10 Mar 2013

Benelli 4V Sprint

Friend Patrick went to the Antwerp Classic Car Show last weekend and this pretty little Benelli motorcycle caught his eye.I have not been able to find out much about it beyond the fact that it is 50cc as most of the references are in Italian.I would hazard a guess that it is a retail cafe racer version of a Benelli 50cc racing bike from the 1960's.
There was a 50cc racing class in the 60's including would you believe Isle of Man 50cc TT races.The Japanese manufacturers -Honda and Suzuki in particular- were emerging as major players in the motor cycle markets in Europe and the US and they used the 50cc class as a laboratory for their engineering.
They produced engines revving upto 20,000 rpm and producing amazing power for their size.Some were producing over 320bhp per litre at a time when F1 engines were only producing 100-150 bhp per litre.
The 50cc engines were twins with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder and Honda apparently had a 4cylinder 50cc engine under development when the governing body changed the rules and the manufacturers walked away.
I was really fascinated by these bikes at the time and remember eagerly reading and re-reading the English Motor Cycle magazine's TT issue ( I can't remember the year) with great cutaways of the Honda 50cc engine.
I was so taken with the Hondas that I bought a new Honda bike when they really were really an untried brand in the UK and  my friends were riding BSAs and Triumphs or heaven forbid Vespa scooters.They initially thought that I was crazy but it was well priced,quick,reliable,economical and it did not leak oil .
See Honda 50cc and Suzuki 50cc for some interesting background and photos on these extraordinary racing bikes.

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