This is Nello Pagani at the start of the 1949 Ulster Grand Prix, courtesy TT Race Pics and available as a poster and much else. The following is an extract from my book Classic TT Racers, available from most bookshops and of course Amazon. The 1949 Ulster Grand Prix was the penultimate (of 6) round of the inaugural world championship. In 1948 Pagani had taken the Gilera Quattro to its first race in Cesena, but withdrew claiming the machine was "unrideable". Although it
This is the original Gilera Quattro, the 1939 version developed from the 1936 OPRA four that Giuseppe Gilera bought from Count Bonmartini. The OPRA project had been placed into another of Bonmartini’s companies, CNA (Compagnia Nazionale Aeronautica), and he renamed the four cylinder motorcycle Rondine (swallow) which is why you might occasionally read of a CNA Rondine. He brought in another Roman engineer to work with Carlo Gianni and in reality the motorcycle they des
If V-twins are so wonderful, why is it that (mostly) inline fours rule the roost? This picture (courtesy A Herl Inc) is a 1928 OPRA 500 Quattro (four) that amounts to ground zero for every four cylinder motorcycle that followed. Although there were a few fours in motorcycling’s early days, those had a longitudinal layout that made for an overlong wheelbase and a tendency to overheat. The transverse layout was considered too wide and needing to be too high in the frame (
More than six decades ago, the Vincent Black Shadow delivered the most performance from a street-legal vehicle that money could buy — on two wheels or four. The ultimate Vincent was the Series C Black Lightning, a production version of the bike Rollie Free rode to break the AMA's land speed record in 1948 on the Bonneville Salt Flats; the swimming trunks were an optional extra. Available only by special order, the standard Black Lightning was supplied in racing trim with at l
The definitive British –perhaps all time - V-twin is arguably the Brough Superior SS100, seen here at speed by regular record breaker Eric Fernihough. What is it about Broughs? Some say that if any motorcycle was ever more than the sum of its parts, it was the Brough Superior. It's the cliché, and one hard to fully explain given that during the 1920s there were a number of other manufacturers, including Zenith, Montgomery, McEvoy and Coventry Eagle which used the same ingred
This is Gene Walker, who set the first officially sanctioned Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) record in 1920, when rode his Indian V-twin on Daytona Beach at 104.12 mph (167.56kph). While he to record the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs in opposite directions it was still a long way shy of Glenn Curtiss' 1907 speed record of 136mph as per an earlier post. Like rivals Harley-Davidson, Indian used such world records and their success i
Almost impossible to believe now, but Harley Davidson was once a sports bike marque. As well as board track racers such as this they entered the Italian road races including the Targa Florio and Milano-Taranto, with a racing department known as the Wrecking Crew. By 1920 Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, with 28,189 machines produced, and dealers in 67 countries. From that year a team of pig farm boys, who became known as the “hog boys”, co
This is one of the first ever V-twin motorcycles, the Curtiss Hercules which went on sale in 1902, with deliveries commencing the following year. A 20 degree V-twin had been offered by Gottlieb Daimler in 1889, but that was used as a stationary engine, for boats and in the Daimler Stahlradwagen ("steel-wheeled car"), Daimler's second car. Then in November 1902 the UK’s Princeps AutoCar Company offered a V-twin motorcycle, quickly followed by fellow compatriots’ the Eclipse Mo
Before achieving fame with aircraft, Glenn Curtiss started with motorcycles, setting a world record with this 4 litre V8. The early aviation community began to seek out Curtiss because of his growing reputation for building powerful, lightweight V-twin motorcycles, so in 1906 he designed a V8, effectively four of his existing V-twin motors.
