Benelli

Benelli is one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers established in 1911. It once manufactured shotguns, although this part of the business is now a separate company. Benelli was established in Pesaro, Italy in 1911, which possibly makes it the oldest of all European motorcycle factories in operation. (Moto Guzzi - the oldest European motorcycle factory in non-stop operation - was established in 1921.) After losing her husband, the widow Teresa Benelli invested all of the family capital into the business in the hope that it would offer stable work for her six sons: Giuseppe, Giovanni, Francesco, Filippo, Domenico and Antonio ("Tonino"). She also sent Giuseppe and Giovanni to study Engineering in Switzerland. Initially the business had 6 employees in addition to the 5 brothers working (Tonino didn't work because he was too young.) In the beginning, it was just the Benelli Garage, which repaired bicycles and motorcycles, but was already able to produce all of the spare parts needed for repairs. During World War I, Benelli worked hard fixing parts for the Italian machines in war and in 1919 the first motorcycle was presented to the public. In 1920 the company built its first complete engine in-house, a single-cylinder two-stroke 75 cc model, immediately adapted to a bicycle frame. A year later in 1921, Benelli built its first motorcycle, using their own engine which had by then become a 98 cc model. Two years after that, using a version specially designed for competitions, Tonino "the terrible" took to the track. He displayed an extraordinary natural talent as a rider and embarked on a very successful career which confirmed the company's exceptional capacity for development and production. Riding a Benelli 175, Tonino Benelli won four Italian championship titles in five years: in 1927, 1928 and 1930 with the single overhead camshaft (SOHC) version, and in 1931 with the double overhead camshaft (DOHC) version. Unfortunately, a bad crash during a race in 1932 cut short his brilliant career a

d on 27 September 1937 Tonino died following a "silly" road accident. As World War II loomed, the Benelli company debuted their four-cylinder supercharged 250cc racing bike. This was intended to compete in the 1940 season, building on Benelli's success in the 1939 Isle of Man TT Lightweight 250 cc race. With the start of the war, the Benelli Four was limited to competition in a handful of Italian domestic races. Wartime destruction caused Benelli to remain out of production until 1949. Unsold war motorcycles to be used by the Italian army were adapted to become civil motorcycles and generate income to restart operations. When production resumed, designs were still largely based on those of the pre-war period. In 1949, Giuseppe Benelli left the family concern to found the Motobi marque. By 1951 Benelli was offering a range consisting of 98cc and 125cc lightweights (the Leoncino or lion cub) and 350cc and 500cc singles. The Leoncino was available in both two-stroke and four-stroke forms. The need for cheap transport in post-war Italy meant that these lightweight models became immensely successful . Similar models were offered by Moto Guzzi, Ducati and Laverda, and the same economic conditions led to the growth in popularity of Vespa and Lambretta scooters. In 1962, when Motobi was not in good financial conditions, it was acquired by Benelli, and the combined company produced around 300 motorcycles a day and had 550 employees. Motobi designs continued in production under the Benelli name. In 1969, Benelli introduced the Benelli Tornado 650, a vertical twin designed primarily for sale in Great Britain and the US. The Tornado earned a reputation for reliability and high performance, despite its somewhat hefty weight at 480 pounds. Benelli claimed at the time of launch that the Tornado was capable of 57 hp at 7,400rpm for a top speed of 117 mph. The Tornado (later the Tornado S) was discontinued after 1974, when Benelli introduced a series of "multis" intended to compete with Japanese triples and fours.