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Lancia 1Z(m)

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early 1Z(m), three guns, photo from 1918

One of Lancia’s early military vehicles was the 1Z Autoblinda. Its history has been somewhat obscure. What was it, when was it made, and what was unique about it? Its seems the Autoblinda 1Z was based on the Lancia 1Z truck,  c. 1915. The information is murky, but on one factory sheet, its called the 1Z(m), likely for militare. That seems like a pretty good designation. The 1Z(m) had a Theta engine and chassis, bodied by Ansaldo in Genova. Its never been clear how many were made, but a visit to Wiki (France) gives a lot of information, with the following information translated largely from their site. It says that the 1Z(m) was used into the late 1930s, and there is a picture on the web of one as 1943. For what its worth, the information looks good, and might even be true. So here we go…..

(NOTE 6.8.2020 – some of the information  outlined below has been corrected in the Comments section. Please review that information). 

1Z(m) in WWI – Battle of Vittorio Veneto



After the Italian-Turkish war of 1910, during the short period of neutrality before the outbreak of the First World War, in 1914 Regio Esercito commissioned Ansaldo to study an armored vehicle, a major novelty in the the time when the infantrymen were still attacking enemy troops with only one rifle in their hands. The engineer Guido Corni, an expert in mechanics and metallurgy at Ansaldo, presented a project based on the chassis of the Lancia 35 HP (ed. note: the Theta was a 35HP chassis) as the basis for the “1Z(m)” armored vehicle.


The Ansaldo Lancia 1Z(m) prototype, consisting of two superimposed turrets armed with “Maxim 1906” 6.8 mm machine guns, was presented to the Italian military authorities on April 17, 1915. After conclusive tests on May 7, the Regio Esercito – King’s Army from Italy – placed an order of 20, which differs slightly from the prototype at the bonnet. The originality of this vehicle lay in its two superimposed turrets, which can turn in a single block or separately. The lower turret or dome had two machine guns and the upper one the third.

1Z(m) in WWI – Battle of Vittorio Veneto, note the two gun turret


The first Lancia 1Z(m) armored car was delivered to General Cadorna in August 1915 in Udine, the remaining 19 following in the spring of 1916. Three squadrons of these armored carriages were formally established in July 1916. The judgments issued at the time were positive about motorization and protection, but regretted difficulties to back down (reverse?). The vehicle also seemed heavy and cumbersome. This defect was solved later with Fiat 611 model. A second batch of 17 units was ordered in March 1917, differentiated by replacing the front wheel shielding by simple mudguards and the addition of a front radiator protection. This order brought to 37 the number of copies of the first series delivered in 1917.

At Les Portes de Màlaga c. 1937

The version was also called the Lancia 1ZM

After the initial period of real use on the front, Italy already having entered the war in 1915, the vehicle appeared to be too unbalanced because of its height. It is then decided to have only one turret and to place the 3rd machine gun at the bow of the vehicle. This is how the second series of the Lancia armored car was developed, and some gave it the name of 1ZM (although factory info also has 1Z(m)). In order to improve its firepower, it was also decided to replace Maxim’s 6.8mm machine guns with St Etienne 907F 8mm machine guns. This choice was particularly unfortunate, the French weapons having a tendency to jam, which could only create problems. Moreover, they could not work when the vehicle was moving, and were quickly replaced by Fiat-Revelli M 1914, much more reliable.

(From another Wiki site, we have more information on the second series:
The Lancia 1ZM was the second batch of Ansaldo-Lancia armoured cars built. 110 cars of the improved model were ordered in 1917 and all were delivered before the end of 1918. Sometimes difficult to identify from the original Lancia 1Z (“Model 1916”), the most obvious difference is the removal of the top machine gun turret. This left the 1ZM with just the one larger, twin machine gun turret. Other features that will help are that the first 1ZM’s usually have two spare tyres mounted on the right side of the vehicle (on the 1Z they were under the rear). The cooling vents and front armour of the engine compartment are slightly different and there are fewer vision ports in the armoured crew compartment. The front bumpers were also simplified. However, some of the original 1Z series were modified to initial 1ZM standard by the removal of the extra top turret and up-dating the chassis. This makes it possible to find photos of 1ZM armoured cars with both 1Z and 1ZM features. American troops on the Italian Front during World War I trained with and used some of these vehicles.” )

Returning to the French Wiki:

