Benzina was a 10 year project to research and record the history of (mostly) Italian motorcycles. This post gives an overview to save looking at every issue on the shop page. Deep breath and here goes...
the guilty people
Issues 1 to 8 were on a unique 240mm x 205mm landscape format;9 to 13 were larger (but mainly sold out - scroll down for more details) all now for sale (along with my books) on the product page
Issue 1 Featuring fabulous words on Phil Read, the Guzzi V7 and Ducati’s Paso courtesy of masthead heroes Gary Inman, Mick Phillips and Rupert Paul, using previously unpublished photography. The international flavour of the magazine includes an exclusive interview with Cook Neilson on his win at Daytona in 1977, and Tony Kersbergen’s story of the modern Milano Taranto. The history of the original gets an in depth look, as do the bikes that won the toughest race in the world. Plus a very tasty appreciation of Bob Carlos Clarke
Issue 2 was (we’re told) even better that issue 1. Same half book, half magazine format, still no ads, still the odd lovely lady, tastefully delivered. Plus Laverda V6 riding impressions, and the truth about the fastest Laverda’s ever found at the TT. Sticking with the Isle of Man, there’s Tony Rutter’s development of the TT2 (as detailed by his personal mechanic) leading on to the F1 roadbike. A smattering of Benelli racers, including Pasolini and the Sei (which raced at the TT, believe it or not), a goodly dollop of Ducati Silverstone and a tasty slice of MV Agustas large and small. HD Aermacchi racers, riding with Dustbin fairings, Guzzi V8s, and touring Europe on a Le Mans in 1976
Issue 3 had a new, refreshed look but still the same heavyweight 88 pages that make it feel like a book, especially since there’s not an advert in sight. Never-seen-before images, new perspectives and true scoops – the truth about the Laverda Jota’s success in UK production racing, Frank Scurria on inventing the Ducati 350, and how Guzzi Le Mans rules classic endurance racing. Plus Mike Hailwood’s superstitions, 125 racers and his TT comeback, Giuliano Maoggi and the Motogiro, and the bikes you need to enter the Giro today. For the greasy fingered there’s the building of two Ducati bevels, and what teenage boys always wanted – including sports mopeds. And much more.
Issue 4 was a Monster – with the story of a 100,000 mile M900 that met Taglioni, through to Tazio Nuvolari’s incredible motorcycle racing success with Bianchi. Also covered are the girls at Goodwood revival, plus racing a Gilera Saturno. Old time Lambretta racer Tony Tessier offers insight into Lambretta’s speed records(!) and an overview of NCR’s history is given perspective by Vicki Smith’s view on her friendship with Rino Caracchi. Plus Jan Leek takes a Guzzi round Lake Como, and the story of the Circuito del Lario. Bits and pieces cover Mods, Darmahs, and why Italian racing bikes often weren’t painted red. Finally Peter Crawford shares Franco Lambertini’s Morini design secrets and the incredible tale of how Morini nearly beat Honda to the 1963 250 world championship with the worlds fastest single. All with the fabulous photography you’d expect from the world’s classiest bike magazine
Issue 5 SOLD OUT A veritable feast of stuff you didn’t know plus stuff you love. It kicks off with a battle of impressionable youth vs. Ducati 750GT – Richard Skelton (of Funky Moped fame) didn’t stand a chance. Then there’s Inspiring Taglioni: Moto Guzzi’s fabulous Bicilindrica ridden and rated by the legendary Sammy Miller. Plus reminiscing on racing for Mondial and Ducati at the TT Riding a Mondial dirt bike 500 miles through an English winter’s night, and Pat Slinn racing Ducati’s Regolarita on the Isle of Man ISD. Yes, the Pat Slinn who wrenched for Hailwood and Rutter. We’ve been through his photo album with a scanner. It’s good…. Lost marques that deserve remembering, from Frera to Galloni. And more recent forgotten treasure: MV’s water cooled, fuel injected boxer 500/4 designed to lure Ago back to the Agustas, and rebuilding it today. To complete the Agusta fest, the truth about MV’s racing sixes that never were, just because the competition threw in the towel – twice Refurbishing an old Laverda triple (the future’s bright; the future’s orange) and the Morini Settebello and Rebello: beautiful in any language Seaplanes to singles – the Aermacchi story: never mind bikes, they could beat Spitfires. And racing Aermacchi’s pushrod single that could catch MV’s GP bikes. 145mph at the TT And still no ads, just the highest quality printing in the business. 88 pages of pure class – that’s a lot when you flip through every other magazine and realise almost 40% of the pages are advertising. How do we do it? With love and the hope you’ll tell everyone you know to buy a copy.
