A Visit to the Weber Carburetter Factory
(By Our Continental Correspondent) SINCE the decline of Formula I and the subsequent increased interest in Formula II and, more especially, the unsupercharged engine, the carburetter as such has come into its own. Furthermore, with sports-car racing now the playground of more manufacturers than ever before, mostly in the unsupercharged category, this interest in carburation is equally strong. Right or wrong, with a supercharged engine, the tendency was to consider the compressor as the vital factor in power output, while with unsupercharged engines it is the carburetter that takes pride of place. Look ing around Formula 1I it is noticeable that the Italian Weber instrument has a virtual monopoly, being -used by Ferrari, Maserati, Gordini, 11.W.M., Veritas and Osca on all their cars, while individual Alta engines have used them. In sports-car racing the list of cars fitted with Weber carburetters is even longer, the successful Le Mans Jaguars, Ferrari, Lancia, Maserati, Cordial, H.W.M., Pegaso, Osca, Aston Martin, Alfa-Romeo and all the Fiat-based special cars built
in Italy using them.
In view of this virtual monopoly in racing circles it seemed timely for a visit to Edoardo Weber S.A. in Bologna to find out some more about this firm that specialises in racing carburetters as well as normal production models. In 1920 a regular competitor in Italian National racing, with a Fiat, was one E. Weber and his car was fitted with a carburetter of his own construction as he did not agree with the ideas of the manufacturers of those days. Throughout the early twenties Weber raced as a hobby and always made his own carburetter and manifolding and it was not long before he saw a market for special parts for racing cars and started making small quantities of inlet and exhaust manifolds, adaptor flanges and so on, to special order, reserving his carburetter for himself even though others were interested. One of Weber’e closest friends, when he began racing in 1920, was another young Italian named Gordini and probably these two would have formed a partnership to start the firm had not Gordini disagreed with the political and industrial views then spreading in Italy. Weber was in agreement and stayed in Italy, while Gordini left and went to France. By 1924 Weber gave up racing and concentrated on his now growing firm and began to snake carburetters as well as manifolcling, but restricted his activities to production cars and industrial carburation and it was not until 1930 that he began to make special racing carburetters for sale to the motor-racing public, and one of his first customers was the owner of a team of Alfa-Romeo racing cars, one Enzo Ferrari. It was just after this time that Ferrari took over the works AlfaRomeo racing equips under the “Rampant Horse” insignia of the Scuderia Ferrari and it was Weber who produced carburetters for the team cars. By now the production line of carburetters was in full flow and the racing orders were merely a side-line while with industrial orders the factory grew steadily until the outbreak of the war in 1939. Just before Italy entered the war in 1940, Weber had a new factory built on very modern lines, and it is this factory that still operates at Bologna. Naturally the plant was used for war production, but the peace-time occupation of carburetter making soon got going again after the war. Unhappily, in 1945, Bologna was raided by Partisan troops who purged the town and took some hundred hostages away into the mountains and among them was Edoardo Weber. He never returned and thus was a clever engineer sacrificed to satisfy the blood-lust of the war-minded mob. Two of Weber’s chief technicians survived the war and took over the responsibilities of the factory, while Fiat, Ltd., bought the capital interest and still own Weber S.A., though they have no influence on its activities. The post-war design and production, which is now certainly the largest in Italy, and possibly the largest in Europe, is in the hands of Signors Martinelli and Diani and the above-mentioned virtual monopoly of racing shows that these two men are carrying on as Weber himself would have wished. If you closely examine a production Weber carburetter you cannot help being impressed by the excellence of the finish and the perfection of the detail work. A downdraught model, as fitted to a Lancia Aprilia, for example, would not be at all out of place as a table ornament in any enthusiast’s household, however immaculate it may be. That the Weber carburetter is not an ornament but a very efficient instrument for mixing petrol and air in the right quantities before allowing it into the inlet manifold, can be judged by the racing miccesses and a chat with anyone who has experienced the remarkably clean and consistent carburation provided throughout any rev.-range. The Weber factory shows instantly the reason for the perfection of the manufacture of the production carburetters, for the whole building, of uniform shape, is as clean and tidy as any laboratory. Around the outside of the square which the building forms, are the foundries, tool-rooms, stores, machine shops, test houses and so on, while the large spacious centre is devoted entirely to assembly benches. The main occupation of the factory is to produce carburetters for the whole output of Fiat, Lancia, AlfaRomeo and Ferrari and all these production carburetters are made entirely within the four walls of Edoardo Weber S.A. In addition to these there is a complete range of production carburetters, for almost every make of popular continental car, on sale as replacement units. While this vast production line goes on its way the special racing carburetters, made more or less to order, are fitted into the general assembly line for routine machining and such like and then taken out to a special finishing department and special test-shop. All the production carburetters are pressure die-castings made in a foundry controlled entirely by electricity and consequently spotlessly clean. In addition to die-casting the carburetter bodies and covers, adaptor flanges and suchlike are made. For carburetters for sale in countries other than Italy, or where weather conditions may he unsuitable for die-castings, bronze castings are made, but as the numbers are small these are made by outside firms. Similarly, the racing carburetters, which are sand-castings, are also made outside, as the numbers are minute in comparison with the normal production line. The machine shops, equipped with very up-to-date machinery, are supplied with tools and jigs manufactured entirely within the four walls of the Weber factory, and similarly all the test equipment used during assembly, such as flow-meters, for jets, pressure testers for valve seatings, equipment for testing float chambers and so on, are all manufactured in the Weber tool-room. After the final assembly each carburetter is put through a routine test, for which a series of Fiat engines are used. These are housed in a separate test shop and consist of 500, 1,100, 1,400 and 1,500-c.e. engines, loaned by Fiats, which are coupled to air brakes and merely give comparative readings to ensure that the carburetters are working correctly. Next to this shop is the special test department fitted with test beds to take most types of engines and it is here that Continued on page 423
engines from Cordial, H.W.M., Alta and Aeton Martin are tested. Ferrari does all hip own testing, as does Maserati, the Weber technicians going along to the respective factories. Beside the normal testbed equipment there are further Fiat engines used for power tests on experimental carburetters and also a 16H Norton engine for doing experiments with single-choke carburetters for 500-c.c. cylinders such as those fitted to the four-cylinder Ferrari.
In addition to making carburetters for nearly every type of Passenger vehicle and most racing cars, Webers make carburetters for the Dueati and Motom motor-scooters and a conversion set for fitting to the normal carburetter in order to run on a new producer gas being developed in Italy, called Metano. These gas-carburetters can be supplied to work either solely on gas or on petrol or gas and this obvious foresight on Webers part to keep abreast of outside developments prompted an inquiry about petrol-injection ousting the normal c,arburetter, but the reply was evasive and rested on the fact that the experimental department of the factory was very capable.
Altogether there are approximately 800 workers in this factory which is impressive for its cleanliness, orderliness and efficiency and having seen this it is not surprising that nearly the whole of the Italian automobile industry relies on Edoardo Weber S.A. for carburetters, neither is it surprising that nearly every motor-race these days is won by cars fitted with Weber racing carburetters. —D. S. J.