Chappe et Gessalin
|Fate||Bankruptcy and closed. Spring 1974|
|Founder||Abel, Albert and Louis Chappe
Chappe et Gessalin is the short-form of the name of French coachbuilder "Carrosserie Chappe Frères et Gessalin". The company built automobile bodies and did contract assembly for other automobile manufacturers. It was also the parent of Automobiles CG, a French automobile maker founded in 1966 which built and sold complete cars under its own name.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Automobiles CG
- 3 The sign of the Gallic Cockerel
- 4 CG Cars
- 5 The end of the road
- 6 CG in competition
- 7 References
- 8 External links
- 9 Literature
The 1930s and 1940s
The story of Chappe et Gessalin begins in 1932, in the commune of Saint-Maur-des-Fosses near Paris. In that year the Carrosserie Chappe was founded by Jean Chappe. Working with him are his three sons, Abel, Albert and Louis and an apprentice, Amédée Gessalin. The shop does bodywork in both wood and steel.
The Second World War interrupts the company's activities for a time but they resume at the end of hostilities. In 1946 Jean sells the carrosserie to his three sons. By that time Amédée is also a part of the family, having married the Chappe's eldest daughter Marie-Louise. The brothers add his name to the masthead and the company becomes "Carrosserie Chappe Frères et Gessalin". On the death of Amédée his son Jean takes his father's place in the company.
The new company's work included commercial vehicles, a specialty being the construction of firetruck bodies on truck frames produced by Delahaye. They also carve out a niche doing more specialized work, such as bodywork in duralumin for Talbot and repairs on the Delahaye 135, 136 and Talbot T26 racing cars owned by Charles Pozzi, who would become a major dealer in Ferrari and Maserati cars.
The 1950s and 1960s
Before his death Amédée Gessalin taught his son how to draw and plan vehicles. Jean, an admirer of great Parisian designers Chapron and Figoni, works on honing his own skills by attending evening classes taught by these men.
Chappe et Gessalin provided the aluminum bodywork for the Bosvin-Michel Speciale (BMS) throughout its many revisions. This car was designed and built by Camille Bosvin and driven by Guy Michel. It had a tubular-steel frame and was noteworthy in being one of the first cars to mount its engine (from a Renault 4CV) amidships. The BMS was a regular at Montlhéry, and won the Bol d'Or in 1952 and 1953.
Another project that Chappe et Gessalin were involved with was the SCVS-DB specials. These cars, given chassis numbers 1065 and 1066 by Renault, were initially a project of Renault dealers Jean Rédélé and Louis Pons. The cars were built by the small French firm of Deutsch-Bonnet with aluminum bodywork by Chappe et Gessalin. Power came from a Renault 4CV engine. One of the cars appeared at Le Mans in 1953.
In the early 1950s Chappe et Gessalin began experimenting with Fibre-reinforced plastic, (specifically Fiberglass). Using resins and techniques imported from the United States they started producing lightweight automobile bodies for sportscars and racing cars from a succession of independent fabricators and small manufacturers.
Deutsch-Bonnet themselves became a client of Chappe et Gessalin, who started by providing plastic noses for DB's monomil single-seaters and bodywork for other racers and would go on to built 200 copies of DB's "Le Mans" road car.
Even when the founders of Deutsch-Bonnet, René Bonnet and Charles Deutsch, ended their partnership in 1961 and established separate car companies (Automobiles René Bonnet and CD), they both continued to use lightweight fibreglass bodywork supplied by Chappe et Gessalin. René Bonnet would go to them to develop bodywork for his new Djet. For Charles Deutsch Chappe et Gessalin would produce the body of the Panhard-powered racing CDs and build 160 of the Panhard-CD road cars.
Apart from the SCVS-DB cars, throughout the 1950s Jean Rédélé would be involved in several automotive projects, including several Rédélé Spéciales, the Marquis, PlastiCar, and others. He would cross paths with Chappe et Gessalin often and would in time become their most famous client of all.
As a young man Jean Gessalin drew a small coupé based on Renault 4CV mechanicals as a design exercise for himself, which design he left behind while away performing his compulsory military service. On his return he discovered that his drawing has been turned into a car by his family.
A Renault concessionaire named Charles Escoffier sees the car and contacts his son-in-law, Jean Rédélé. 25 copies of the car are ordered from Chappe et Gessalin to be sold by Rédélé as the "Alpine". Renault backs the new company, and numbers the car "106". With the release of the A106 the Alpine company is born in 1955.
