Unique ‘Cegga’ Ferrari – Sublime Testa Rossa reincarnated. In 1960, the Swiss Gachnang brothers re-engineered and re-bodied a wrecked Ferrari Testa Rossa. Now the long-lost CEGGA Ferrari is reincarnated, with fraternal approval. Words James Page. Photography Reverendpixel.
NUMBER TWO OF ONE CEGGA FERRARI
Second reincarnation of wrecked Testa Rossa
Georges Gachnang is clearly emotional as he lowers himself into the driver’s seat. Looking out over the long bonnet, he’s no doubt evoking memories of competing at great venues such as the Nürburgring and Pescara. Now, nearly 60 years later, he’s back in the cockpit of ‘his’ unique sports-racer and savouring the moment. He looks up at the car’s owner, David Cooke, and, with a smile, taps his heart with his fingers.
‘We achieved what we wanted,’ says Cooke, ‘which was to bring back a car that existed in that time and raced with some of the great cars of the period. It’s just a lovely story.’
The story of how the two men got to this moment can trace its roots back to the late 1950s, when Georges and his brother Claude established CEGGA. The name was taken from the initials of ‘Claude et Georges Gachnang Aigle’, and the Swiss duo went on to build a series of racing cars that included front-engined sports-racers, a mid-engined prototype and single-seaters – some with Maserati engines, others with Ferrari power.
‘At the beginning,’ remembers Georges, ‘we planned to race motorbikes, but our parents were not keen on the idea. So in the end we decided to race cars. We began with an old MG that was not in very good condition, so we quickly changed to an AC Ace-Bristol. The goal at that point was not to drive – it was to build cars and modify them.
‘We improved the AC-Bristol so that we could use it in hillclimbing. We also raced at Spa, then we found another AC Ace-Bristol that we planned to prepare and modify for the Le Mans 24 Hours. We added a roof to make it more aerodynamic and more comfortable at night, in case of rain. We raced there in 1960 and managed to finish, then we drove the car back to Switzerland!’
CEGGA’s next project was based on a pontoon-fender Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, chassis 0742, that was owned by Peter Monteverdi but which had been crashed heavily at Freiburg in 1960. ‘The initial plan was to buy only the engine and gearbox. My brother was in Basel to buy the engine and Monteverdi said: “There’s the rest of the car if you want it – I can do nothing with it. If you don’t take it, I’ll scrap it.” So Claude said that we’d take it all.
‘They measured the pictures and knew the size of the wheels, so they could scale it up from that’
‘Without knowing exactly what we were going to do with it, we started to rebuild it. The rear end of the car was damaged the worst and we always tried to be innovative, to try new things, so we put in an English ENV differential and independent rear suspension as well as inboard disc brakes.’
At the front, they introduced negative camber by lengthening the lower suspension arms. In effect, only the central section was still Ferrari; the rest was CEGGA.
‘When we’d finished the chassis and suspension, we took the car to Scaglietti in Modena and asked him to do a new body. Scaglietti was working with Ferrari but he wanted to do something for us that was different from the original Testa Rossa. The car was there for about four or five months while he did the work.’
The CEGGA-Ferrari’s first outing came at Mauborget on 12 April 1961. Georges drove it in a number of hillclimbs that year, and shared it with Maurice Caillet at the Nürburgring 1000km and Pescara Four Hours. There were fewer events with it the following year, but Georges nonetheless returned to the Nordschleife.
‘Pescara was fantastic,’ he recalls, ‘but the Nürburgring in 1962 is my favourite memory. On the straights the works Ferraris were faster, but the handling of the CEGGA was very efficient. My co-driver, Edouard Grob, was a member of Scuderia CEGGA at this time – he lived near us – and we made a good team.’ Ferrari works driver Willy Mairesse asked to try the car because he was so impressed with the way it handled, but Claude refused. ‘We don’t share it,’ he told the Belgian ace.
