MY BENELLIS (Then & Now)

by Steven Salemi



At Left,
Look & a 65CC Benelli Dynamo in Fine Fettle!!!  At right, now hear this: 9 out of 10 Sealyham Terriers
prefer Benelli Mini-Bikes for around-town use!  Why wait for busy owners to take you for a walk?
Terriers of the World, Unite!!!


The Beginnings of An Obsession

See, it was like this: back in the 60s, my cousin Jack lived in Queens, and his father, Jack, worked for Sabena Airlines (now defunct) at LaGuardia Airport.  Uncle Jack wasn't an airline pilot; he was one of those guys who drove the baggage carts around the landing field, loading and unloading suitcases and boxes and crates and stuff like that.  I liked Uncle Jack (my father's brother); he was funny and friendly and treated kids right (viz, he never hassled us).

One of the benefits of working for the airlines, at least in Uncle Jack's capacity, was that occasionally, "good stuff" would "fall off the planes," and cousin Jack would be the recipient of this manna from heaven.  When Jack came to visit us out on the island, as he often did, he'd bring this stuff with him and we'd get to play with it.

By these methods, for example, Jack obtained one of the world's very first "boom boxes," a Norelco AM/FM portable stereo with integrated cassette deck.  This thing had great sound and great reception, ran off D-Cell batteries (you could bring it to the beach) or AC Power, and had the amazing capacity to record directly from the radio to the tape, no microphones or patch cords or anything.  So when Casey Kasem counted down the top 100 hits of 1969 on 77-WABC, we recorded the whole epic thing, including the triumphant number one song (Hey Jude?  Joy To The World?), and listened the hell out of that tape for months afterwards.

The Benelli Dynamo Mini-Bike, Just Another Piece of Lost Freight from Now-Defunct Sabena Airlines!

One day, cousin Jack showed up at our door driving the latest piece of lost freight from Sabena Airlines: a Benelli Dynamo Mini-Bike.  Now this was a remarkable event for all sorts of reasons.

One, Jack didn't have a driver's license (he was only, like, 12 years old!), and two, he lived almost 25 miles away, a few miles from New York City.  Yup, Jack just jumped on that bike and drove it illegally (no license plate, even) through the crowded streets all the way from Queens to our house in Syosset, a few miles from the wilds of Suffolk County!  It was an amazing act of childhood courage and daring (bravado).

But mainly, the Benelli was just the neatest, coolest-looking, intensely-desirable thing conceivable to our growing, expansive minds.  It made the same impression that a 200 foot yacht or a GulfStream Jet would make on Bill Gates or Larry Ellison or Warren Buffet (okay, six of them).  It was the Ne Plus Ultra of toys and gadgets and childhood mobility-speed-freedom dreams; nothing but nothing could have been any neater or swifter or more fantastic than that "little" Benelli. 

At left, in this corner, the loser, a typical 1960s Mini Bike, bought brand new in 1969
for $140.00; and at right, the champ, a gleaming new Benelli Mini-Bike from the same era.  You choose!


At the time, the luckiest kids we knew in the neighborhood had prosaic "mini-bikes," crummy looking welded-up things with centrifugal clutches and 3-1/2 horsepower Briggs & Stratton (or Tecumseh) lawn mower engines that you'd pull with a starter cord.  No fooling, they had the exact same engines that our lawn mowers had (except for Lawn Boys, but that is another subject for another day, like Macs versus PCs).  Many of them were home-built mongrels with tiny unbraked wheelbarrow-wheels, no suspension systems, and you were lucky if they made 25 miles an hour. 

Thirty Cents A Day!  Starting at $69.95!  Less Than $10!!!  Makes A Toyota Prius Hybrid
Seem Downright Extravagant...

In short, they were cheap junky low-budget American suburban trash.

Now don't get me wrong, I was desperate for one of those cheap junky trashy American mini-bikes, believe me.  Any mini-bike would have made me very, very happy.  In fact, I would have killed for one (well, certain teachers and relatives and neighborhood bullies, I would have).  The pathetic aspect of the matter is that my parents wouldn't let me have any mini-bike, no matter what; I guess they thought they were a dangerous luxury, and I think they had some doubts about the legality of scrambling around town on them.

Did the Long Island Railroad or Jericho Water District or County of Nassau really care if we rode around on their land?  We didn't know, and we didn't care.  To ask permission is to seek denial...

Scenes From The Benelli Factories in Pesaro, Italy, Where All Those Little Beauties Were Made!!!


Click Here To Read A History of Benelli Motorcycles and The Fabulous Benelli Brothers!!!

Another, Shorter Benelli History

This One's Good, Too!!!

