They were all the same, brothers to each other: Francesco Cassani, Eugenio Gabriele Cassani and the Società Accomandita Motori Endotermici (SAME)

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An advertisement showing an Italian SAME Buffalo tractor. Anon. “Advertising – Les Entreprises Biasotto & Hardy (Canada) Incorporée.” Le Bulletin des agriculteurs, July 1981, 26.

Buongiorno, my reading friend. As part of the efforts initiated by yours truly to diversify the content of our blog / bulletin / thingee, I would like to offer you today a text, a short text, yes, yes, short, of an agricultural nature.

Our story began in Italy, in April 1906 and September 1909, with the births of Francesco and Eugenio Gabriele Cassani. Their father, Paolo Cassani, was the owner of Società Anonima Paolo Cassani e figli, a small farm machinery manufacturing and repair firm which had existed for many years. In fact, the 2 brothers worked there from their teenage years, while they attended a renowned technical school, the Istituto Industriale Milanese Giacomo Feltrinelli, in Milano, Italy – in 2021, the equally renowned Istituto Tecnico Industriale Statale G. Feltrinelli.

Would you believe that then 10-year-old Francesco Cassani became his grandfather’s right-hand person when his father was called up in 1916, as the First World War raged? The young boy turned out to be very good at factory work. Allow me to mention in passing that the family firm then manufactured shell and / or bullet casings for the Italian armed forces.

At the very beginning of the 1920s, it seemed, Cassani senior entrusted his eldest son with the task of repairing the faulty engines of local steam threshers. The teenager proved very good at that job.

This being said (typed?), Francesco Cassani was considering a career in aviation. He got some money from one of his uncles to buy a used aircraft engine. Cassani then built a flying automobile whose first trial, from the roof of the family home, ended on haystacks placed on the ground to cushion the shock of a forced landing.

Around 1922, the teenager installed his aircraft engine in the chassis of an automobile which he had made using items picked up here and there. The teenager used this vehicle to visit a teenage girl he was in love with. Cassani’s parents, however, refused to let their son, who was still a minor, marry his girlfriend. Instead, they suggested that he devote his efforts to studying an engine type relatively unknown in Italy, the diesel engine.

Over the next few months, the Cassani brothers built a prototype diesel engine. To do this, they studied books and magazines in German, as well as the aircraft engine mounted on Francesco Cassani’s automobile. Even then, the 2 young people thought of mounting their engine on an agricultural tractor.

The Società anonima Officine Italiane Cassani, a company name apparently adopted by the brothers’ father, and this at an undetermined date, made 15 or so pre-production tractors which were shipped to various regions of Italy, for experimental purposes under various conditions.

In 1927, the Cassani brothers presented the tractor they had developed, the Cassani 40 CV, to the national competition of the Trattrice agricola italiana held in Rome. This diesel-powered tractor, a world first it seemed, won the competition, to the chagrin of the major firms which had also taken part in it.

The family firm being too small to manufacture the Cassani 40 CV, the family looked for a manufacturer which could help it out. It set its sights on a renowned industrial firm. What the Cassanis did not know was that Gaetano Barbieri & Compagnia was on the verge of bankruptcy. The management of this firm actually intended to use the money given to it to pay off part of its debts. In the end, this ploy turned out to be insufficient. Indeed, the stock market crash of October 1929 did not take long to affect the Italian economy – and Gaetano Barbieri & Compagnia.

Realising, if a little late, the quagmire they were in, the Cassanis tried to find a way out. Political pressure having put an end to their prosecution plan, Francesco Cassani became the technical director of Gaetano Barbieri & Compagnia. He oversaw the production of an unknown number of tractors. The family also invested money in Gaetano Barbieri & Compagnia to keep it afloat.

If Gaetano Barbieri & Compagnia managed to avoid bankruptcy, Officine Italiane Cassani disappeared when one of the shareholders obtained the shares of the young brothers, as well as Francesco Cassani’s patents, in exchange for the payment of the firm’s debts.

The 2 brothers then abandoned tractor production in favor of a diesel engine project and, even more, high pressure pump projects. Produced in 1931, the first pumps worked rather well but the virtual monopoly exercised by the German firm Robert Bosch Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung did not allow the Cassanis to carve out a place for themselves.

The Cassani brothers then turned to their diesel engine project. Ufficio tecnico industriale tessili artificiali Società anonima (UTITA), a subsidiary of the most important firm in Italy and one of the most important manufacturer of artificial silk / rayon in the world, the Società Navigazione Industriale Applicazione Viscosa (SNIA Viscosa), supported said project. Keen to diversify its activities, SNIA Viscosa hoped to produce engines used to modernise part of the fleet of trucks of the Italian army, the Regio Esercito.

