Author: Martin Segerst
The light on Lake Como bathes the landscape in a beautiful glow. The air is pure, clear and pure. Everything seems possible, nothing seems difficult, let alone impossible. We only drink coffee. A small red sports car parked not far away. The man who built it is sitting next to me. Attentive, bright eyes looking across the street at the car. It seems as if Leonardo Frigerio himself would never get used to the fact that there is not only a car of any manufacturer, but a car that he made himself with his brother, the second Frigerio, the second F, and the second Effe. It’s very easy to say: build a car: build a car, build a sand cake, build a lego. What does building a car mean? You go and start doing that for sure. This is exactly what Leonardo Frigrio describes. When the idea came to him with his brother Vittorio in February 2014, they didn’t hesitate for long. Using steel tubes and hand-formed aluminum plates, they turned their vision of the gorgeous, highly textured berlinetta body into a reality. “They formed the tubes with the help of a tree,” Leonardo Frigerio’s son notes. The point is that you are just getting started. Leonardo Frigero says, “To transform a thought into an object.” In 2014 they presented a first draft at the Antique Car Show in Salzburg (A). “We just did it, we just started after the decision,” Frigrio says. “And we brought those who still had the skills on board. Who knows how many manufacturers were in Italy alone in the 50s and 60s? They were just called Etceterini, the rest, but their number and type are incredible. Most of these brands, like Stanguellini, Siata, Osca, Moretti, Taraschini or Giannini have their roots in motorsports – a world of their own and a breeding ground for creative minds and brilliant craftsmen.”
The origin of the Frigerio brothers’ car, Effeffe, which means nothing but FF, Fratelli Frigerio, lies in motorsport. With the Alfa Romeo 75 Turbo, the two were on the road as noble drivers, for example in the 24 Hours on the Nürburgring. The Giulia TI Super was added later, built to FIA regulations prior to 1965 and driven in historic races across Europe. Officine Frigerio has specialized in electrical systems for industry since 1955, but back to cars: somewhere in the studio there is now a Sprint GTA, an original, not a replica. The Effeffe is not a replica either; According to its creator, it is a “concept car with a look back.” In the past, Leonardo Frigrio does not mean simply a superficial view of today’s point of view, the unrepentant nostalgia, the enthusiasm for forms and ways of life, that rapid journey into the past with which we know so much in the digital age. The Frigrio brothers intend to immerse themselves deeply in a world, after the Second World War, in which Italian industry was born from the ruins thanks to numerous small specialized companies, independent entrepreneurs and talented artisans with an incredible amount of passion and will. Small manufacturers made cars with the least amount of resources, whatever was available at the time. They have developed an ingenious ability to create small works of art and mechanical excellence using existing large-format components. This is exactly and no less the objective of Fratelli Frigerio at the beginning of their mission.
The best are united
“In order to secure the knowledge and preserve the craftsmanship, we quickly went looking for the right partners. Among them are people who have already dealt with cars for 50 or even 60 years, acclaimed experts, and great masters of their profession. The chassis was calculated by an engineer who worked at aircraft manufacturer Dassault, the engine was prepared by former racing driver Carlo Fassetti, and our upholsterer worked for all the big names,” explains Frigrio. We have just climbed an incredibly steep and functional slope on the roof of an industrial building In Verano Brianza, not far from Monza.Behind the gate, hidden under a tarpaulin, there is a small car perched, at right angles to the aforementioned GTA, a bright red trellis structure shining on a car lift, and behind and on the opposite wall are pipes, iron clips, aluminum sheets , all in one frame neatly lined up the old Alfa Romeo rear hubs, and next to it is a V6 engine with its famous chrome intake pipes, called the Busso V6, named after its designer. The roof, the front end of the car comes hand-forged.The little sports car is now unveiled in front of us, its body very tightly stretched over the large, almost sturdy-looking berlinetta wheels, usually a coupe of compact proportions, and a Very sporty, two seater. The finish is perfect but the car is showing signs of use. “Our berlinetta has already completed about 200 hours on the track,” Frigrio wants to justify. This is not necessary, a thin car only looks more realistic.