Chappe et Gessalin would continue to build the A106 coupé and the subsequent A106 cabriolet, even though the cabriolet was styled by Michelotti. After 251 copies are built, the A106 was succeeded by the A108 and again, Chappe et Gessalin build the coupé, as well as a new 2+2. This time, though, Alpine opts to build the cabriolet version themselves. Rédélé has set up a new company named RDL to bring bodywork in-house with Alpine. Eventually the A108 was in turn replaced by the A110, but this time Chappe et Gessalin will only be doing bodywork, upholstery and paintwork for the A110 GT4 2+2. Final assembly is done at the Alpine works in Dieppe, although the car carries a CG badges on its flank.
In the early 1960s, the staff at Chappe et Gessalin has grown to around 40 people.
While it continued working with a variety of car builders, demand from one of its largest customers, Alpine, was diminishing as Alpine's associated bodyworks, RDL, takes over production of most Alpine models.
In 1964 management at Chappe et Gessalin began planning to become an automobile manufacturer in their own right. The new venture will be known as Automobiles CG ("CG" for Chappe et Gessalin). While there were already the skills in-house to do the styling and mechanical design of an entire car as well as produce the bodywork and chassis, they would need to source engines, transmissions, suspension parts, brakes and associated trim.
With Renault committed to Alpine and with Peugeot and Citroen (with Panhard) declining to participate, Automobiles CG turned to the Simca company and their pool of production mechanical components to supply its needs. Parts for the first CG would come from a wrecked 1000 provided by Simca dealer Roger Civet.
The design of the first CG model began in 1965, and the car debuted at the 1966 Salon de l‘Auto in Paris. Called the 1000 Spider, it is a small rear-engined convertible with a 2+2 fiberglass body that uses powertrain and suspension components from the Simca 1000.
Since Jean Gessalin had designed what would become the very first Alpine, it is no surprise that the first CG bears a strong resemblance to its cousin from Dieppe, right down to the exposed hinges on the car.
The car received positive reviews for its appearance and the high level of fit and finish, but drivers were unimpressed by the 29.4 kilowatts (39.4 hp) produced by the 944cc engine and the high price.
CG later offered a high-performance version of the same engine that has been tuned by Michel Tapie from Rodez with power boosted by 50 percent to 58.9 kilowatts (79.0 hp).
Different variations of the original 1000 would be produced over its 3-year lifespan.
The 1000 Spider is replaced by the CG 1200S in 1968. The engine is now the same as that found in the Simca 1200S, and power is double that of the original 1000. It is during the time that the 1200S is being built that CG begins to collaborate with Chrysler Europe (via the Simca division in France) in sportscar racing and rallying.
In 1972 the third and final major CG model enters production, the CG 1300. Power is now provided by the same engine found in the Simca 1000 Rallye 2. This model also receives many upgrades to its body and trim.
The sign of the Gallic Cockerel
Even though the first CG cars debuted in 1966, it was not until 1970 that an official emblem was designed for them. The image was based on the "Coq Gaulois" (the Gallic Cockerel). While "Coq Gaulois" and "Chappe et Gessalin" shared a common monogram, the image was also related to the company's address in Brie-Comte-Robert, which was on the "Rue du Coq Gaulois".
The designer of the emblem was Albert Uderzo, who is primarily known as the artist responsible for the Astérix comic series.
CG 1000 (1966 - 1969, type A1000)
The CG 1000 Spyder was unveiled at the 1966 Salon de l’Auto in Paris. The compact convertible has a fiberglass body mounted on a steel chassis with a deep "U" centre backbone and tube-and-sheetmetal outriggers. The chassis was designed by CG. Power comes from a 944cc inline 4-cylinder Simca Poissy engine. This motor has a cross-flow aluminum cylinder head and a cast-iron block with 5 main bearings. It is mounted in the rear of the car, canted over at 15 degrees from vertical and drives the wheels through a 4-speed transaxle that uses Porsche-style synchronizers. The radiator is mounted at the rear beside the engine. Steering was worm-and-roller by Gemmer. Front suspension is by a lower transverse leaf spring and upper A-arms while at the rear are swing-axles with semi-trailing arms and coil springs. Brakes are disks on all four wheels, courtesy of the Simca 1000 Bertone coupé. The car, weighting 640 kg, is attractive and displays a very high quality of finish. Less well received is the vague steering and the meagre power from the stock engine. The price of the Spider was 16,990 francs.
One year after the release of the 1000 Spider a new, lower-price model debuted; the 1000 Sport. The price for this model is down to 14,990 francs. While the engine is the same 944cc unit, it has been modified by engine tuner Michel Tapie from Rodez and power has been boosted by 50 percent to 58.9 kilowatts (79.0 hp). To bring the price down from that of the 1000 Spider, the roll-up glass windows are replaced by plastic sliders, the bumpers and hubcaps are removed, the dashboard is painted rather than covered and the seats are simple fibreblass tubs, changes which also bring the weight down to 600 kg. The 1000 Sport comes with a removable hardtop.
