In some circles referred to as the godfather of Italian motorcycles - Benelli is one of the oldest Italian Motorcycle manufacturers, established in little Pesaro, Italy in 1911. From humble beginnings as Benelli Garage, widow Teresa Benelli had the task of raising and providing for her boys with intimidating, yet romantic names such as Giuseppe, Giovanni, Francesco, Filippo, Domenico and Antonio ("Tonino"). Together, they operated as a simple, yet diverse shop - repairing both bicycles and motorcycles - even providing parts and repairs to Italian war machines during WWI. In 1920 the company built its first complete engine in-house, a single-cylinder two-stroke 75 cc model, immediately adapted to a bicycle frame. A year later in 1921, Benelli built its first motorcycle, using their own engine which had by then become a 98 cc model.
The youngest, Tonino, eventually took to the track. He displayed an extraordinary natural talent as a rider and embarked on a very successful career which confirmed the company's exceptional capacity for development and production. Riding a Benelli 175, Tonino Benelli (side note: great names usually lead to great things in my opinion) won four Italian championship titles in five years: in 1927, 1928 and 1930 with the single overhead camshaft (SOHC) version, and in 1931 with the double overhead camshaft (DOHC) version.
Fast forward some 50 years later, and these Italian bikes have maintained their romance and to many, as Billy Joel once said regarding their sex appeal. "I don't know how they do it, but Italians just know how to get sex into their bikes - they just ooze sex."
Lester Townsend's Benelli here is no exception. This '72 Benelli 250 Sport Special is simply a head turner, in a way an Italian woman stops one in his tracks. Mostly stock, this restored classic has just a few custom bits, like the sexy megaphone exhaust. The striking Benelli orange against black and chrome is an immediate attention getter wherever she’s parked or as she speeds on by. The sex appeal begins at the tight lines of the fender with a tantalizing run up towards the stock tank trim all the way through to the chrome headlight bucket and back down to the naked aluminum fork legs. The lettering on the tank and the detailed tool boxes were borrowed from the European spec version of this motorcycle, and used purely for aesthetics. As Tonino may have said often: “Magnifico!"
And with such beauty comes attention to form and function. No detail was overlooked on this restoration, including an engine that was completely rebuilt and is now kept healthy by Hugo Gallina of famed Vintage Italian Restoration. Unlike most older Italian bikes that get restored only to be gawked at, this little 250 philly gets ridden hard and all night long.
If you live in or around Orange County, CA, you might spot a grinning Lester saddled up on his Italian scoot, blasting through a nearby canyon or on his way to one of many motorcycle shows, near and far, on any given weekend. If you do, simply shout “Bella! Bella!”, and tip your hat to Mrs. Benelli and her boys for delivering sex on wheels into our world. If you’re not lucky enough to own one, well...there are other websites you can visit.
Photos by contributor Jose Gallina.
Check out more of Jose’s work at SOCIETY CLOTHING's web site; SOCIETY is a California based design collective that aims to bring a casual fashion alternative to the “modern renaissance lifestyle.”