35 “Lancia 1ZM” of the third series, were first ordered in November 1917, but then increased to 100 copies in January 1918. This version had only one turret armed with two 8mm machine guns. The third weapon fired through a rectangular opening at the rear. A total of 113 copies of the “Lancia 1ZM” 3rd series model were produced. During the 1920s, the Lancia 1Z machine guns were all replaced by Fiat mod.14 of 6.5mm. In 1935, the replacement of the original wheels with wheels with low pressure tires began for the colonial models.

from German army files, 1Z in 1943

The version Lancia 1Z colonial

The Fiat-Revelli M 1914 machine guns had water cooling, which was a problem in the hot desert regions. For this reason, all the armored carriages for the Italian colonies of East Africa were equipped with air-cooled 8mm Fiat-Revelli M 1935 machine guns. The copy given to Afghanistan was equipped with air-cooled SIAM 1918 light machine guns.

Technical sheet

  • Length: 5.40 m
  • Width: 1.80 m
  • Height: 2.40 m
  • Engine: Lancia 1Z, 4 cylinders of 4 960 cm³, developing 60 hp
  • Mass: 5.4 tons
  • Crew: 6
  • Maximum speed: 70 km / h on the road
  • Autonomy: 200 km
  • Protection: 6.5 mm
  • Weaponry: three Fiat mod.14 6.5 mm machine guns (15,000 rounds)
  • Note: A special version was made to order for the Austrian army with Schwarzelose machine guns, the exact number unknown.

So…. if the articles are to be believed, we have the following production numbers for a total of 260 examples of the 1Z(m) or 1ZM:

  • 20 of the first series  1915-1916
  • 17 of the first series 1917
  • 110 of the second series, 1917-1918
  • 113 third series, 1918


And if this isn’t enough – from Luigi De Virgilio comes a link to a video with 1Z(m) in motion. Amazing…. start at 2′ 15″ (added 3.2020):

And where they ended up: 

Found in (all places) Afghanistan, was a 1Z(m).  With information from Frank Tierney on the LMC website, this was likely the 1Z given to the King of Afghanistan in 1928, and was on a military base called Camp Warehouse, near Kabul until 2007 when it was moved to the military museum in Dresden. More info can be found here:

Written by Geoff

March 11, 2020 at 5:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. I am fairly sure that reference to the third machine gun being relocated to the front of the 1ZM is erroneous as most sources state it was relocated to fire out of the rear of the hull.

    There is information that Lancia armoured cars were used by British forces in the Middle East between the wars. gives the following information; “The RAF armoured car companies in Iraq by Dr Christopher Morris
    Operations between the wars
    In Iraq, the car units spent the 1920s and ‘39s roaming from the southern deserts to the mountains of Kurdistan in vehicles, many of them veterans of WW1, lacking reliable communications, proper mapping, adequate logistic support – and air conditioning. Various types were used; Lancias, Crossley, Morris and Rolls Royce. The early Lancias were gradually withdrawn and other marques tried but the most loved and successful was the Rolls Royce and the force soon standardised on the 1920 pattern Rolls Royce.” › mmp › tables › Vehicle_Names_V3 lists the names individual names of 8 vehicles.

    Frank Tierney

    March 16, 2020 at 5:00 pm

  2. thanks for the input. Not too sure about the 3rd gun, see the top image in the post, where its pointing forward.


    March 19, 2020 at 3:30 pm

  3. Having been a military model maker in my youth I have, since discovering Lancias, been fascinated by their armoured cars. Your Blog has set me off on a journey of discovery and I have now trawled at least a couple of dozed online sources and I have come to the sad conclusion that the majority of sources contain garbled and incorrect information.
    As regards the machine gun at the front, your source says “the vehicle appeared to be too unbalanced because of its height. It is then decided to have only one turret and to place the 3rd machine gun at the bow of the vehicle. This is how the second series of the Lancia armoured car was developed”. None of the more reliable sources mention this, there are no pictures and for practical reasons it seems improbable. Your picture at the head of the post is of course a first series car prior to the relocation of the third gun.
    Finally, I have done some work on production figures and am reasonably confident that total production was only 120 vehicles of all series.
    07/05/1915 Order No 2401 acknowleged for 20 units (the number was limited by availability of machine guns).
    31/12/1915 7 units completed and delivered to date.
    30/06/2016 Remaining 13 units of the first order were delivered by this date. These were the “First Series”.
    11/03/1917 17 revised units ordered on contract 979. Designated “Second Series”.
    26/11/1917 35 new units ordered on contract 1706 following the military collapse at Caporetto (24 October to 19 November 1917). “Third Series”.
    13/01/1918 48 units added to the outstanding order
    31/03/1918 First 17 of the Third Series cars delivered the final 5 of which had an improved chassis.
    02/05/1918 A further 15 units had been delivered.
    09/06/1918 A further 16 units had been delivered.
    27/08/1918 Total of Third Series cars delivered to date now stands at 83.

