Thursday, February 25, 2010

Benelli Motorcycles

Benelli Racing Heritage

Beginning in the early 1920s, Antonio Benelli, aka " Tonino the terrible" helped launch Benelli into the racing history books, ultimately winning four Italian championship titles, and dying as the result of a crash in 1937. By 1939, Benelli won the Isle of Man TT in the 250cc class, ridden by an English rider named Edward (Ted) Ambrose Mellors.

Benelli Leoncino
1956 Benelli Leoncino 4T

As was the case with many of Italy's motorcycle companies, WWII halted production at Benelli, resuming shortly after the war's conclusion in 1949. It was at this point that brother Giuseppe Benelli decided to start his own company, Motobi of Pesaro.
Benelli initially focused on lightweight motorcycle production, beginning with the Leoncino, or "lion cub," which was produced in 98cc to 125cc two-stroke and four-stroke models.
In 1950, Benelli once-again cemented its Grand Prix motorcycle racing heritage, winning the Isle of Man TT with Italian rider Dario Ambrosini at the helm. In another setback for Benelli, Ambrosini was killed during a practice session at the 1951 French Grand Prix at Albi.
Benelli acquired Giuseppe Benelli's company Motobi, in 1962, incorporating its designs into the Benelli marque. Throughout the 1960s, Benelli won several Italian Championships in the 250cc and 350cc classes, with riders Tarquinio Provini, and Renzo Pasolini who also rode for Aermacchi.

Benelli 750 Sei
1974 Benelli 750 Sei

By the early 1970s, European manufacturers were facing stiff competition from the multi-cylinder Japanese bikes, so Benelli, along with its Italian counterpart Moto Guzzi, was acquired by De Tomaso Inc., resulting in a series of multi-cylinder Italian bikes.
In 1972, Benelli introduced the 750 Sei, a 747cc air-cooled SOHC inline-six whose engine bore a striking resemblance to the Honda 750. The Benelli 750 Sei was produced from 1972 to 1978, which was the same year that Honda introduced their DOHC six-cylinder CBX-6 1000.

1976 Benelli 750 Sei
1976 Benelli 750 Sei

Throughout the 1970s, Benelli was also marketing lower-cost motorcycles, scooters and mopeds through the American chain department store Montgomery Ward. Benelli also sold a 180cc mini-bike called the Benelli 'Volcano Mini' through J.C. Penney Co.
High price, and low reliability throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s led to the consolidation of Benelli and Moto Guzzi into Guzzi Benelli Moto S.p.A., which was shut down in 1988.

Benelli's Resurrection

In a nostalgic wave that has led to the rebirth of several defunct Italian marques, the Benelli name was reborn by Andrea Merloni in 1995. In its modern incarnation, Benelli focused on its racing heritage, producing the Tornado 900 Tre Super Sport superbike.

2008 Benelli Sport Evo Naked & Tornado 900 Tre (Photos:

In 2002, Benelli was sold to the Chinese company Group Qianjiang, based in t Wenling, China, and the factory was kept in Pesaro e Urbino, Italy.

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