In 1968 the 1000 Spider and 1000 Sport disappear from the lineup, and two new cars are introduced, one of which is the CG 1000S. Trim on the 1000S is similar to the original 1000 Spider, but the engine displaces 1118cc and produces 49 hp. The `S’ is available as either a full coupé (non-removable) or convertible.
Dimensions: 4024 mm long, 1540mm wide, 1181mm high, 2220mm wheelbase. Front track is 1242mm, rear track is 1255mm.
CG 1200 S (1968 - 1972, type B1200) and 548
The other new model released in 1968 was the CG 1200S. This model is offered as a coupé or a convertible, although only 33 soft-tops will be built by the factory. By upgrading to the engine from the Simca 1200 S coupé, CG was finally able to offer a sports car with performance comparable to the Alpine A110. With the 1204cc engine power output was 80 hp, twice that of the original 1000 Spider.
Brakes are disks all around but are now activated by a servo-assisted dual-circuit system. Rack-and-pinion steering replaces the old Gemmer system and anti-roll bars are added front and rear. There is also a new rear axle with dual movable joints as found on the B-series Simcas, allowing for negative camber setup. The rear end now also has two shock-absorbers per side. The radiator is moved to the front of the car, which now has an opening to admit cooling air. Weight is 660 kg
Dimensions: 4024 mm long, 1540mm wide, 1180mm high, 2220mm wheelbase. Front track is 1250mm, rear track is 1234mm.
A special model intended for racing is developed out of the 1200S. This CG, called the 548, is a lightweight special, the name of the car also being its weight in kilograms.
To achieve this light weight many changes were made to the car. The lateral chassis beams were recessed into the main chassis and some lower-chassis details were restructured. The steel floor was replaced with aluminum and the engine and transaxle were mounted rigidly to two ties on the chassis, allowing the rear chassis structure to be removed completely, replaced only by a lateral rod tying the two sides of the chassis together. The bodywork is thinner than normal, all glass is replaced with acrylic or plexiglass deflectors, the bumperettes are removed and the gas filler neck is relocated. The air intake at the front is larger than on the 1200S, and a large mesh opening in the rear allows engine heat to escape. The rear deck now ends in a full-width spoiler.
The 548 is available with an optional Constantin supercharger that brings power output up to 120 hp.
CG 1300 (1972 - 1974, type C1300)
In 1972, the last regular GC road car, the CG 1300, is released. Once again, displacement has grown and the car now has the 1294cc engine from the Simca Rallye 2. Power is initially 82 hp and torque is up to 80 ft-lbs. The car, only available as a coupé, has a new lower front valance with a spoiler and an even larger air intake for the radiator. Front indicator lamps are from a later model Simca 1000 and are mounted under the headlamps. From the doors back the rear quarter-panels have been reshaped and the rear quarter windows have also be changed. The tail of the car has been shortened by 64mm. Taillights are rectangular units from the Simca 1100 and new cast bumperettes are used.
The 1300 would only be in production for one and one-half years, from 1972 to 1974.
Dimensions are: 3960 mm long, 1540mm wide, 1205mm high, 2230mm wheelbase. Front track is 1260mm, rear track is 1306mm.
|CG type A1000 (fewer than 30 units)||CG type B1200 (about 280 units)||CG type C1300 (95 units)|
|Spider 1000||Sport 1000||Sport 1000/1000 S||Coupé and Spider 1200 S||Coupé and Spider 1200 S 1970 model||Coupé "548"||Coupé 1300||Coupé 1300 95 hp|
|Displacement||944 cc||944 cc||1118 cc||1204 cc||1204 cc||1204 cc||1294 cc||1294 cc|
|Bore x stroke (mm)||68 x 65||68 x 65||74 x 65||74 x 70||74 x 70||74 x 70||76.7 x 70||76.7 x 70|
|Power||29.4 kilowatts (39.4 hp) @ 5400 rpm||29.4 kilowatts (39.4 hp) @ 5400 rpm||36.1 kilowatts (48.4 hp) @ 5600 rpm||58.9 kilowatts (79.0 hp) @ 6000 rpm||62.5 kilowatts (83.8 hp) @ 6200 rpm||88.3 kilowatts (118.4 hp) @ 6200 rpm||60.3 kilowatts (80.9 hp) @ 6000 rpm||69.9 kilowatts (93.7 hp) @ 6400 rpm|
|Torque||74.5 newton metres (54.9 lb·ft) @ 3400 rpm||74.5 newton metres (54.9 lb·ft) @ 3400 rpm||82.9 newton metres (61.1 lb·ft) @ 3600 rpm||103 newton metres (76.0 lb·ft) @ 4500 rpm||105.4 newton metres (77.7 lb·ft) @ 4500 rpm||-||107.9 newton metres (79.6 lb·ft) @ 4400 rpm||115.7 newton metres (85.3 lb·ft) @ 4560 rpm|
|Weight||640 kilograms (1,411.0 lb)||600 kilograms (1,322.8 lb)||620 kilograms (1,366.9 lb)||660 kilograms (1,455.1 lb)||660 kilograms (1,455.1 lb)||548 kilograms (1,208.1 lb)||660 kilograms (1,455.1 lb)||670 kilograms (1,477.1 lb)|