After the Gachnangs stopped racing the CEGGA-Ferrari in late 1962, a good friend of theirs in Switzerland bought it. He used it on the road, on one occasion driving it from Aigle to Le Mans. It was then sold – minus its engine, which Georges retained – to a new owner, from whom Ferrari collector Pierre Bardinon later bought it. When Bardinon subsequently converted the car back to Testa Rossa specification, Georges sold him the correct engine but the majority of CEGGA components, such as the bodywork and the rear suspension, were lost.
Georges himself continued to race until 1969, when he had a big shunt in the 3-litre CEGGA-Maserati at a French hillclimb: ‘I lost pressure in a front tyre and rolled – the car was destroyed. I stopped racing because I had no more time and my family was not very happy after the accident – the children were young.
Claude had a small garage and I thought I’d be a mechanic. Then, in the early 1970s, I opened a Toyota dealership. At that time, Toyota was not very well known but we built it up into a big garage, which is still in business now with my son and daughter in charge.’
With the original CEGGA-Ferrari having long since been returned to Testa Rossa form, it could have remained an interesting but little-known footnote in motorsport history. Enter David Cooke – former England rugby international turned successful businessman. Cooke got involved in Historic racing during the 1990s, and his cars have always been looked after by Neil Twyman.
‘The disc brakes respond well to a hefty pedal shove, as proven when two deer dash across the track’
Having owned Twyman’s Testa Rossa recreation for a while, Cooke found himself yearning for another. Twyman heard about one that had failed to sell at auction, an early conversion based on a Boano 250 GT – chassis 0611 – but with a body that Cooke describes as ‘horrible’. Even so, it featured a number of original Testa Rossa components, such as the steering box and drum brakes.
The initial plan was turn it into a recreation of the Testa Rossa prototype, but news filtered through that a company was about to build a short run of those, which forced a rethink. ‘I mentioned to Neil that there must have been a special or something,’ remembers Cooke. ‘After trawling the internet, I found a picture of the CEGGA-Ferrari and thought I’d try to track down the Gachnangs. I was with the kids skiing in Switzerland and I said to my wife, “I’ve made contact with them, they’re still alive and they’ve got a garage in Aigle, which isn’t far away. I’ll go down and see them.”
‘I had a fantastic lunch with them in a local wine bar, and Georges was so enthusiastic. I asked if he’d support me and he said, “Yes, come back to the workshop – I’ve got some bits and pieces off the car.”
‘I flew him over to the UK with Claude, and they helped put the project together. They had very elementary drawings – not much at all. We had photographs to go from, and newspaper and magazine articles. That helped a bit.’
Not only were Georges and Claude alive and well, they were still building and racing cars despite both being well into their 80s. Two of Georges’ grandchildren had become successful racers in their own right – Natacha Gachnang and Sébastien Buemi. The brothers’ support was essential because Cooke had tasked Twyman with recreating something very different from a standard Testa Rossa, not least in the fabrication of that bespoke rear end. For authenticity the new CEGGA-Ferrari would have disc brakes all round, too, so Cooke was later able to sell those Testa Rossa drums for a useful sum.
‘I was relying on Neil’s ability and the integrity of the design, but it obviously worked in period so we set about building it. We were going from photographs and the measurements that they had, and we were continually sending pictures over to Georges and Claude to make sure we were on the right track.
‘The bodywork was where Twyman was in a different league. It was done in-house by a guy called Phil Barton, and they had just done another car solely from pictures. It was amazing how many images we started to unearth, and they could take measurements from those because they knew the size of the wheels. They could scale it from that. And they knew that the wheelbase was 2405mm – Georges had extended it [from the Testa Rossa’s 2350mm] to get the rear section on.’
The project took four years, but the car was ready in time for its unveiling in front of Georges at the 2019 Goodwood Revival. Sadly, Claude was unable to attend, but the car had only minor teething problems and made it to the finish of the Sussex Trophy. It was testament to the quality of Twyman’s preparation, given there had been no time for testing beforehand. Perhaps most important, it gained the seal of approval from Georges. ‘I’m very happy with the car. The finish is better than it was when we originally built it. But then, David took four years and we had only one year because we needed to race it!’
