Benelli – The story of a legend.
The Benelli company’s ability to build unique Italian motorcycles for the road and track, has been revered in the world of motorcycle engineering for over 100 years. Since the beginning of the Industrial age, Benelli has progressively brought new designs and performance to their motorcycles to the enthralled public, and spawned a growing passion in those fortunate enough to own one.
The origins of this outstanding company’s history are intrinsically tied to one family who built and operated out of Pesaro Italy from 1911. Widowed mother of six, Theresa Benelli invested in her sons futures by setting up a business to service guns, cars and motorcycles, and in 1919 established themselves as a motorcycle manufacturer. Each of the six concerned themselves with the business from engineering, designing and racing their special creations.
Racing was in the blood of one her sons Tonio, who forced the hand of his brothers to design more powerful bikes to race, so that by the late 1920s Benelli had become one of Italy’s formidable racing teams. Different engine mounting and better valve design saw an increase in reliability over the competition and was later by others. This wouldn’t be the last time competitors looked at Benelli for engineering inspiration as the 1930’s brought an enviable lineup of production motorcycles and entrants racing across Europe. Their first prestigious Isle of Man win came in 1939, as the world of motorcycles changed to reflect the more modern look of a motorcycle with new tank placement, rear suspension, engine mounting, supercharging and foot operated gears, through the war torn period of Europe in the 1940’s.
Post war, the Pesaro manufacturer returned from the ashes with the sons of the Benelli brothers in the lead to export their lineup to the rest of the world. The manufacturer flourished after introducing two stroke and four stroke engines with various trims to suit touring riders and off-pavement riders. The large US market afforded them a stronger financial position to return to racing and their dreams to win more GPs. From their first World Championships in 1950, through to their second in 1969, Benelli had not only secured many GP wins, but the hearts of people across the globe to make them one of Italy’s famous marques.
Maybe it was this European racing history that caught the imagination of Australians, or the fact one of our own, Kel Curruthers who won both the 1969 Isle of Man and the 1969 250cc World Championship on a Benelli, that had established the marque downunder. For many the desire to own a Benelli was enough to bring the motorcycles to our shores.
However, perhaps due to typical Italian timing it was only by the early 1970s that Australia saw Benelli on showroom floors, by which time the British and Japanese marques had made a strong foothold. Whilst in Europe Benelli continued a strong presence in the market, the Australian model lineup lasted briefly as distributors changed, opting for more pedestrian marques.
It was in 1988 Benelli fans witnessed its merger into Guzzi Benelli Moto S.p.A leaving for many a gap in the market for the time honoured classic. It wasn’t long though before the overwhelming passion to revive the Pesaro marque came in the early 1990s. The re-launch of the marque in 2002 has an Australian connection again, as our own Superbike rider Peter Goddard helped conceive the very first Tornado Tre built in Pesaro Italy.
The look of the new Tornado swept across the world and once again Benelli grabbed the imagination of riders and hopeful racers. The model enjoyed instant success and when QJ, the largest Chinese two wheel powered manufacturer, bought Benelli in 2006 – it changed everything.
QJ recognised and respected from the outset the marque’s history, the passion in the marque and the pride held at the Pesaro factory. With 20 years of industry experience and strong financial standing, they knew they had a great opportunity to help bring to life what Benelli designers could only dream. Building motorcycles with heart, old world spirit captured in modern technology and Italian style ridden by impassioned people from around the world.
Also during the negotiation of purchasing the marque, QJ agreed to uphold the Italian Government wishes to ensure established markets were not left wondering about the build quality of one of the last Italian made motorcycles. This is why they decided to have the Benelli factory remain in Pesaro with an Italian workforce to test, develop and build motorcycles for these markets, which includes Australia. Whilst some other Asian markets do have models built in other regions, they are still subject to Benelli engineering scrutiny and thorough quality assurance.
Here in Australia, this has struck a chord with a new generation of riders who want something different and Italian made. Their popularity has increased and spawned once more a passion to own one of the classic names in motorcycles. This time however, Benelli wants to build a future in Australia and by listening to their customer base they have built tailor specific models, such as Learner approved category.
Revitalised and reborn, Benelli’s mandate is now to uphold their old tradition and be motorcycle pioneers once again. With the worlds press coming to terms of Benellis serious return to take on the competition, it won’t be long before Benelli will be revered and set as the benchmark once more.
So dust off your leathers – the legend is back.