1924 Alfa Romeo RM Four Wheel Drive Half Track Torpedo
This extraordinary 'time warp' Alfa Romeo,complete and original in all known respects, is believed to be the solesurviving four wheel drive Alfa Romeo half track in the world. It hasspent nearly all its life in the New England area in the USA and wasunderstood to have been exported there from Italy when new to undertakeservice as winter transport in the mountains, presumably for a wealthyski-ing and motoring enthusiast. Due to its remarkable nature the carhas survived for more than 80 years in unmolested original condition.After careful checking over by well known Alfa expert Jim Stokes inEngland the car started on the handle with excellent oil pressure andthe entire drive system was found to be operational.
The car is based on an Alfa Romeo RM chassiswith the normal 2-litre, 4-cylinder RM engine but which has beenmodified to dry sump specification - no doubt to deal with the inclinesand side slopes of mountainous terrain. The track mechanism was builtusing Citröen patents under licence as proclaimed by a plaque on thewheeled bogey carrying the legend ‘Propulseur- Kegresse- Hinstin(Licence 48) André Citröen’. The front wheel hubs are marked with theCitröen gear motif. The drive system is based on that used in theCitröen Kegresse but incorporates the original RM transmission brake.The four-speed gearbox feeds via a propshaft into another enormoustransmission case, housing a second gearbox with a dual range. Theconcept of the track laying system was developed by Adolph Kegressewhen Technical Manager for Czar Nicholas II as early as 1910. By 1920,assisted by Jacques Hinstin, Kegresse was running the Chenillesdepartment for André Boas and André Citröen at the Citröen GearCompany. In 1921 three Kegresse Citröens climbed the Lautaret andcrossed the Mont Genevre Pass clearly showing their ability over snow.
This RM and its track gear both exhibit earlychassis and licence numbers. The RM chassis numbers run from 1923-1924and are listed as 12001 – 12265; it is known that the early numberswere restricted to prototypes so ‘12023’ could date this vehicle tovery early in 1924 or possibly even late 1923. At the Rétromobile showin 2005, two Sahara type Citröens were on display, one with a trackmechanism licence number of 425 thereby showing how early the RM’strack gear is.
This must have been a very expensive car for Alfa Romeo to build; itmay have been originally conceived as a prototype for Mussolini’s army,as the possibility of a military order would have justified the expenseand would also explain its original and untouched grey green livery.
The lovely patinated condition of the rear seat and grab handlessuggests that the car saw frequent use at some stage in its life. Thestate of the quaint wooden skis which are carried on front wings anddesigned to fit under the front wheels in difficult terrain alsosuggests that the car was active in snowy New England winters. Howeverregular the use may have been, the nature of the machine makes itlikely that it will have covered few miles during its entire life –this is consistent with the car’s excellent mechanical condition.
This unique piece of motoring and Alfa Romeohistory will excite the interest of even the most jaded collector andwill no doubt find its proper place in a private museum of the highestquality or perhaps as a talking point and occasional winter transportfrom a spectacular chalet or mountain lodge high in the Alps or back inits old North American haunts.
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