**** Photos provided by the seller ****
• One owner from new
• Exceptionally low mileage
• As-new condition
• Rare and appreciating modern classic
Italian brand Benelli was originally formed in 1911, making it one of the oldest motorcycle brands in the world. In the 1960s Benelli really established itself; mainly in the USA where its bikes, notably the original Tornado, were well received, finding fans including actor Steve McQueen.
The success of the Japanese manufacturers began to take a toll though and in 1971, it was acquired by Alejandro de Tomaso, who not only developed his own supercar brand but also owned Moto Guzzi (from 1973) and other automotive brands, such as Maserati.
Benelli was then bought by Andrea Merloni and a raft of new bikes, all designed and assembled in Italy was launched, bringing the brand back to the fore. One of these was the Tornado Novecento Tre - nine-hundred (cc) three (cylinder) - an innovative sports bike that was launched in 2001 and would reignite the brand and take it into World Superbike racing.
Benelli was acquired by Chinese company Qianjiang Motor Group, a manufacturer of motorcycles and components, in 2005 which since 2015 has been itself owned by the Geely Holding Group. This in turn also owns Volvo and its performance sub-brand Polestar, Lotus Cars and Technology and Smart. The Tornado range were notably built at the Italian Pesaro factory around 2002 - 2004 and continued selling up until 2014. Today, there is estimated that there are only around 6 of this model registered with the DVLA in the UK.
This particular bike is one of the later Novocento 903 batch of the Tornados that had their initial teething problems rectified prior to sale and is finished in red. It is one of just 409 originally available in that colour around the world. The owner bought this example brand new in 2011 and has owned it ever since, covering just 5700 miles on it in that time.
During his ten-year ownership he has used it for dry-weather summer riding only but began to fall foul of the malaise affecting many bikers – a lack of time to enjoy a specialised machine such as this, combined with an increasing difficulty to comfortably ride the machine.
Like many, the owner has bought a more upright sports tourer and the Tornado was eventually taken off the road and dry-stored to preserve what the owner describes as its 'mint' condition. It has been SORN'd since 2017 and it is now presented for auction so that the next generation of owner can enjoy it in whatever function they see fit.
As the bike has been in the same owner’s possession since new, the original documentation – owner’s handbook and CD-Rom – accompany the bike, as does the V5 registration document in the owner’s name. However, the original service book is missing – it was inadvertently left with the dealer at the bike’s second service and by the time the owner realised he had not been given it back, it was nowhere to be found.
The owner has sourced a genuine, empty Benelli service book and had the original run-in service re-stamped (he had kept the original invoice) but the dealer had lost many of its records in a fire and therefore, was not able to confirm and hence, insert the corresponding stamps for its second service. As a result, the service book shows just the original first service, carried out by Bennetts Motorcycles in Barnsley, a renowned expert on this model.
The bike is also accompanied by paperwork that attests to the fact that it was modified by UK importer Moto GB prior to registration in the UK to attend to several inherent mechanical issues which affected earlier bikes, improving its reliability significantly, as specified by the factory. There is no current MoT certificate as the bike has been off the road since October 2017. However, the owner confirms that should the new owner wish he will happily get a fresh MoT test carried out before the bike is taken away.
The vendor has also downloaded and printed a workshop manual in its own binder for the discerning mechanic owner.
With just 5700 miles on its clock and having been stored in a dry garage for the last four years, the bike is not-surprisingly in what the owner describes as “mint” condition. We are told the paintwork is unmarked and there is no evidence of corrosion – surface or otherwise – affecting the bike or its fittings.
According to the owner the bike has never been dropped and the bodywork is in perfect condition, as are the mirrors, which are commonly replaced on bikes that have been on their side. The rest of the bike is in exceptional condition we are told, with just one very picky thing noted by the owner which is that the gear selector lever rubber is showing signs of premature wear. The bike is very original with the exception of two minor and completely reversible modifications made by the owner.
The first is the replacement rear-light cluster. The owner changed the original for an LED version to provide better visibility to other road users for increased safety. While it undoubtedly performs this task, it may not be to everyone’s taste and the original accompanies the bike and can very easily be retro-fitted. He also fitted LED lights to the rear cooling fans, which create airflow over the under-seat engine-coolant radiator. This was one of the key design elements that resulted in the bike’s excellent handling and are a stand-out feature by which the Tornado is instantly recognisable. Like the rear lamp assembly, these can easily be removed to return the bike to its original specification.
Finally, the owner replaced the lightweight and what he felt were cheap plastic bar-ends with gold anodised metallic versions, as he felt these suited the exclusive nature of the bike better. However, the originals are also included and can easily be retro-fitted if the new owner should wish.
The owner has also added a Data Tag and Demon alarm to add to the security of such a desirable machine.
The bike’s mechanics are in a similar condition to the exterior, according to the owner, in that they are “like new”. With less than 6000 miles, it has had virtually no wear and tear and has been extremely well looked after. It had its first service at 700 miles, its second at around 3000 at Bennetts and the third, roughly 2000 miles later which the owner carried out himself – the owner himself is an experienced professional motor technician.
Throughout its storage, the bike has been protected by a dust cover inside the garage and connected to a battery conditioner. The owner has regularly started the engine and run it up to temperature to ensure the cooling fans work as expected and to ensure that the engine remains in perfect condition internally as well as externally.
He has also periodically run the bike up and down a private road to ensure the transmission, suspension and brakes and bearings, for example, do not dry out with inactivity and confirms that; “Nothing is missing, nothing is broken and everything works”.
As mentioned earlier, the bike was modified by MotoGB before it was registered to eliminate inherent issues with earlier bikes and there is both paperwork to confirm this and it also has its punch mark to the right hand side of the VIN Sticker and it's two punch marks on the Cam-Chain Tensioner housing to show this. The work involved replacing the clutch basket as well as making modifications to the alternator drive system to improve hot starting.
The owner has fitted a new, higher-specification Yuasa battery to the bike and upgraded the battery cabling and has also fitted new Bridgestone tyres front and rear. The original – unused - toolkit is included and all four original keys – two ‘flip’ and two fixed.
There is so much appeal with this bike for so many reasons. The Tornado is a rare bike in any of its guises but particularly in the red paint. This alone means it is fast becoming a collectable motorcycle and as a pure investment, as many car and motorcycle experts will attest, metal can be a better bet than bricks and mortar at the moment.
But there is far more to the Benelli than simply buying it and hiding it away for a few years. It is a beautiful machine, that has Italian style and flair in spades and to tuck it away is doing it a huge disservice. For those approaching this bike purely as an investment, then surely it should be stored in plain sight so that it can at least be admired.
Of course, it should be enjoyed and there is plenty to enjoy here. The 900cc triple motor is gloriously over-square so it revs and revs, with peak power coming in well past 10,000rpm. The suspension uses proper equipment – Marzocchi forks and an Extreme Technology rear shock and steering damper – with full adjustability to tailor the handling exactly to the road conditions and the rider’s preferences. It also has Brembo brakes and Arrow exhausts and the decision to mount the radiator under the seat means the front is narrow, the engine is further forward to improve stability and the weight distribution is almost perfect.
The result is a bike that is a rider’s dream; the owner says that once moving, it all makes complete sense; it becomes a living, breathing thing that deserves more than simply being stored. If buying one as an investment – it is sure to be a future classic – then that’s fine but it has so much more to offer.
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