Francesco Cassani also oversaw the design of a marine diesel engine. Said engine won the gold medal in the VIII Concorso motonautico internazionale d’Italia in 1934. A copy of said engine also propelled the boat which won an Italian fuel economy competition in 1934.

As pleasant as these successes were, it was through truck engines that the Ital-Motor brand, the name that would identify UTITA’s engines, would or would not carve out a place in the market. The Regio Esercito having decided to order new trucks, rather than modernise old ones, the Ital-Motor brand failed to carve out a place for itself in the market. UTITA quickly abandoned the production of diesel engines and the Cassani brothers found themselves once again without a job, but not for long.

You see, the president of UTITA, the industrialist and baron Alberto Fassini Camossi, was impressed by the undeniable talents of the Cassani brothers. He agreed to finance the elder’s latest idea: a compact, quite powerful but very unorthodox aircraft engine. Only 3 copies of this BAF-Cassani engine were manufactured in the late 1930s. Indeed, ground tests revealed serious problems. In June 1940, shortly after Fascist Italy’s war declaration, a stab in the back of a France crushed by National Socialist Germany, the Ministero dell’aeronautica decreed that the project be abandoned.

And no, you are quite right, my reading friend with encyclopedic knowledge, this type of aircraft engine, whose appearance resembles the cylinder of a revolver, has never given good results when used on aircraft, no matter which teams of European and North American engineers put it forward over the decades.

In 1936, the Cassani brothers founded the Società Pompe Iniezione Cassani & Affini (SPICA), a manufacturer of fuel injection systems for gasoline and diesel engines.

And yes, it was SPICA which, about 30 years later, developed the fuel injection system for the Italian sports car Alfa Romeo Montreal, a vehicle mentioned in a January 2021 issue of our blog / bulletin thingee. Ours is a small world, is it not? But I digress.

In March 1938, an in-depth reorganisation of SPICA resulted in 2 influential men becoming the majority shareholders. Financially compensated, Francesco Cassani and his brother became technical advisor and workshop manager.

The death of one of the influential men, businessman and engineer Luigi Orlando, in 1941, opened a door to the management of the aforementioned German firm Robert Bosch. Wishing to take control of the troublesome competitor that SPICA was, it bought at a high price the shares held by the Orlando family. The second influential man, Division Admiral Arturo Ciano, refused to sell his shares, however. Indeed, he asked his nephew, the Italian foreign minister and son-in-law of Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini, the prime minister / dictator of Italy, to block the efforts of Robert Bosch.

Gian Galeazzo Ciano acted quickly. The main entrepreneur and banker of Fascist Italy, a state body, the Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, bought the shares of SPICA which were not held by the German firm. It then handed over the management of SPICA to another firm it owned, the Società anonima Alfa Romeo. Two people chosen by the latter were quick to replace the Cassani brothers in their respective positions. This being said (typed?), the 2 brothers were invited to lend a hand to the engineers at Alfa Romeo who were looking into projects of injection pump for aeroengines.

Yours truly will not mention in this text that Mussolini, a pompous and buffoonish brute, was mentioned in several / many issues of our blog / bulletin / thingee since August 2018.

At the request of Alfa Romeo, Francesco Cassani found himself at the head of a research centre examining the fuel supply to aircraft engines, a field of activity which (greatly?) interested the firm. Indeed, it was in 1941 that Alfa Romeo made the first pre-production examples of the Alfa Romeo RA 1000 RC.41 Monsone engine, the Italian version of the excellent German Daimler-Benz DB 601 inverted Vee-engine, but I digress.

Many Alfa Romeo engineers, however, did not appreciate the presence of Cassani, who, it should be remembered, was not a graduate engineer, at the head of the research centre. Some of them decided to take action. Francesco Cassani was accused of writing an anonymous letter defaming an Alfa Romeo consulting engineer. His younger brother, on the other hand, was accused of stealing a tube of emery – an abominable crime which led to his immediate dismissal. Already uncomfortable in the rigid bureaucratic world of Alfa Romeo, Francesco Cassani resigned in mid-1941.

In 1942, the Cassani brothers founded the Società Accomandita Motori Endotermici (SAME). To be more precise, Francesco Cassani convinced his younger brother, who was considering owning a garage, to embark on this adventure. SAME began repairing military vehicles in the workshops formerly used by the family firm, inactive since the death of Paolo Cassani, in 1932. The firm also manufactured a few dozen small diesel engines, as well as fire pumps.

When the Second World War ended, SAME was all in all in good shape. Its first creation was a small generating set which included many parts taken from Second World War armoured vehicles and purchased at low prices. With the electricity supply in Italy in 1945-46 sometimes / often leaving a little to be desired, many industrial firms and hospitals bought all of SAME’s output.

