing. Ingap responded with a corresponding toy racer

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This article first appeared in the December 2009./January 2010 issue of Altes Spielzeug , the article was written by Franco and Titta Bosia in German and translated by Gideon Bachmann, the copyright of the images are with‚   Franco Bosia

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