Issue 6 Elizabeth Rabb’s Ducati (and lovely ladies) photography project – very Bob Carlos Clarke, and worth the cover price alone. Elizabeth also tells how she did it and what inspires the best bike photographer on the planet. Then there’s what happens next at Guzzi: the recriminations, plans and dreams lined up for the factory’s 90th anniversary. That’s followed by Guzzi’s Paris Dakar racer, then insights into ownership of the Laverda and Morini big trailies: big, clever and very dirty. Next up is a prize-winning Ducati 350 Desmo twin-filler snapped by a fashion photographer, plus details of the restoration, and a comparison with the Ducati 350 singles that never made the showrooms. So we tell you about the MV350 twin you should buy, ideally dressed up as Ago’s four. More? Of course…extracts from a 50s race fan’s photo album, including Geoff Duke pitching his Gilera 500/4 against Liverpudlians on Brit singles. Or how about racing Benelli Seis at the TT, with highlights from a man who did. And how to buy a 1976 900SS from a Frenchman who’ll only send low-res photos: unbelievably, the story has a happy ending. We wrap up with Laverda’s forgotten spaceframed triples and Lambretta’s shaft-driven four stroke 250 V twin: yes, just like a little Guzzi. All on lovely paper, feeling more like a book than the tat they pass off elsewhere as quality magazines. Buy it, and a copy for a friend, and get a free warm-fuzzy feeling. Then enjoyAnd thanks to all who help, contribute and buy: we love you all.
Issue 7 is sold out - as are 10 and 13
Issue 8 Only a few left, found behind a virtual sofa. A look at Gilera’s road bike history opens the issue, from the LTE500 to the bonkers CX125. A full history of Bimota’s DB1 including racing developments Down Under. A Guzzi Lodola tours the Alps (!), A Laverda SFC races from Scotland to Italy, and A Darmah does the Motogiro in the rain. There's also a history of Leo Tartarini and a fair bit more.
Issue 9 was in a bigger, A4 format(c12″ x 9″ portrait on the same quality paper) featuring Ian Gowanloch’s Happy Farm, the return of Mark William’s Running Out of Road, drag racing a Ducati Paso, riding a Guzzi 750 on the Circuito del Lario, and a Guzzi Lodola in the Dolomites. There’s a buyers’ guide to the Laverda 750SF, plus the building of a half Ducati 860GT, half Desmosedici Café31 for a TV show. Issue 10, and and 13 are sold out
Issue 11 - Benzina #11 was very different – and we think greatly improved – magazine. It’s now 100 pages of beautifully crafted matt paper in a unique 21x26cm (8.3×10 inches) size and, although the focus is still Italian motorcycles, we’ve introduced a little promiscuity, Like there’s a Honda in there. But when Gerald Davison (who ran Honda’s NR500 race team) started telling me the true story of the project (backed up by Ivar de Gier’s interview with the Japanese project leader) it was too good to let go. Basically most of what you thought you knew was wild guesses by journalists frustrated at Honda’s secrecy. The need to hide the truth might have been in part to hide the incompetence of the young aeronautical engineers drafted into the project. The policy was not to let anyone near the NR if they knew anything about motorcycles, in the hope of a blue-sky revolution. One example of this foolishness was a late night call from Japan telling the British mechanics to remove oil from the NR500 Ron Haslam as due to race – they’d discovered an extra 3bhp could be produced if the crank didn’t have so much oil to spin through at 23,000 rpm. What they hadn’t thought about was what would happen when Ron leaned the bike over; the feed was now above the oil level, and the NR blew up. Again.