|Top speed||-||150 kilometres per hour (93 mph)||160 kilometres per hour (99 mph)||185 kilometres per hour (115 mph)||188 kilometres per hour (117 mph)||-||185 kilometres per hour (115 mph)||195 kilometres per hour (121 mph)|
|Standing Kilometre||-||37.0 s||35.6 s||31.5 s||31.3 s||27.0 s||31.5 s||30.5 s|
|Price (year)||16 900 F (1967)||14 990 F (1967)||18 990 F (1968)||21 480/21 980 F (1968)||22 726/23 255 F (1970)||35 000 F (1971)||27 500 F (1973)||30 232 F (1973)|
The end of the road
The GC 1300 will be the last car produced at Chappe et Gessalin. In 1964 Matra had acquired the assets of the René-Bonnet company, and by 1970 Matra themselves were 50% owned by Chrysler. When Simca selected Matra's Bagheera as the successor to the Bertone-designed Simca 1200S this eclipsed any hopes CG may have had to raise their own profile within Simca.
The last CG 1300s were delivered in the spring of 1974, after which the small company of Brie-Comte-Robert closed its doors permanently.
Following the closure of the CG plant, Jean-Michel Ribot-Bruno's Coulimmiers-based Geriplast company takes over the after-sales service and repair of the CG bodywork. The CG construction equipment and molds are transferred to GERIPLAST at the end of 1974. Geriplast would use these to itself become a manufacturer of GERIPLAST barchettes (modified CG spiders) and then GERI barchettes and single-seaters, developed jointly with Michel Bonenfant. 
In 2016 there is a 50th anniversary retrospective of CG held at the Cite de l'Automobile.
CG in competition
While CGs had been raced prior to its release, the lightweight 548 is the first CG built expressly for motor racing.
In April 1969 Henri Chemin comes to Chrysler, rejoining his former boss from Ford France, William Reiber. Chemin is appointed head of the competition department and given three objectives:
- Start winning races, including rallys, as soon as possible
- Rebuild the image of Simca's brand with young drivers
- Add to Matra's already impressive list of victories
Chemin campaigns a 1200XS coupé with the new 1812cc OHC Simca Type 180 engine in a series of rallyes, but the car cannot overcome the Alpines. Towards the end of the year CG agrees to collaborate with the Simca division of Chrysler Europe in a new venture to be called Simca-CG. Simca-CG will go racing with a jointly-developed car to be called the Simca-CG Proto MC.
Although some histories say that the Proto MC's chassis was designed by Matra, there is little concrete evidence for the company's direct involvement. An indirect connection to Matra is established when, through the influence of Simca, Matra engineer Bernard Boyer is assigned to the development team. Boyer is also a former employee of Chappe et Gessalin and son-in-law of Albert Chappe.
The Simca-CG Proto MC is a mid-engined (MC standing for "Moteur Centrale") two-seater car with a monocoque-and-tubular hybrid chassis. The engine is the Chrysler/Simca Type 180 that had been used in the 1200XS coupés. Early cars would make do with the 1812cc engine but later cars would have 2156cc, 2207cc and 2310cc versions of the Type 180 motor. The transaxle would come from a Porsche 914.
Bodywork for the first cars would be derived from the existing molds for the CG 1200S and 548 models. Later spiders would have as much as 200mm cut from their length, and one car was built with a truncated cabin that gave it the appearance of a small truck.
The project was launched in February 1970, design work was completed by the end of May and the car was built and track testing was starting by the end of July.
Its first race is on August 8, 1970 at Mont-Dore, and the car's first Championship win was at the 1970 Critérium des Cévennes, with Gérard Larrousse driving.
For the 1972 season Simca brought in engine specialists JRD, who increased the displacement and made other modifications to increase the power output and deal with reliability issues arising from the greater stresses.
Drivers were Bernard Fiorentino, Gérard Larrousse, Michel Saliba and Philippe Renaudât.
In April 1973, Simca Chrysler dissolves the competition department, leaving only Matra Sports to continue in Sports-Prototypes racing.
Many (non-MC) CGs continued to be active in historic racing. Several of these cars are described as "CG 1600s", but these appear to be custom engine swaps rather than factory originals.
In 2012, with the approval of Jean Gessalin and support from Bernard Chappe, Didier Malga launches "CG Sport", an attempt to revive the brand as a competition group.
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