Of course Curtiss set to wondering how fast a motorcycle with the V8 could go, making some 30 to 40 horsepower at 1,800 rpm. Trans
If the Moto Guzzi’s pre-war supercharged four cylinder racer seemed ambitious it was nothing compared to the magnificent V8, seen here in the factory museum. It was a final attempt to beat the fours of Gilera and MV, after the rather undignified chopping-and-changing in the Blue Riband class. When I interviewed Sammy Miller for my Moto Guzzi book – a man who was racing in the V8s era and owns both a V8 and Bicilindrica – he felt this was a serious issue. “Development i
Another supercharged motorcycle, this Carlo Guzzi’s 1931 Quattro Cilindri, photographed by Phil Aynsley. It was a case of something old, something new, something borrowed (but nothing blue). The Cozette rotary supercharger was positioned above the gearbox, which sat vertically behind the crankshaft as on modern sportsbikes. The very oversquare layout, at 56mmx50mm, was also something today’s engineers would recognise as good practice in an engine designed for outright
This is an extract from the story of this image in Benzina 7:
“Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, was all that was going through my mind” remembers Chris Mayhew when asked about this fantastic photograph by Alan Horner. Chris is part of family business North Leicester Motorcycles, recently relaunched as Lusso Veloce. Although they deal with all things Italian it’s clear that Morini V-twins hold a special place in their heart. So when they decided to enter the UK Earlystocks they simply
Ducati were once just another of the many motorcycle factories around Bologna, perhaps their most famous fellow bike builder being Moto Morini. This one’s probably my favourite – the 3½ with disc front brake but still with the Borranis and the original Sport look, especially that humped seat. This image is by Paul Hart (featured in a past post with a 400 Four photo) and as with that pic this was taken on 35mm film with an Olympus OM-2N. He’s a complete Vespa scooter nut
Target Design is famous in the motorcycle world as the creator of Suzuki’s Katanas and, to some, for the bodywork on later Harris Magnums. But this MV Agusta is where they first went public with their vison of how a motorcycle should look, created just a few months after Target Design was born in 1979. The team were three ex-BMW motorcycle designers, Hans-Georg Kasten, Hans Muth and Brit Jan Fellstrom. They were already working on restyling Suzuki’s 550, 650 and 1100 when Ger
This is another masterpiece by Jamie Kinroy that opened a piece on the Target Design's MV Agusta based prototype that caught Suzuki's eye and led to the Katana - the story's in Benzina 15, available in the shop. Jamie also did illustrations for Benzina 14 and 16. The 750 Sport is revered as the most collectible MV roadster, and can make the thick end of a £100k - in August Bonhams sold one for a nice but unoriginal late model Sport for over £66,000 But to be honest by the m
This is the MV Agusta stand at the 1950 Milan show, promising imminent delivery of a road going 500 four. The Turismo R19 was priced at 950,000 lira, about three times the cost of a decent 250. Like its racing sibling there was an odd gearchange arrangement, a lever on one side of the gearbox to change up, an apparently identical lever on the other side for changing down. Of course the road bike never made it to any owners, although the odd gearbox and shaft drive were briefl
That’s a 1953 Triumph TR5 Trophy – a development of the Speed Twin - tucked away in the shrubbery at the 2019 Chelsea Flower Show. My wife’s an occasional visitor, and it should have been on this week. It’s cancelled, of course, so the BBC is showing footage from previous years. When this Trumpet came on screen I was astounded - “Oh yes, that old thing” said my wife “I took a photo of it and forgot to show it to you.” So now I finally know that it was in Kazuyuki Ishih
Another example of Steve McQueen’s golden touch is this 1938 Triumph 500cc 5T Speed Twin, which he had Bud Ekins restore. Bonhams sold it for $175500: over £143000 to us Limey’s, so ten times what you might otherwise expect.
Still, a lovely bike and the vertical twin template for the entire British motorcycle industry. Edward Turner first considered the idea at Ariel, as half of his Square Four. When Ariel bought Triumph in 1935 Turner embarked on creating the Speed Tw
A two-stroke even I love. Before celebrity endorsement was commonplace Husqvarna already had two big hitters: all-round racer Malcolm Smith and Steve McQueen, movie star and uncontested arbiter of what was hip and cool, both rode Huskies. This 400 Cross was McQueen’s and featured in On Any Sunday, fuelling the rise of Husqvarna and motocross. Plus my wife’s sewing machine is a Husqvarna (she made her wedding dress with it) so I love their history.
Perhaps more than any
Multiple British sidecar champion Colin Seeley bought AMC’s racing department when the company went bust in 1966. The year before he’d built the first Seeley racing frame to house a Matchless G50 engine, and the AMC purchase allowed him to produce complete Seeley G50 and 7Rs. With these frames - note the then revolutionary direct run from headstock to swing arm pivot - the ancient four-stroke singles enjoyed renewed competitiveness, Dave Croxford winning the British 5