One of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in Europe, Benelli has a long and proud heritage and a reputation for producing high quality, innovative machines from scooters to superbikes.
Originally producing lightweight motorcycles, the Italian company offered both 2 and 4-stroke machines. Always successful in racing, most machines had a sporting edge and 1969 saw Benelli winning the 250cc World Championship. This period also produced memorable road machines such as the 650 Tornado, though more sales successes came from the company’s range of small capacity motorbikes which proved relatively popular in the USA. In fact, so important to the company was the North American market that machines such as the Benelli 250cc California and the 250 Barracuda were styled with US buyers in mind. These bikes featured Benelli’s refined horizontal cylinder 250cc 4-stroke engine, but other bikes were offered with 50 and 125cc 2-stroke motors including the Cobra California 125 and the lovely little 50cc Fireball, an early take on the dualsport ‘trail’ style machine, and which featured a 4-speed gearbox and high level offroad exhaust system. Following on from the 1960’s fascination for monkey bikes, Benelli quickly offered their own take on the monkey bike theme with a 50cc mini bike which was really quite a sophisticated machine compared to similar Japanese offerings, featuring a 4-speed gearbox and folding design which made for easy transportation in the boot of a car.
As with many European motorcycle manufacturers, the 1970’s proved a period of financial turmoil, and the company was taken over by De Tomaso. Despite significant financial woes, machines such as the fabulous 6-cylinder Benelli 750 Sei (and later its bigger brother, the Benelli 900 Sei) achieved much acclaim in the contemporary motorcycle press, though without equivalent sales success. Other less esoteric (but financially more rewarding) machines included the Benelli 125C and 250C, as well as the very competent 504 Sport, a bike which still enjoys an enthusiastic following. Various Benelli 50 and 125cc scooters were produced including the Pepe and Velvet models and the sporty Benelli 491GT sports scooter.
In later years, Benelli motorcycles combined with another famous Italian motorcycle manufacturer, Moto Guzzi and by 1995 a new model was launched, the 900 Tornado Tre, a 3-cylinder superbike which by the standards of the time was technologically advanced and featured exotic styling. Other models including the 1130cc TNT naked bike and the Tre-K and Tre-K Amazonas dual sport bikes were added to the range and have proved relatively popular sellers.
Buying a Used Benelli
With a reputation for high quality engineering, design innovation and high performance, Benelli motorcycles tend to attract ‘enthusiast’ owners who are looking for a used bike that is a little out of the ordinary. Though most modern machines have proved to be relatively reliable, as with all motorcycle a buyer should be prepared to check out a potential purchase with great care paying particular attention to a bike’s service history (preferably from an authorised dealer). Parts are not inexpensive and repair bills can soon mount up on if the bike has had a hard life. In recent months there have been many great used bargains to be had with the Tornado Tre superbike, but bear in mind that this is a machine which has seen substantial discounting when new (still a lovely machine though!). Buyers of classic Benelli machines would be well advised to research a potential purchase thoroughly and to join a Benelli owners club. Used parts are still available for many classic models, but are getting harder to find.