Weird and wonderful No 6 – Gebruder Verga Coupe

Another in our occasional series of interesting things that have popped up on the internet…  This time this spectacular little space age Coupe produced by a small Carrozzeria or bodyshop in Switzerland in the late 50’s but with a rather interesting story which I have tried to piece together from articles online.

The Gebruder Verga Coupe was a special body on a Volkswagen chassis with a rear-mounted air-cooled engine. There doesn’t seem to be much information or history available but it would appear that at least two cars were built, one more unusual with a bubble-top canopy and a fixed head version with Gull wing doors which may be a copy.

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The Carrozzeria Verga was founded in 1830 by Benjamin Verga as a maker of wagons and carriages crafted from wood and iron. The business stayed in the family and in the next century, later generations became skilled coach builders. In 1956 Enrico Verga produced a prototype car  which appeared at a Concours D’Elegance competition in Campione d’Italia near Lugano. It is thought that this was the beautiful and futuristic glass bubble version and it is this car which features on the website of the family business today – there is no information as to what became of the car, maybe it is hidden away in the workshop!

It featured in a German magazine in the 50’s, who commented, that it had a rather strange opening roof, which lifted up in one piece including the circular door disc and was rather clumsy. In several of the original photos below, the roof seems to have been replaced with a curved windscreen, maybe the roof was removable or perhaps this was a modification or even a different version, although it has the same registration.

Verga-coupe1Verga-coupe3Verga-coupe2Verga-coupe5Verga-coupe6Verga-old-adIt is not known if the second ‘version’ was designed and built by Verga but it has a remarkably similar body shape and styling although it is a fixed head with Gull wing doors. It does have a more intriguing story and is still in existence.

Over the years this car had some rather extensive modifications for not entirely legal reasons. It was used to smuggle auto bits, especially truck ball bearings at a time when customs duties were high. Secret compartments had been installed and the four corners of the body had jacks, which raised it up to reveal the contraband goods. The frame had been reinforced to take the extra weight.

In 1959 the car was seized by the French Police at Arnéguy on the Spainish border. It was confiscated by the state and stored in a warehouse at the La Rochelle Customs School until it was rediscovered quite recently. Eventually it was auctioned by the French Authorities, it was purchased and  has been returned to Switzerland, where I believe it is being restored. Even the journey back wasn’t uneventful as the bonnet blew off on the motorway. Amazingly after an online appeal and the offer of a reward, the bonnet was discovered in a field not far from it’s final destination and returned to the new owner!

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Carrozzeria Verga is still in business today and is run by Simone Verga the Great Grandson of Benjamin.

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Hopefully more information will come to light and the car or cars will be seen again soon.

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Weird and Wonderful 4 – 1948 Tasco

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No 4 in the series of Weird and Wonderful stuff that has popped up on the internet.

The 1948 Tasco (The American Sportscar Company) is a one off Aluminum prototype with coachwork by Derham. Designed by Gordon Buehrig, chief designer at Duesenberg and an aircraft designer during the war years, the design was heavily influenced by fighter planes, the canopy has a sloped-back windshield and streamlined appearance and the wheels are enclosed in aluminum, like the ones used as landing gear, it also has aircraft style controls. The molded fiberglass front fenders turn with the wheels.

 

The project was backed by a consortium of businessmen who hoped to sell the Tasco to wealthy sportsmen to compete in European-style sports car races held in New York State. It was based on a chassis from a 1947 Mercury, which was modified to accept a new body and was powered by a modified Ford V-8 with 150hp. The one-off Tasco cost a reported $57,000, the production target cost was $7,500 so it wasn’t surprising that the project failed and the car never went beyond the prototype.

The Tasco was the first car in the world with a ‘T top’ roof – the design was patented and Buehrig sued GM when they produced a similar design 20 years later on the Corvette.

 

Unusually for the time, Buehrig used the relatively new vacuum-forming techniques to create small 3D models during various phases of the design development, a process that was later adopted industry-wide.

The Tasco is in the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Automobile Museum.