An enriching history of Benelli - one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers

Posted On : 11-11-2017

Just like any successful company, Benelli has been through a lot of trials and tribulations to establish itself as one of the most prominent motorcycle manufacturers in the world. Founded in 1911, we are here to give you a recount of the history of one of the oldest Italian motorcycle manufacturers.


Widowed Teresa Benelli pumped in the family capital to set up a workshop, thus securing a job for her six sons, Filippo, Domenico, Giuseppe, Francesco, Giovanni, and Antonio “Tonino”. Called Benelli Garage, they repaired motorcycles and cars. They also made the spare parts required for the repair. In 1920, the boys successfully constructed a 75cc, single cylinder engine which was mounted on a bicycle frame. Just a year later, the first Benelli motorcycle was built. Based on the aforementioned 75cc engine, it was upgraded to 98cc for the motorcycle.


(Image: Benelli-Keeway)


Displaying interest and talent in motor racing, Tonino took part in competitions and clinched four championship titles in 1927, 1928, 1930 and 1931, on a Benelli 175. The 175cc bike was designed by Giuseppe. Tonino, unfortunately, passed on in 1937 due to a road accident.In 1934, the 250cc and 500cc racing bikes were introduced, preceding the Benelli 175. The company had intended to use the 250cc bike to compete in the Isle of Man TT, but their plans were thwarted due to the starting of World War II. In the next 9 years, production was halted due to the war. When the war ended, Giuseppe left the family to build up Motobi, also a company which manufactures motorcycles.

(Image: Vintage Bike)


Post-war, affordable means of transportation was highly sought after, and thus the 98cc and 125cc bikes by Benelli sold like hot cakes. However, they faced competition from fellow motorcycle manufacturers, such as Vespa and Moto Guzzi.

A decade later, in 1962, Benelli took over Motobi and ~300 motorcycles were produced daily, with a headcount of 550 employees. Seven years later, the 650cc vertical twin Tornado was available to the market and was well known for its performance.

Things took a downturn as the entry of Japanese companies meant that Benelli faced intense competition and incurred losses. A few years later, Benelli was taken over by Alejandro deTomaso, which subsequently led to the production of new models. However, sales were gloomy as the bikes faced many problems despite being technically advanced. Production ceased in 1988 and Benelli merged with Moto Guzzi that same year.

(Image: motobike-cottbus - Tornado TRE900)


It was only in 1995 when Italian businessman Andrea Merloni took over the helm of the company that things took a turn for the better. He assembled a team and their focus was to build a 1000cc triple cylinder, uniquely styled motorcycle. Thus, the Tornado Tre 900 was born. Released in 2002, the bike originally encountered problems when it was launched, but changes were made and the bike eventually became on par with other models launched by motorcycle manufacturers during that time.

4 years later, in 2006, Zhejiang Qianjiang, one of the largest two-wheeler manufacturers in China acquired Benelli.

In October 2014, Benelli motorcycles tied up with DSK Group of India. This is Benelli’s debut in the Indian motorcycle market. This joint venture is known as DSK Benelli – and has sold more than 3000 bikes in a period of one and a half years since sales begun.


List of Benelli motorcycles:

Benelli 302R

Benelli Century Racer

Benelli RFS150i

Benelli TNT135

Benelli TNT300

Benelli TNT600

Benelli TNT899

Benelli TRE1130K

Benelli TRK502

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