Fresh from its Revival debut, we get the chance to drive the Ferrari on a day blighted by heavy showers. Sheltering in Cooke’s trailer gives us the chance to appreciate the car’s lines as it sits outside in the rain. The front end echoes the way in which the Testa Rossa design developed after the pontoon-fender cars, but the back is less heavily sculpted than anything Maranello produced. As Cooke points out, its higher, broader, flatter rear section is reminiscent of that on a Costin-bodied Lister.
The unpainted finish and side-exit exhausts reflect the original car’s look when it first raced in 1961. Georges and Claude soon painted it red – as Cooke intends to – and developed longer six-into-one exhaust systems which exited on each side beneath the rear valance. The driving position is ideal if you’re the size of a rugby player. If you’re not, you might need – for example – two sets of extra cushions plus a child’s booster seat in order to get comfortable. Once you have, the view is magnificent, the front wings rising either side of the cluster of intakes for the Weber carburettors.
The clutch is of the ferocious ‘on-off’ type – manoeuvring around a crowded paddock must be a joy – and the gearchange is heavy but beautifully precise and mechanical in feel. Those disc brakes respond well to a hefty shove of the pedal, as proven when two deer suddenly dash across the track. Fortunately, Bambi and his friend escape unscathed, as does that carefully crafted bodywork.
The weight of certain control actions is at odds with the delicate wood-rimmed steering wheel, but the handling – as you’d expect of a sports-racer of this era – asks for precision and balance rather than brute force. Not that a wet surface bordered by trees is the place to venture too deeply into the limits of adhesion. Best of all, though, is the three-litre V12.
Move the throttle tentatively and the carburettors give a slight cough. Push it more insistently and deeper into its travel and the engine responds at once, the various mechanical noises that compete with each other at lower revs all coming together into a glorious bark. Little wonder that this engine played such a large part in establishing the Ferrari legend during the 1950s and early 1960s, or that Cooke found he couldn’t live without it after selling his first Testa Rossa.
‘Once we start tightening it up and adjusting things and doing some proper testing, it’s going to be a much nicer car to drive than a Testa Rossa,’ he says. ‘TRs tend to understeer, but this has much more the feeling of a race car. It’s well balanced. It was too loose at Goodwood at the back end, but we can tighten it up because that’s what the Gachnangs had engineered into it – the ability to play around with it and adjust it.’ The support of Georges and Claude meant that Cooke has been able to register the car officially as a CEGGA-Ferrari. The brothers’ involvement lifts it well beyond a ‘mere’ recreation. It carries with it the soul of their original racer.
Clockwise from top left High gear lever and bonnet-breaching carburettors demonstrate body’s lowness; boxy tail is more Costin Lister than Ferrari; engine has correct TR red cam covers. Clockwise from top of facing page Carburettor trumpets are proudly displayed under transparent air scoop; ‘boot’ contains spare wheel and fuel filler; team logo reproduced; with body off, independent rear suspension is clearly seen; Georges adds to photographic evidence during body construction; panels are coming together as Scaglietti would have done it; haunches add sense of purpose even at rest. Clockwise from left Co-creator Georges Gachnang tackles some understeer in the original CEGGA Ferrari, road-registered in Switzerland and yet to be painted; today’s version is also yet to be painted as it takes to the Goodwood motor circuit; owner David Cooke gives Georges a hug; Georges helped ensure the new car’s accuracy and has given it his seal of approval.
1961/2019 CEGGA Ferrari
Engine 2953cc V12, SOHC per bank, six Weber 38 DCN twin-choke carburettors
Max Power 290bhp @ 7200rpm
Max Torque 221lb ft @ 5500rpm
Transmission Four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Steering ZF worm and roller
Front: double wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar
Rear: transverse upper and lower links, parallel radius rods, coil spring/damper units
Weight 800kg (est)
Top speed 170mph (est)