"Wheels of Italy" History of Benelli !!!

*** Excellent Benelli Links Here!!! ***

But the Benelli!  The Stuff of Dreams!  Golden Age Italian Gorgeousness!  European Motorized Bliss!  BelloMeraviglioso!  The Benelli was an Italian-made 4 speed kick-starting street-legal (if you were so inclined) mini-motorcycle, with a lustrous 3-layer/coat candy apple metallic paint job, two-up seat, gleaming chrome, drum brakes and shock absorbers and telescopic forks, real headlights and taillamps, a nice-sounding Eurobeep horn...and it could top 40 miles per hour...! 

Trust me, the Benelli was the ultimate, the absolute pinnacle, there was nothing in our world that even compared to it.  And my cousin Jack had one!  Why was he so lucky, and I so mistreated by fate, in the person of my parents?  Oh woe was me!  My childhood life was lived in such dark shadow that I could never, ever have any minibike, not even a junky American one, which means I could never, ever, ever have something as wildly-desirable as the Benelli!

"I am 49 years old and when I was in the 5th grade I dreamed of these more than girls..."

-- Recent E-Bay Advertisement for A Clapped-Out Dynamo

Benelli Biker Babe Pop-Quiz:  If The Girl on the Left is a Panther,
is the Girl on the Right...a Barracuda?!?!?!


Click The Box Above to See The Full Benelli Lineup for The Summer of Love, 1967!!!

1970's NEWS FLASH!!!

"Cosmopolitan Motors has made available the world's first "midi-sidecar," powered by the 65cc four-speed Dynamo series of midi-bikes. The sidecar features a 10-inch steel wheel and knobby tire, stainless steel fender, plush velour upholstered seat, leg cowling and a hand rail. Though firmly affixed to the Dynamo frame, the sidecar can be easily removed for servicing or solo riding."

65CC Benelli Dynamo with "Factory" Sidecar -- Outrageous!!!  Compare to the author's 1200cc BMW R1200C with Steib S500 Sidecar!!!
( Photo At Left Courtesy Todd McDonald ); Photo At Right Courtesy Matthew William ("Bubba") Divine )

The Wedge Is Driven

My cousin Jack was very funny, very charismatic, and a little wild; he was the perfect antidote to our tightly-controlled suburban situation.  It was like some children's story about the city mouse and the country mouse; Jack was the city mouse and we (my brother Michael and I) were the country mice.  When Jack came he brought fun and adventure and a little danger in his wake.  One time we were short on money; Jack introduced us to the possibility of extortion; i.e., we just walked up to some neighborhood kid and demanded that he give us a quarter!  This was a short-lived modus operandi, believe me, and we caught hell for it, but it gives you some idea of Jack's character, which could be described as mercurial.

You see, Jack played favorites between my brother and myself, and you never knew which side he'd come out on.  It changed every time he visited; unpredictable, like the weather.  When Jack came to visit and he was on my side, then he and I would have plenty of fun, and often my brother would be excluded (fine by me).  Other times, the opposite would happen and I'd be left out of whatever adventures he cooked up for us.

And so it was my very, very bad luck (an unfortunate astrological configuration?) that the day Jack arrived on the Benelli, he decided (for whatever reason) to pal up with my brother Mike, and ignore/exclude me, totally.  I was not allowed to drive the Benelli or even sit on it; yet Jack and Mike "took off" into the woods and spent an entire day riding.  They had a blast, a memorably ecstatic adventure, while I sat home and sulked, drawing some very negative conclusions (I'm sure) about the possibility of true fulfillment and enjoyment in this lifetime.  The fact that the Benelli was A) Absolutely Fantastic, B) Badly-Desired and Deeply-Yearned For, and yet C) Completely Denied to me left unquestionably deep scars, the deconstruction of which I will leave to the Freudians, Jungians, Adlerians...

Suffice it to say that the scars must have run deep, because here I am, at mid-life, still hankering for Benellis.  But middle-age is not without some advantages -- now I have the means, however modest, to fulfill scratch the itch, if you will!  To some extent, anyhow.  And thereby, possibly, work out the original, seminal neurosis and cure the disease.


Why Not Collect 'Em All?  Seriously, Why Not?  Forget my two front teeth,
Santa, All I Want For Christmas is a Benelli MiniBike!!!

The Blue Bike at Rear is a Benelli Cougar, in front is a Little Red Dynamo, and
Off To the Right, The Enduro with Broken Kickstand...along with an authentic NOS
Benelli Shop Service Sign...Old Santa Fe with a Dash of Italian Flavor!

What Time Is It?  Why, It's 10:10AM BST (Benelli Standard Time)!!!