    This gives 20 first series, 17 second series and 83 third series.

    Frank Tierney

    March 21, 2020 at 6:38 pm

    • I realise I should give the source for my information. No single source contains a narrative that is both consistent and convincing. Only by starting with the most detailed source then pursuing the apparent inconsistencies through other sources can a convincing picture be built up. I have so far compared information from 40 different sources to form my conclusions. The most detailed information on the contracts and deliveries is given by together with
      What ultimately makes sense is that a first batch of 20 cars was ordered and delivered followed by an order for a second batch of 17 cars. Sources are fairly consistent that a third batch of 35 cars was initially ordered and that this order was then increased. “Italie 1935-45”, which goes into enough detail to quote contract numbers and delivery dates of part orders, states that 83 cars were produced in the third batch and “topwar” says that the count of 100 cars in relation to the extending of the third order included some cars prior to that third order. In effect the Ministerio delle Munizioni decided to equip the army with 100 cars in addition to the 20 first series cars already in service.
      The English version of “topwar” says “100 including those already delivered” but again this doesn’t make sense and I strongly suspect a mistranslation from the Russian. What does make sense is the 100 was to include those already nearing completion because the extended order was made on 13/01/1918 and the 17 cars were delivered eleven weeks later. These have to have been the second series cars which were in production from March 1917. The first and second batch were both under construction for just over a year and the third, admittedly much larger, batch was produced in nine months.
      My next challenge is assembling a list of the Lancia Ansaldos’ deployment throughout their service life up to the end of WW2 together with charting a consistent account of technical changes.
      There is a fascinating and highly detailed account in of the two cars given the Czechs in 1918, right up to their being dismantled and the chassis going to a technical school in 1935. It has drawings, including the prototype, and superb photographs including the interior and underside. It however has lifted the typical misconceptions about production figures from other sources.

      Frank Tierney

      March 27, 2020 at 11:03 am

  4. I have copies of blueprints of various 1Z chassis (no bodies) designated variously as 1Z, 1Z(m) and 1ZM pretty much at random. They are dated variously as 1915 and 1916 and I had always assumed that the M’s, large and small, stood for Militare. There seem to have been at least 2 chassis length’s, one being described as Allungato. The only other significant difference seems to be that one of the prints, designated 1ZM 1915, has a large circular structure just ahead of the rear axle, possibly a base for the gun turret or possibly a fuel tank as it doesn’t have the usual tank mounted behind the rear axle.
    The other thing which is a bit puzzling is regarding the Afghanistan bodies. The one nearest the camera certainly looks as if it could be a Lancia but the engine seems to be quite different to the usual Jota/Theta one which does not have the the separated cylinders in the top of the motor. It could ,of course, have had a transplant sometime in it’s long life.

    Ron Francis

    April 9, 2020 at 7:17 pm

    • Ron – great comment, thank you. Take another closer look at the engine. I think (?) its a Lancia engine with the outer casting knocked off, as can be seen at the two ends. What do you think?

      Geoff Goldberg

      April 9, 2020 at 8:00 pm

  5. The armoured cars had the fuel tank as an upright cylinder in the centre of the turret, which is just ahead of the rear axle. Slightly alarmingly in the early, double decker turret, cars the fuel tank is what one of the machine gunners stood on to reach the gun in the upper turret. Brian Long’s book “Lancia from Alpha to Zeta and beyond” says that the armoured cars were initially built on the Zeta truck chassis (strengthened by Ansaldo) and late cars were built on the Iota chassis. has excellent pictures showing the internal layout.

    Frank Tierney

    June 6, 2020 at 7:54 pm

    • Frank – This is all fantastic information, thank you very much for posting. Its amazing the amount of detail that exists on the 1Z, and what you have assembled. In general, it seems that the blog entry should be revised with your new information…

      One question – has anyone had the chance to look at the Ansaldo archives? I was wondering if some of these might have been bodied at Lancia, and others at Ansaldo, thus explaining a history of confusing production numbers.


      June 9, 2020 at 3:53 pm

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