The model finds itself
In the next larger room, there’s an exposed tubular tire: “It’s going to be our GT.” The thin tubes extend over an imaginary structure, the same standing next to it, and consist of laser-cut tubes, gusset panels, brackets and profiles, many of which are fully perforated to make things easier. The structure is first installed, and later welded by specialists using a special process. “The way to find the model is something like this: the axles and engine position determine the basic dimensions, and we design the chassis around them. We shape the chassis on that basis, with the vehicle’s seating and luxury positioning decisively. All six vehicles we have built so far offer comfortable seating. Amazing. Then we form the body of the car directly on the body with these tubes. They are bent, modified, checked, corrected and then welded. Yes, the method is reminiscent of the Superleggera patent for the previous Carrozzeria Touring “”describes the head behind Effeffe, Brother Vittorio Frigerio cares about craftsmanship. Then it comes to covering that body The skeleton is aluminum, which is also a matter of the experienced eye and craftsmanship.The panels are hammered and shaped on a cylindrical tensioning machine, the English wheel, and bolted blind to check, then welded and riveted, and finally the edges are hammered around the adjacent tubes underneath.However, in the doors there is a structure Made with laser-cut frames and a hand-engraved tube and veneer with a similarly shaped door frame, the Frigerio Brothers combine past and present.
In the workshop (the atelier is the best expression), there are hardly any machines other than those in the locksmith shop or the scrap shop. Only here, on the roof of a factory, in the space of a small to medium-sized garage, are whole cars built. “We do 80 to 90 percent of all the business ourselves, and it’s off here as well,” the entrepreneur identifies. Speaking of suspension: All this, because the wheel position and suspension system have broken away from the past, despite traditional building methods, and are quite contemporary.
Facetti as a test pilot
With lowered non-suspension blocks and fully adjustable, the Effeffe front axle has nothing in common with the Alfa Romeo axle, except that the braking system was purchased from cult specialist Alfa English Alfaholics. Double wishbone construction is based on internal spring damper units, the link arm has many holes to adjust the height without changing the characteristics of the damper spring, the dampers can be adjusted in rebound and compression, everything is installed in single-ball joints, a little rough on the road, but accurately High. The Giulia rear axle for the Effeffe Berlinetta, which was finished in the workshop, has four rear axles, a backlash triangle hanging at the bottom and an additional Watt link to strengthen it. It’s hard to put in more effort for a solid axle. 85-year-old Carlo Fassetti, a traveling car driver known for Alfa Romeo and the Autodelta race team, honed and sandblasted it during a test drive on the racetrack.
Despite this effort, the berlinetta weighs about 800 kilograms. The Effeffe works without things like brake boosters or even power steering or similar little helpers. However, the interior does not look at all like a Spartan race car. The 1960s style bucket seats are an aluminum interior lined with the finest leather. The sky of the double bubble ceiling is lined with a kind of fleece. Nothing appears to be handwoven on this vehicle. Handmade, yes, but with care and expertise.
Kinetic symphony in the morning light
Leonardo Frigrio revived the Berlinetta engine – to use the good old term – with short bursts of gas after the muffled buzzing of the fuel pump revealed that the floating chambers of two of the 45 DCOE Weber carburetors had been flooded. The orange light reveals that the pump is running, but why its buzzing alone is not enough becomes clear after the first ignitions. The short exhaust, hanging below the threshold on the driver’s side like a gutter, leaves no doubt as to where the Effeffe could sound: on the racetrack of the 1960s. Many do not like to obstruct the flow of exhaust gases. But the composition fits perfectly, it’s pure fun.
The engine accelerates a little reluctantly, I’m sitting next to the maker of this car, a strange feeling. Although my mind tells me this is all completely real, my feelings are always intertwined with images of a factory, robots, mass production, and the unknown. But here I am putting myself in everything to do with the person responsible for the fact that he got into this in the first place. Loudly, the Berlinetta rushes to the Superstrada in the direction of Lake Como, early in the morning, the air is cold, and a short stop at the gas station allows a change of about forty liters of gasoline. I can’t think of a better way to turn fossil fuels into exhaust and propulsion. You must stand by it.
It’s noticeable that the Effeffe sits firmly on the road, but the suspension feels supple and the partially damaged road surface barely rocks the Barchetta to the core. The concept is reminiscent of the Lotus Elan, which could withstand a lot of body motion, and its light weight didn’t need to be controlled with rock-hard springs and powerful damping. Very clean wheel steering contributes to this, especially due to the rear axle toe and fixed camber.
Individual pieces in a small series
Effeffe could make about a dozen cars a year, and the Barchetta was being built with a turbo engine and independent suspension with a transaxle transmission from Alfetta, as well as a GT. The Berlinetta costs about 400,000 euros. There are also efforts in Switzerland to flesh it out, albeit with a different engine.
Some people dream of their own car, some even arrive at a trade fair. But Effeffe is real, works, matures and actually stays true to her good intentions. This is still possible on all fronts by a miracle. How does Leonardo Frigrio call it again? “Let ideas become things.”