SAME marketed a small motorised 3-wheel mower in 1946. Realising very well the limited mechanisation of Italian agriculture, the Cassani brothers designed it so that the engine of this versatile and very innovative vehicle, also known as a universal tractor, could be attached to various types of agricultural implements or machines.

A stay in the United Kingdom, around 1946, was a revelation for Francesco Cassani. Already convinced by his readings of the importance of mechanisation in agriculture, he saw with his own eyes how farm tractors had transformed British agriculture.

SAME marketed a second and even more versatile universal tractor, the SAME 3R/10, in 1948. The prestigious Accademia di Agricoltura di Torino was so impressed that it awarded its gold medal to this excellent vehicle. The equally prestigious weekly magazine Giornale dell’Agricoltura claimed that the 3R/10 was a jewel of Italian industry. This being said (typed?), Italian farmers being poor and cautious, the firm did not manage to sell the bulk of its production until 1950.

SAME marketed its first 4-wheel tractors in 1950. A 4-wheel drive vehicle, the first modern tractor of its type in the world it seemed, followed in 1952.

SAME began exporting tractors in 1954.

In 1956, the firm inaugurated a new factory whose assembly lines were inspired by those of American giants, seen by Francesco Cassani during at least one recent visit to North America. The different types of engines produced in the workshops of this factory included up a number of perfectly interchangeable parts, another lesson learned from Cassani’s stay in North America.

The sudden death of Eugenio Gabriele Cassani in January 1959, at the age of 49, while on a business trip to Argentina, deeply affected his older brother but did not unduly affect the progress of SAME. Even before the end of the 1950s, SAME produced various types of agricultural implements, from plows to irrigation pumps. And yes, the firm obviously produced more and more sophisticated tractors over the years.

Would you believe that in 1973 SAME acquired Lamborghini Trattori Società per azioni, a sister / brother firm of the famous Italian sports automobile manufacturer Automobili Lamborghini Società per azioni? And no, Lamborghini Trattori did not see the light of day after Automobili Lamborghini. This firm actually saw the light of day 15 or so years before its sister / brother firm (1948 vs. 1963).

Francesco Cassani left this world in July 1973, at the age of 67.

In 1979 SAME acquired the important Swiss tractor manufacturer Hürlimann Traktoren Aktiengesellschaft, becoming the SLH group. Said group was then the second largest Italian manufacturer of tractors and one of the most important firms of its kind in the world. And yes, the firm obviously produced more and more sophisticated tractors over the years. The first example of the SAME Buffalo tractor, for example, the very one that adorned the advertisement at the beginning of this article, left the shops around 1976.

In 1995, the SLH group acquired the Deutz-Fahr agricultural machinery division of the German industrial giant Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz Aktiengesellschaft, thus becoming SAME Deutz-Fahr Società per azioni, today’s SDF group. In 2021, the latter had factories in China, Croatia, France, Germany, India, Italy and Turkey.

Would you believe that Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz is a direct descendant of the Prussian firm N.A. Otto & Company, founded in 1864 – the first manufacturer of internal combustion engines in the world?

SAME tractors made their appearance in Québec around 1975. In the fall of 1978, the Italian firm and the importer with which it cooperated, Les Entreprises Biasotto & Hardy (Canada) Incorporée of Portneuf, Québec, perhaps, obtained an accreditation from the ministère de l’Agriculture of Québec. In other words, it and it had proved to the responsible committee that they had a well-equipped workshop with knowledgeable staff and all the necessary spare parts.

At that time, SAME produced around 30 000 tractors per year, compared to 4 000 in 1960, more or less powerful vehicles with 2 or 4 wheel drive. These vehicles were then sold in Europe, Asia, America and Africa.

In 1981, SAME could count on a network of 11 accredited dealers in Québec, including Les Entreprises Biasotto & Hardy (Canada), a firm later known as Machinerie Agrotech Incorporée. The latter closed its doors around 1995.

You will be happy, or not, to learn that the tractors of the SDF group were still available in Canada and Québec in 2021. Just think of the role played by M&P Farm Equipment Limited of Almonte, Ontario, not far away from Ottawa, Ontario. This firm has been selling Lamborghini and Deutz-Fahr tractors since 1996 and 2002. This being said (typed?), the head office of the North American subsidiary of the SDF group, Same Deutz-Fahr North America Incorporated, was located near Atlanta, Georgia.

Arrivederci, mio amico di lettura. Abbi cura di te perché l’estate del 2021 potrebbe essere schifoso.

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Rénald Fortier