Circa-1954 Ceccato 75cc Twin Cam

One of the rarest classic Italian motorcycles

| May/June 2010

Critically acclaimed food author and television personality Anthony Bourdain would tell us that a steak cooked rare is a pretty common thing.

That’s why Bourdain, sometimes scootering around or riding in a sidecar on his show No Reservations, documents the lesser-known dishes available from around the globe — he’s often seen scarfing down morsels of food that would make the best of us shudder, including ant eggs, savory duck tongue and pig’s head fettuccine. Now, I’m no Anthony Bourdain, and this isn’t a tale about exotic food in a far-off locale, but what’s on offer here is something very delectable, very rare — and very exotic. The serving? Guy Webster’s Circa-1954 Ceccato 75cc Twin Cam Italian racer, the sole survivor of five classic Italian motorcycles produced in Pietro Ceccato’s factory on the outskirts of Vicenza, Italy, 38 miles west of Venice.

Beginnings of Ceccato

Born around 1900, Pietro Ceccato was the son of an aristocratic Italian family. His parents wanted him to become a pharmacist, and while he dutifully obliged, he was never really happy in this occupation. Always fascinated by things mechanical, in the mid-1930s Ceccato quit the pharmaceutical trade and opened a manufacturing facility, building industrial equipment including burners for bakery ovens, air compressors and gas station hardware.

At the end of World War II, Ceccato, like many budding Italian entrepreneurs, surveyed the transportation industry of post-war Italy and decided to build and market a clip-on engine for bicycles. Lightweight motorcycles were not far behind, and the company started looking into motorcycle racing. This is where the story gets interesting, because there’s a connection between Ceccato and Fabio Taglioni, one of Italy’s best-known motorcycle designers.

Before Taglioni pioneered his desmodromic valve train in Ducati singles, and before he engineered the V-twin engine design of the Ducati 750 GT, he drew up a tiny jewel of a double overhead cam engine. In 1949, and long before he’d made a name for himself, Taglioni sketched a twin cam 75cc single-cylinder engine as a design exercise while studying to get his doctorate at the University of Bologna. He sold the engine plans to Ceccato before working for two years with Italian maker Mondial and then finally joining Ducati in 1954.

In Ceccato’s hands the 75cc twin cam engine was improved upon with gears driving the cams as opposed to the chain drive originally envisioned by Taglioni. It is thought that only five of the twin cam 75cc engines were constructed, and that these limited production engines went into Ceccato factory racing motorcycles circa 1954 and 1955. It is one of these five motorcycles Guy Webster now owns.

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