MOST people choose their profession out of interest in a certain trade and earn their living in that field. Few are able to switch to a completely different profession and become successful. One who did so was notary's son Pietro Ceccato, born in 1905 in Montecchio Maggiore near Vicenza in northern Italy. He completed his studies as a medical practitioner and began working as pharmacist. In his spare time he played a variety of musical instruments and was also interested in electronics and technical subjects in general. His first technical creation was a music stand with a foot pedal to change the pages. Motorcycling also had his interest, road racing in particular. He started racing on a Moto Vicentini, a company later taken over by Gillet-Herstal. With a 350 Velocette he attracted more attention and Rudge offered him a 500cc racing machine, and on this he gained the Italian championship in 1933.
After his first daughter - Adriana - was born he quit the racing scene and concentrated on music for a while. He sold his house in 1934 to finance a new business producing office materials, and bought a building area of 10,000 m2 in the "Alte" district of Montecchio Maggiore to erect a factory for quality products for which he considered there to be a likely market. Included were electric bread ovens, service station equipment, spray painting tools and a variety of industrial engines. Post-war, this pattern continued.
It was the "La Construzione" period and the Italians were badly in need of cheap means of transportation. The "Romeo" was introduced, a sporty, sparkling red motorized bicycle with a 38 cc 2-stroke roller engine above the rear wheel, followed by a 48cc engine in 1948. In 1951 a 49cc 2-stroke moped was introduced and also a 75 cc 2-stroke motorcycle. These were soon joined by 100 and 125cc versions, and later a 175 machine. All these models were tested at Ceccato's own test track and the first models were mostly sold to their own workers.
Early in 1953 also a 200 cc horizontal 2-stroke twin was introduced. This engine looked almost identical to the Motobi 'Catria'. That year the factory size increased to 16,000 m2 and the number of personnel rose to 700.
Because Pietro was such a large local employer and his personnel management was very social, the town district's name "Alte" was popularly called "Alte Ceccato", which later became the official name. Pietro's motorcycle racing passion was re-ignited and the Milan-Taranto and Motogiro d'Italia long distance races were entered in 1953. Two 75 cc and two 125 cc motorcycles were entered and they performed well but did not mount the podium. That was not good enough; to boost sales it was absolutely clear to Pietro that he needed a winner.
The young engineer Fabio Taglioni had just designed an interesting 75 cc ohc racing engine at Bologna's polytechnical institute. Contrary to popular belief this was his first design and not that of the 98 cc Ducati Marianna, which followed two years later. Fabio thought that he could make Count Giusseppe Boselli - head of FB Mondial - very happy with it, but because Mondial was successful in 125 cc GP racing and a 75 cc world title did not exist, he was not interested - however, Count Boselli introduced young Fabio to signor Ceccato in the summer of 1953.
Ceccato 175 Sport
Tipo 175, only 10 were built, 14.5hp at 9500 rpm, 140-150 km/h.
Ceccato Day 2001
Vittorio Zitto and Orlando Ghiro at the Ceccato day in 2001.
This was just what Pietro needed! He and designer Guido Menti began construction of a prototype with open valve springs in a temporary frame, and this machine made its first test laps in the autumn of that year. The chain-driven overhead camshaft used cam followers with tiny wheels to follow the cam and produced a mere 6 hp at 10,400 rpm and the future of tipo 'Sport', 'Super Sport', 'Sprint', Tornado', or whatever name for this one-and-the-same bike was given, looked bright. Already in November of 1953 Angelo Marelli clocked 115 km/hr over the flying kilometer on the Monza racing circuit.
By 1954 quite a number of racing machines had been built and eventually the power output, with an 18 mm carburettor, would reach 8.5 hp at 11,000 rpm. Menti and Pietro replaced the chain-driven camshaft with a gear train, the oilpan sported cooling fins and the open hairpin valvesprings where enclosed by a case surrounding each spring valve assembly. The frame was modified several times, particularly the rear suspension.
In 1954 Vittorio Zito finished 7th in the Milano-Taranto race and Eugenio Fontanilli placed first in the Coppa UCMI, Ghiro 1st in de Moto Giro di Toscane and 11th in the Moto Giro, while Carlo Carrani finished first in the Trofeo Cadetti. In 1955 Ghiro finished 4th in Mi-Ta and Pozzoni 2nd in the Giro.
In 1954 Ghiro also broke world records on a partially streamlined 75 cc model in the 75 cc and 100 cc class on the Castelfusano circuit near Rome. On the 1 mile with flying start he clocked 134,672 km/h and also set new records for the 1 km flying start and the standing start. Supported by these successes Ceccato also added ohv four strokes to its production range.
