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1904 – 1921

Rapid or STAR (Società Torinese Automobili Rapid) was an Italian automotive manufacturer based in Turin with operations in 1904 through 1921. The first Rapid was constructed in 1904 by Battista Ceirano. Due to a serious illness Ceirano gave up the automobile business, and retired to Bordighera, where he lived until his death in 1912. Very soon after Ceirano had withdrawn, Giovanni Battista Maggi took over the management of the company Star (Società Torinese Automobili Rapid). Rodolfo Chio was appointed chief designer but was killed in an accident in 1906 during a test drive. Among the first models were the Rapid models 16/24 and the 24/40 with displacements ranging from 4562 cc to 7432 cc.

In 1907, the world's automotive industry was threatened by recession, and for Rapid to survive, added the production of 4-cylinder models with displacements ranging from 1750 cc to 10560 cc continuing. The 1910 Rapid 15 HP was driven by a 4-cylinder engine with 2614 cc and an output of about 15 hp. From 1910, the Rapid-models were also available with air starters. After the end of World War I, they started an auto repair shop. In 1921 the car production was disbanded and taken over by SPA.

The Changing Times

Ceirano & C., Welleyes, F.lli Ceirano, STAR Rapid, Matthew C. & C., Italy, Ansaldo Ceirano, SPA, Junior, SCAT, SAGiovanni Ceirano: eleven companies, joined by two common denominators are all born in Turin and are all on the initiative of either of the brothers CEIR.

Delving into the lives and hectic activity of the four brothers, distinguishing the contribution of each, is not easy. Ceirano, a Piedmontese family, originally from Cuneo, composed of father, mother and four brothers: John the Baptist, born in 1860, John, born in 1865, Matthew, the bon vivant of the family, five years younger, and Ernest, born after another five years. To these are added at a later time, the son of John who, with a certain lack of imagination, is baptized and named John Ernest. As you can see, there are already in place for a pretty confusing, even apart from their characters, which surely must have been quite certain, if not quarrelsome and stubborn, because one after another, are devoting themselves to the same job: to found car companies. Base, and then leave, or merge with others, or dissolve, or detect, in a kaleidoscope of society that much more colorful and enriched the industrial landscape of Turin and Italian.

The first mover is of course John the Baptist, the oldest. Founds Ceirano & C. in 1898 and Welleyes in 1899, then in 1901, along with Matthew, F.lli Ceirano, in Corso Vittorio Emanuele 9. Dismisses this in 1903, in 1904 transformed the Ceirano & C. in STAR, Società Torinese Cars Rapid object of this brief survey. The Rapid will last until 1921, then terminates its activities exactly eighty years ago. Matthew, the third son, founded in 1903, the Matthew C. & C. in Via Guastalla, but became known mainly as a founder in 1904 of Italy, for thirty years of glorious history. Actually Matthew already in 1905 he left to found Ceirano-Ansaldi, who in 1906 became the Spa, also brand-lived. The second son John is still more enterprising. In 1904 he founded the Kids in corso Massimo d'Azeglio 56, two years after leaving the company and from 'life to SCAT, between Via Madama Cristina and ongoing Raphael, who in 1907 moves to France over ten years later, in 1917, was sold to Hispano Suiza. In 1920, his son who had thoughtlessly baptized with the same name and was told to stand, Ernest, founded SAGiovanni Ceirano, current Lecce, but in 1923 was seized by nostalgia and reacquire the SCAT. Since 1925 there is a series of movements that result in the creation of the company "Fiat Consortium", and finally the abandonment of Ceirano in 1931, an abandonment that even if he did not believe anyone is definite. We did not quote Ernest, FOURTH: what is the point of view car from 'less satisfaction, remains a little' aside and simply work with his older brother.

I am therefore more than thirty years of varied activities, marked by constant bickering between the brothers which resembled much more than they were willing to admit, for example, no one had the slightest concern about the financial aspect of their enterprises. This may also explain why so many companies: they amused themselves by putting in constant competition with each other with ever new initiatives, making the war and opposing each other company on society. Moreover, in their way, were the artists, creators, certainly not the commercial or technical, and they only attract the creative phase, that of the foundation, constitution, setting up a new company. Once this was started, or even larger, are no longer objects of interest, for any of them.