Other issue 11 exclusives include the true stories of the Targa Florio Motociclista : plus – Laverda SCF750: Axel Budde on his Kaffeemaschines: Phil Schilling’s Ducati F3: Final part of the Ducati 860GTS project: The Moto Guzzi Le Mans that gave Yamaha the finger, plus the MGS-01: Mark Williams’ Running Out of Road: The art of posters, literature and poetry; and more
Issue 12 - same format as issue 11, but 100 pages and quality matt paper Dutch masters – the story behind the Dutch Ducati maestros: Morbidelli 500, King for a Day – 24 Horas de Montjuich: A scooterist in Rome: Rachael Clegg- Milestones TT Calendar: Mark Williams’ Running Out of Road: The Magic Machines: Ducati Multistrada: Board Track Races – Truth or Dare: Vespa Love: Monza and more.
Issue 13 - the final countdown. Massimo Tamburini's ideas on underseat silencers, Fidel Castro's Ducati 900SS, the Classic TT, Bol d'Or and Wheels and Waves, plus Moto Guzzi's unbeatable single cylinder racers. Interviews with Ducati Guru Ian Falloon and design Guru Pierre Terblanche plus Enzo Ferrari's motorcycle race team - mainly riding with Rudge. Sold out!
Issue 14 was really a one off edition. At 132 pages it has over 30% more content than ever before and is now really a book rather than a magazine. Features on Ducati Corse's paint shop, Michael Rutter racing a Ducati TT1 at the Classic TT, Guzzi 250s, the Mototrans story, how Ducati started with cambelts in 1964, Spaggiari interview, Pierobon frames, Provini's Morini, building a Laverda V6, racing MV Agusta 500 triples and much more - including high quality silk paper sections showcasing Phil Aynsley's photography.
Issue 15 - another new layout, 24cm x 21cm, 100 pages as are 16 nad 17.
40 years ago Mike Hailwood returned to the TT with a very flash collection of Yamahas and an unfancied Ducati 900F1. In fact it was the big bike from Bologna that created the fairytale, and if my Ducati and the TT book is a bit expensive for you, or you're just interested in Mike's return to the Island, this is for you CONTENTS
40 YEARS Celebrating Mike Hailwood’s 1978 Formula 1 TT win
THE TRUTH How Sports Motorcycles took Mike to victory
PATON Little known marque that can rule the Isle of Man MV AGUSTA R19 Teasing us with the promise of a 500 four roadster in 1950
TARGET AQUIRED The MV 750 separated at birth from the Suzuki Katana
I BOUGHT A HAUNTED MOTORBIKE Nightmares with a Laverda Formula Mirage A FITTING MOTORCYCLE Melissa Holbrook Pierson on Guzzi’s Lario and V7II BEDFORD KZ Parilla and Bultaco join the Continental Circus RICHARD MORLEY Gearbox maestro, Parilla works racer
AN ITALIAN WALKS INTO A BAR Building winning Ducati flat trackers AN AUSTRALIAN & AN AMERICAN WALK INTO A BAR Troy Bayliss flat tracking Ducati
THE BEST BIMOTA TESI Probably not the hub centre steered beauty you’re expecting
FLATWHITE v DOUBLE ESPRESSO 350 Morini ,125 MV Agusta and Motobi reviewed
MONSTER MUNCH 25 years on the story of the original M900 at its best
MONZA The very first races from 1922
IN THE END you can’t control events - so enjoy the ride
Issue 16 16 issues in and so we celebrate 16 valve cylinder heads. And why not? It’s 50 years since Benelli felt their 16 valve fours could fill the void Honda had left when they abandoned the grand prix circus. It is also a chance to look for another angle on one of the first and most famous Italian 16 valve motorcycles - Moto Guzzi’s magnificent V8 as a scale model in the Protar story. There’s also the tale of Mike Hailwood’s lost years between leaving Honda at the end of 1967 and his return to the TT. Most assume he was racing cars but in fact there was still plenty of motorcycle action. Oh, and he raced a full season of Formula 1 car racing in 1964 in between winning the 500 world championship. And for those who prefer two strokes, turn to Phil Aynsley’s photo essay from a golden era of grand prix racing.Here's what's in the 100 page paperback book:
