I’m sure most scooterists have seen or know of the French made military Vespa with built-in gun, but how many knew that Lambrettas were also involved in the weapons of war?
Innocenti did build a prototype folding scooter which they presented as an option for the military, but nothing came of that (it currently resides in the Museo Lambretta e Scooter near Milan).
However it was Spanish-Swiss firm Hispano-Suiza that decided a Lambretta Series 2 TV175 engine was best suited to operate one of their large field guns.
The images here come via eBay where a seller currently has one of these engines up for grabs, albeit incomplete. It’s not actually a complete TV engine but parts of it are; namely the top end.
The barrel, piston, crank and flywheel are Lambretta, with the rest of this engine casing unique. It was possibly cast by Innocenti, or maybe they supplied the TV parts to someone else to make this motor, specifically for the purpose of use by Hispano-Suiza.
Missing from the engine pictured here are a Dellorto MA19 carb and manifold, similar to that used on a Series 2 Lambretta with remote float bowl but with flip-choke and alternative throttle operating system that seems more ‘on and off’ than a conventional scooter throttle. There’s possibly a ‘tickler’ too, to aid starting. After all, there’s no time to be slowly warming an engine up in the field of battle!
Also absent from this engine is the hand-starting lever which fit to the splines near the flywheel, pulled in the same way as you would on a Lambro, but this isn’t exactly a Lambro engine either. Missing too are the exhaust and an external Ducati coil to provide the spark. Interestingly, while the head and flywheel cowling are from a Lambretta scooter too (see the battery overflow pipe guide on the latter), the flywheel cowling on the motor for sale has had an extra piece added that allows it to be closed off completely, thus enabling the engine to reach operating temperature more quickly.
Of course this engine unit would have been plumbed into the gun when in position (the photos attached are the eBay seller’s and were taken in a Finnish military museum of a similar engine still in situ), allowing the operater to swivel and elevate the weapon as required.
Presumably the range of this gun was considerable too, because with a Lambretta TV175 motor screaming at full throttle it was unlikely to be used in covert operations!
What do you know?
A couple of these motors are already in private hands and it would be interesting to hear from anyone who has one they they’ve stripped down, as to whether there are any manufacturing marks inside the casing to suggest who made it all. There is also a rumour that the Hispano-Suiza anti-aircraft gun at Fort Paull in Hull has one of these motors, but we’ve not visited there to confirm this. Please do get in touch if you can enlighten us all further, or indeed if you are the successful bidder of this engine on eBay.