Speed is among the most famous automobile factories of the past, and that is worth telling the story, which lasted a little 'less than twenty years. John the Baptist founded in 1904, noting the former White Steel Curtain of Nice, an area marked by increasingly important industrial settlements (went there after the speed, RIV). At the time of creation, Rapid covers an area of 50,000 square meters. and 'employ 500 workers, the initial capital stock and two million pounds, of which six hundred thousand paid high the following year at five million, one and a half paid. "We are pleased to participate in your illustrious Lordship which was founded in Turin, a public limited company under the name Società Torinese Cars Rapid, already Ceirano & C., in order to engage in the industry and trade in automobiles. For the season 1905 the Company Cars will be in Turin Rapid able to present a new model of light vehicles with four cylinder engines, the relative strength of 16, 24 and 50 HP, inhaling the very best standards of modern mechanics, and the most practical criteria used by the best known existing factories . tralascierà Neither the manufacture of small cars like "Popular" in the Company ceased GFlli Ceirano, already so welcomed by the automotive world. " E 'the initial text of a polite little letter sent in October 1904 to a carefully selected list of potential customers, on letterhead Rapid, complete with a drawing of the plant and smokestacks in full swing. They have two garage sales, in Corso Vittorio Emanuele 9, an address to the sacred history of the Turin because you have passed Ceirano, Lancia, Nazzaro and many other pioneers, and the second in Milan, via Porta Tenaglia n . 9. The President is a Mr. A. White, General Manager for the technical part of John the Baptist, and G. Peroni, for the administrative, while designing the controller is S. Bertola.

1905 is a year of rapid growth for the young brand are test lavish investments in the second exhibition of Automobili Torino, which took place between January and February, and the Bicycle and Automobile Show in Milan, between May and June. In the latter exposes the Rapid lounge cars already complete (in Turin there were only chassis), and is even rumored that it will rise soon in Naples a second workshop to meet the many orders received. The consecration is with the nice article published on the car, the special issue in December of that year, also interesting because it shows three pictures of the factory: the engine room, the dining room finishes and mounting frames. Images are mute, does not appear even one worker (and there are about five hundred at the time), the spaces are bright, tidy, clean, and is impressive for a factory founded so recently, a parade of chassis in production. Even more interesting are the photos published in another great service dedicated to the rapid by the Automobile in May 1906 because this time the assembly department and the department motors are driven with all the workers obediently pose. You see the faces of young and less young people, each wearing your work clothes and tools of the trade in hand. They are all standing (it was not provided a workstation sitting), and next to them are also photographed the hated controllers, those who took their time processing: stern-looking, are the only ones to wear a hat, jacket and tie. There is also an impressive image of the engine department, which stretched over six thousand square meters and includes over three hundred machines put into action by a driving force of two hundred horses. In this photo (which is folded several times in the magazine because it has a dimension of one meter per 25 cm), no human figures appear, probably to give more prominence all'infilata machines.

In the article, full of praise, refers to an order from England to come to Rapid fifteen million cars to be supplied in just three years! The news is so implausible, in times when an annual production of a thousand cars is already considerable, which may not even be commented. It 'clear however that breathes an air of enthusiastic optimism in the future.

This impression is confirmed yet by the presentation of the production, scheduled in 600 cars a year, the beautiful catalog, elegant and detailed, printed shortly after. E 'set, which is rare in the catalogs of the period, the list price of each model, and the wide variety of models offered. Working on the type 12-14 HP, the chassis is offered to eight thousand pounds (together with the frame was also handed a box full of tools, for future Pannes, and a pump for tires), and can be set as " postal truck. It was adopted by the Royal Italian Post Office. Type the following 16-20 HP, the chassis costs ten dollars, and the type 28-40 HP, offered to 17,000 pounds and the Type 50-70 HP, presents it in a double phaeton, or as an omnibus for 24, 16 or 10 seats . Pearl of the catalog and water it car, patented and sold at a price of 20,000 lire. This is indeed a curious and interesting vehicle, equipped with two rear hoses with fan jet, capable of watering a road sixty feet wide. It 'a fairly widespread practice, that of wet roads, because it was one of the few systems to prevent the rise of the powder to the passage of carriages and cars. The vehicle is certainly effective, and is adopted by the municipalities of Rome and Turin, resulting in significant win for National in Turin.

Soon, however, the earthquake happens. Ceirano apparently abandons his creation, among other health problems has not indifferent, although it is not certain elderly (46 years). It from 'indirect meager press reported the news from "The sporting press of 2 December 1906, which indicates the successful appointment as Director-General of Eng. Ettore Morelli commercial director becomes the engineer Giovanni Battista Mazza, Managing Director Engineer Gilberto Dumontel and new member of the Board of Directors Cavalier Leumann. Is not specified, the output of Ceirano, but proof is the co-opting a new member of the Board, to achieve, of course, the prescribed number.