50YEARS Benelli try on Honda’s 16 valve boots
WHAT MIKE DID NEXT Hailwood’s time between grand prix Hondas and TT return WHAT PROVINI DID NEXT Protar scale models and catalogue extracts
1935 SENIOR TT Stanley Woods and Moto Guzzi make history
DIY BICILINDRICA Moto Guzzi built 12. Here’s one man’s alternative
V7 SPORT TELAIO ROSSO The first Italian superbike, from Moto Guzzi SCOUTING PARTY The Indians built by Italjet for Floyd Clymer and the US market NIETO Senor Angel Nieto, in his own words
FOUR CYLINDER DUCATIS More of them than you’d think, including a car DESMOSEDICI Buying and riding a MotoGP bike for the road LAVERDA SUPERTWIN 90bhp and the beating of big fours with a SFC “750”
500 GRAND PRIX TWO-STROKES A photo essay on the Italian competitors
IN THE END you can only ride one motorcycle at a time
Issue 17 Well, who thought we’d make it to issue 17? Some sort of ultimate, and indeed it is: this is the ultimate - as in final - edition of Benzina, for now at least. I’ve loved the travel and the stories, but in the 9 years I’ve published Benzina I’ve gone from someone who rode a huge variety of Italian motorcycles in a huge variety of ways (including four Moto Giros) to someone who hardly rides at all. I also struggle to come up with new stories of an Italian bent, and feel there’s something of a schism opening up, with Ducati fans especially seeming to only really want to read about their favoured marque. And I don’t blame them, I just thing that well - especially from the Taglioni era -is running dry. So a huge thank you to all who have bought and contributed to Benzina. It feels like talking to friends more than readers, and it’s also been an immense privilege. I hope you all feel this edition is worthy of the back catalogue. Greg (editor, publisher and chief scribbler)
Dept. of curiosities 1: Ducati refitting Triumph cars for the Italian market
Dept. of curiosities 2: The 500 Galbusera - a two-stroke V8. In 1938
Dept. of curiosities 3: The Major 350, winner of the 2018 Concorso Villa d’Este
25 years ago, Claudio Castigioni rebooted MV Agusta V2.0
A streetbike named desire: MV Agusta’s F4 RR Corsacorta
Model MV Agusta: Perfect quarter scale 500 triple by Glen English
Itom: Just 50cc you say? Enough to lap the TT course at almost 60mph
The first lady: Beryl Swain, perhaps the first lady in a world championship race Mototemporada: Sixties street racing at Italian seaside resorts
Pantah: Tony Rutter, Pat Slinn and Steve Wynne on winning big in 1981
Rising from the ashes: Dealer visit to the Ducati factory in 1991
I couldn't have done this without a huge amount of help, but largely it's all my fault. In mitigation I just wanted to do it. I trained and enjoyed a career as a chartered surveyor, being awarded the RICS post graduate diploma in building conservation in 1995, and finally retiring as a Fellow in 2009 to pursue an interest in writing, especially about motorcycles. A lifelong love affair with two wheels began in the sports moped and Barry Sheene era, growing up in rural Wiltshire during the long, hot summers of the 1970s. An obsession with motorcycles and Italian food soon led to particular affection for Italian motorcycles, and especially Ducati. This has included owning far too many and competing in four Motogiro d'Italia. I've been fortunate to have private tours of Italian motorcycle factories and private collections (including as pictured with Snr Morbidelli) to better understand the history of motorcycling.
I'm also a consultant to Bonhams collectors' motorcycles department, and have written for many magazines including Classic Bike, Classic Bike Guide and Bike, alongside his own publications, Benzina and The Road. Also the author of books for the Crowood Press on Ducati Desmodue, Moto Guzzi, Honda V4s, The A-Z of Italian Motorcycles and Classic TT Racers, as well as the self-published Ducati and the TT and A Wiltshire Year. I still lives in Wiltshire with his wife, a local GP.