1959 BENELLI 248CC GRAND PRIX RACING MOTORCYCLE (LOT 679) SOLD by Auction
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|This motorcycle is to be auctioned at our Live and Online Summer Sale, Hanger 113, Bicester Heritage, OX26 5HA. |
Friday 14 August Spares & Memorabilia (Lot 1 - 212) 10am
Saturday 15 August Motorcycles (Lot 301 - 462) 10am
Sunday 16 August Motorcycles (Morbidelli Collection) (Lot 501 - 704) 10am
In light of the current government guidelines and relaxed measures we are delighted to welcome viewing, strictly by appointment. All the lots will be on view at Bicester Heritage in our traditional Hangar 113. We will ensure social distancing measures are in place, with gloves and sanitiser available for clients wishing to view motorcycle history files.
Please contact Bonhams Motorcycles with your preferred date, time and vehicle registration number to book an appointment.
Wednesday 12 August 1pm to 5pm
Thursday 13 August 9am to 5pm
Friday 14 August 9am to 5pm
Saturday 15 August 9am to 5pm (Lots 501-704 only)
LIVE AND ONLINE AUCTION
Please note that whilst public viewing is available by appointment, the auction itself will be conducted from a remote saleroom, behind closed doors without public access, in accordance with the current government guidelines. All bidding will be conducted via Online, Telephone and Absentee Bidding. Please contact our Bids Department to register.
1959 BENELLI 248CC GRAND PRIX RACING MOTORCYCLE (LOT 679)
FRAME NO. 1002.GPX
ENGINE NO. 1002.GPX
• Bought from the late John Surtees in the 1980s
• One of only four built
• Restored by Giancarlo Morbidelli
• Comprehensive history file
Italy's oldest surviving motorcycle manufacturer, Benelli was founded in Pesaro in 1911 by the six Benelli brothers, starting out as a general engineering firm repairing cars and motorcycles before turning to the manufacture of automotive and aircraft components in WWI. The firm diversified into the field of powered transport immediately after WWI, offering a two-stroke 'clip-on' power unit for attachment to a bicycle, and it was this 98cc engine, installed in a purpose-built set of cycle parts, that was used for the first proper Benelli motorcycle of 1921.
A couple of years later Benelli had a 125cc model in the range, and it was one of these, bored out to 147cc for the 175cc class, on which youngest brother Antonio ('Tonino') Benelli made his racing debut. By 1927 Tonino was racing a 172cc Benelli equipped with single-overhead-cam engine, winning almost as he pleased to take that year's Italian Championship. The SOHC 175 was superseded by a short-stroke twin-cam version from which was developed the first racing 250 of 1935. By this time Benellis were winning classic races outside their native Italy, but an accident to Tonino, which caused his retirement from racing, set back the factory's competition programme for the next couple of years.
Benelli was back in force for 1937 and the new 250 duly demonstrated its potential when Martelli won that year's Milan-Taranto long-distance classic. Two years later came the marque's most famous victory, when lone Benelli rider Ted Mellors won the 1939 Isle of Man Lightweight TT.
Its factory destroyed by the Allies and then looted by the Germans, Benelli took time to re-establish itself after the war. Fortunately, the racing machines had been hidden away and survived intact, providing the Italian concern with a valuable springboard from which to renew its Grand Prix campaign. Rivals Moto Guzzi secured the first post-war 250cc World Championship in 1949, but Benelli struck back the following year when Dario Ambrosini became champion at the end of a season that included wins in Switzerland, Italy and the Isle of Man. Sadly, Ambrosini's death in 1951 effectively put an end to Benelli's international efforts and it would be 1959 before the firm returned to the Grand Prix scene.
For the 1959 season Benelli developed a new, short-stroke (70x64.8mm) 250 engine that produced 33-35bhp at 10,200rpm. Despite the increase in power over its predecessor, the new Benelli 250 faced much stiffer opposition than before; by 1960 MV and Ducati were fielding twin-cylinder machines in the 250cc class and Honda had just stepped in with a four, leading Benelli to the conclusion that a multi-cylinder design was the only realistic option. Nevertheless, the 250 single did achieve one major success when Geoff Duke rode to victory in the 1959 Swiss GP, one of his last wins before retiring. Other riders who rode the works Benelli singles at this time included Dickie Dale, Silvio Grassetti and Jack Murgatroyd.
The new Benelli four's arrival having rendered the single obsolete, two were sold at the end of 1961: one being bought by the British sponsor/entrant Fron Purslow, and the other (on Purslow's recommendation) by Hector Dugdale, whose son Alan rode his father's bike in 1962. Purslow's No.1 rider John Hartle being sidelined by injury, sitting out the 1962 season, Mike Hailwood took over the ride. Hailwood scored a debut win at Mallory Park in May 1962 and was lying fourth in that year's Lightweight TT in the Isle of Man when the engine blew on the final lap. Percy Tait and Alastair King both rode Purslow's Benelli in period, but the writing was on the wall for the ageing singles and their retirement lay just around the corner.
The machine offered here – '1002.GPX' – is one of only four final-specification Benelli 250cc singles built initially for the 1959 season, three of which are known to survive: one in the UK, another in Italy and Giancarlo Morbidelli's example. Giancarlo Morbidelli bought the Benelli from the late John Surtees in the early 1990s and restored it over a period of some 20 years. The front brake was purchased from Fernando Bruscoli, a friend and distant cousin of Mr Morbidelli who was using it in his road bike, while the replica fairing was made by the same craftsman - Mr Donzelli - who made Benelli's fairings in period.
The restoration was completed in 2008 and the machine photographed with former works rider Silvio Grassetti sitting on it and Giancarlo Morbidelli standing next to him (colour prints on file). The history file also contains correspondence, photocopies of period literature, and several wonderful b/w photographs taken in period, many depicting Grassetti on this type of Benelli, while others record aspects of the restoration (inspection recommended). There is also a list of races contested by the Benelli 250s together with their riders and results. From this we can see that Grassetti's best result on a Benelli single was 1st place at Opatija, Yugoslavia in July 1961 (a non-World Championship event).
Representing a rare opportunity to acquire a Grand Prix racing motorcycle from one of Italy's premier marques, this beautiful Benelli 250 is worthy of the closest inspection.
£60,000 - 100,000
€67,000 - 110,000
As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.
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