Following several months of silence, of which little is known except that the speed needs to address the difficulties arising from the new corporate structure and especially the economic crisis of 1907, which rocked the industry, particularly the emerging automobile , which was then regarded as today's "new economy": a land potentially lucrative, but often treacherous and traitorous. E 'meaningful advertising in magazines finally reappeared at the end of 1908. Reads: "Why does RAPID complaint? Unobstructed views from its beginning to unfortunate events, AFFECTED during four years by the aspirations of too much energy, distressed, defamed, only supported by the trust of their forces, patient and unpretentious work during the crisis that overcame in silence, is freed 'glues the operations of debts, charges, harassment and kept the job all in 1908 to nearly 300 workers. RAPID hours resurrected to new life industrial exhibition to the public in new forms the fruit of his work and confidence in its future. " It 'a message, as well as lengthy, deliberately obscure and allusive. It is not clear what this "harassment", what were the "unfortunate events" that have hit since the beginning. All this also contrasts greatly with the tone in which the company and 'was presented in the 1905/1906 biennium. And here is the concluding sentence: "With a capacity of 1000 factory workers, sold during the current winter at very competitive prices and with the most extensive guarantees the cars like 1908, that, try the hardest struggles were enough to bring prejudice to the Company among the most insidious discomfort and poor confidence of those who wanted to know. " It is therefore a disposal Inventories considered no longer at the level of competition, however, always remain mysterious hints at the perils endured. "Motor Cycles & Sports" from 'news of the rapids in December 1908, writing: "The rapid than a period of crisis has passed through an adjustment, to restore quiet. During 1908 it has done little to talk about himself, as if we wanted to forget. No advertisements, no runs, nothing new. But conversely this house, which some believe could be dissipated, is one of those who worked more seriously. For several months the factory by 'continuous employment to more than 300 workers so used in the construction of passenger cars and wagons as the omnibus watered, and for many months, both in Italy and abroad are sold without noise, but actually many chassis Rapid shows that customers prefer and extraordinary degree. " Indeed, in those weeks, the Rapid is part of the Olympia Motor Show in London, is that of Paris, and costs were not light.

The following years elapse without printing registers adventure, if we expand the exception of the bid, the five models offered to customers in 1908 to eight in 1910. 50/70 Hp cylinders are separated by nearly 10,000 cc; biblocco the 20/30 HP, 5195 cc, the 9 / 12 HP version taxi, monoblock, 1570 cc, the 12/14 HP, biblocco, 2111 cc, on 15 HP monoblock, 2614 cc, the 16/20 HP biblocco, 3054 cc, the 28/40 HP biblocco, 7964 cc, the 16/24 HP biblocco, 3308 cc. Little is known for two or three years, until it reaches the Great War, and the production is necessarily restricted to one type called 10/12 HP. E 'instead given much impetus to war production: creating a new department for the manufacture of projectiles (about 4000 per day as early as 1916, from 65 up to 210 mm), and parts for machine guns, cannons, and aircraft engines. Of course continues in the contemporary construction of trucks, this time intended not to water the streets but the army.

The only type offered in the catalog is a four-cylinder block, just 1590 cc, with three forward gears and reverse, and since 1916 also available with start-up and electric lighting. Suspended civilian production in 1917 and 1918, this model is almost unchanged re restart of production "normal" in 1919.

Actually Mussino the engineer, who had led the fast time of war, has an idea very interesting point, more than production of new cars, surely difficult to sell in times of war, repair of old ones. So it's put together a great workshop for repairs, for each type and brand of trucks, buses, military vehicles and industrial, and passenger cars.

The initiative is, on paper, the right one: not only the activity of repair immediately takes his foot, and it is also profit the military administration is large manufacturers, but at the same time you are organizing a department of manufacturing spare parts, specialized in valves. The cars to be repaired come, press reports, hundreds at a time.

Unfortunately, no need to save the company. In 1921, seventeen years after its foundation, the star is put into liquidation. Establishments are acquired by the SPA, and the residues of stores are identified by the CIP Cyclecar Italian Petromilli, Constantine Petromilli, which sells them to keep the name STAR. Four years later, on 25 June 1925, the liquidation is completed. From the statement indicates a surplus of 107 thousand pounds, to be divided into more than 70,000 shares valued at 25 pounds each, with a share of allotment equal to a pound and a half.

A final twist of fate lies in the acquisition of buildings and machinery by SPA, a company founded by his brother Matthew in 1906. The brothers now works only as John, and soon he will retire, but their companies continue to intersect and merge with each other.

written by Donatella Biffignandi, 31 May 2001

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