With attractive and sporty 'clean design' 125 cc engines, these included the single cradle frame 6.2 hp 'Gran Turismo' with 16 mm carburettor and the semi-double cradle framed 'Gran Turismo S' with a 7.5 hp engine and 18 mm carburettor. Also a 150 cc GTS model was created and the top model in '54 was a 175 cc chain driven OHC motorcycle of limited edition.
It was not difficult to produce a 100 cc derived from the 75 cc racer that delivered 11 hp at 10,500 rpm with a 20 mm carburettor. From this engine also a dohc version was created which achieved 11,500 rpm. On the first of January 1955 Orlando Ghiro and Vittorio Zito broke 14 world records in both classes. Also 125 cc and 175 cc racing bikes were built - the 125 developed 13 hp at 10,000 rpm and about twenty were produced, and ten of the 175 cc racers were created. These were built in the FB-Mondial factory and produced 14.5 hp. These bikes were not as successful as their smaller capacity family members due to stiff competition from Ducati and FB-Mondial in particular.
1956 turned out to be the crown year which Pietro, the 'Fondatore', would never witness. A few days after the new year had started he died suddenly of a heart attack. The company was taken over by another family company that did not change the course set out by Pietro. Zito won the Milan Taranto race in the 75 cc sports class . From the 32 bikes that started only 17 reached the final finish; 12 Ceccatos from which 'only' 9 finished with the first 10 bikes because Laverda got hold of the 4th position. Ghiro finished first in the Giro after winning all stages. In 1957 Fontanelli finished 2nd and that was the last year of long distance racing on public roads, due to deadly accidents in the Mille Miglia car race of that year.
Victories were also reaped in motocross, grass track and hill climbs. In 1960 a new 24 hour world speed record was established on the Monthléry circuit in France by Ceccato's racing chief Olindo Fongaro and famous French roadracing champion Georges Monneret. Due to a serious drop in motorcycle sales it was decided in 1961 that the production of motorcycles should be discontinued. The factory stock was large enough to last until 1963 when the last machines were sold.
Until the mid sixties Ceccato competed in the formula-2 races and in hill climb competition. Pier Carlo Borri took the 'Campionata Montagna' title in 1965 and 1966. The company had some minor exports to Libya, France and Holland.
Excellent sales were achieved in Argentina where during a certain period even more Ceccatos were sold than in Italy by Guan Zanella who started as a motorcycle producer in 1957 in Caseros near Buenos Aires and used the 100 and 125 cc 2-stroke engines in his own frames. The badge on the tank read 'Zanella-Ceccato'. Ninety percent were sold in Argentina, the remainder in surrounding countries and even in the USA were the Standard Atlantic Corporation of Miami took up imports in 1961. From that year on Zanella produced the engines and complete 50cc motorcycles, using the machines and tools imported from the Ceccato factory in Italy. As of 1990 Yamaha engines were used until the Argentinean dollar crisis forced Zanella to close all activities in 2002.
From the total of 500 Taglioni racers that were built, great numbers were successful in Argentina. Also a couple of 125 - and 175 cc racers. Races like the 'Seia Hora', '300 Milas', Premio Alpi', etc. were tremendously popular. The Argentine 75 - and 100 cc 'Zanella-Ceccato' racers D'arminio, Galelli and Tamburri conquered many victories and championships. After the smallest racing classes were abolished and Japanese bikes took over many Ceccato racers disappeared forever, but since the late eighties there have been a number of fortuitous barn finds in both in Italy and in Argentina.
'Registro Storico Ceccato' in Brendola is the club for all Ceccatos ever produced. The 'Ceccato Day' in Montecchio Maggiore is held annually and many ex-factory riders give 'acte de presence' and hand out signatures. Giampiero Vezzaro, the club's chairman, discovered a 175 cc racer in Argentina and repatriated it to Italy. Because motorcycles were only part of a wider range of products Ceccato never had to close, unlike most of its competitors. At present the company is one of the largest producers of car and train washing machines in the world and has a global network of offices and importers. Air compressors have been produced for over sixty years.
In honour of the company's famous motorcycle era the reception area at Via Bataglia had a permanent display of three brand new motorcycles from the final production year. Pietro's original plant at Via Bataglia 1 in Alte Ceccato was closed in 2002, as it had become too small. Along the Milan-Venice highway, just outside Vicenza, a new 60,000 m2 factory was established.
(Edited November 2019 & May 2020)
Ceccato-History-Eng.pdf available on request. Another version is available at icenicam.org.uk