(After 35 Years), A Dynamo of My Very Own!!! (Benelli #1)

Click on the Dynamo At Left to "Read All About It!," or watch the Dynamo YouTube Movie!!!

Click on the Benelli Cougar at left to "read all about it!" or watch the YouTube Cougar Movie at Right!!!

The Tatty Panther (Benelli #3)

Click on the Benelli Panther above to "read all about it!"

 The Enduro 175 (Benelli #4)

Click on the Enduro ("Motocross") At Left to "Read All About It," or watch The Enduro YouTube Movie at Left!!!

The Nuovo Leoncino (Benelli #5)...Grrrrrrrrrrrrr!

Click on the Nuovo Leoncino Above to "Read All About It!"

From "The Classic Motorcycle" Magazine, 2008,
with kind thanks to James Robinson, Editor

The Tornado 650S (Benelli #6)

"The Benelli Tornado is the only Benelli That's Worth A Shit."

-- Terry Garbig, Vintage Motorcycle Collector

Click on the Tornado 650S Above to "Read All About It!"


Click The Tornado Prototype Above to Enter " TORNADO CITY !!! "

Very Cool-Looking Prototype "Rickman-Style" Tornado 650ss; The Tornado lost the
Rickman Frame and ended up looking a good deal chunkier before they were through with it...

Click Here for Cool, Rare Benelli 360cc Mojave Info!!!

The Cobra (Benelli #7)

Found this one on E-Bay.  Probably shouldn't have bought it because The Nuovo Leoncino is a nice 125, and how many Vintage Benelli 2-Stroke 125cc Motorcycles does a guy need -- even a Benelli Fanatic like me?

But buy it I did, probably cause the body looked so good (so what if half the engine is missing?).  I figured it would be a mechanical restoration job and they wouldn't have to do much with the body.  But we'll see -- too early to tell -- the Leoncino is still being restored!

The Volcano (Benelli #8)

180CC Benelli Volcano Mini -- An Aptly-Named Vehicle!!!  180CCs of Pure, Raw Minicycle Power!!!



At Left, Benelli Volcano Custom Luggage!  At Right -- It's the MOTOR, Stupid!!!

A fascinating historical note from an actual real live J.C. Penneys-Benelli man, Richard Blue of College Station, Texas:

"Benelli only imported 200 of these little devils [the 180cc Benelli Volcano] to the U.S. through J.C. Penney Co. auto centers back when I worked for them in the late 60's-early 70's.  Part of my job was to uncrate, assemble, and "road check" all the Benellis back then.  When they were thrashed about and brought back for repairs it was my job to fix them, also.  Once I was caught "road checking" one of the Volcanos in the mall parking lot doing a "wheelie" at somewhere just south of about 45-60 mph.  When the store manager asked what I thought I was doing I told him I was "testing the vertical stability."  They went for it.   Kept my job but that ended my Volcano testing days, for a while."

An equally fascinating historical note about the immaculate conception
and birth of the Volcano, straight from Someone Who Was THERE!!!

"Let me give you some background here people.  I have told this story to a few and they say they never heard it so maybe you too haven't heard it yet.  The history behind the Volcano is funny.  Mr. Weiss and his father Ernest and Joe Rottigni were on one of their many trips to the Benelli factory.  Mr. Weiss ("Larry")  was askin' one of the Benelli brothers, Luigi, if they could make the 50cc Dynamo with a litter more sand.  It was always light on power and Larry was just trying to explain it to him.  This conversation was goin' on as they were standing next to the new 175 Enduro that was about to come on board.  To be funny Louie said 'O sure, let's just use this 175cc engine here!'  To be even funnier Larry said 'that's a great idea.'  Not wanting to be out done, Louie -- trying to be the funniest person there -- said 'ok.'

"Then just to be sure it really did go down Mr. Weiss gave the ok for 200 of them. The name Volcano didn't come till later. Kenny Weiss, Larry's youngest son named this bike the Volcano. 200 were made and 200 were shipped to the USA.  I rode the first prototype that came before, the 200.  Mr. Weiss, Mike, Mark & me took it to a mini bike race as soon as it came into the country but that is 'gonna have to be another story."


The Good Old Days...Cosmopolitan Motors in Full Swing,
Still Owned & Managed by the Wise (Weiss) Family

Bravo!!!  Long Live The Volcano -- all 200 of them!!!  Who's going to do the Volcano Registry?  ME!  Stay tuned...And PLEASE send me a copy (hardcopy or electronic) of the Volcano article (shown above) so I can post it here online for all Volcano fans!!!

Read a period test report (the only?) of the Volcano, which claims 65MPH top speed (Benelli said 56MPH) and mentions an ultra-cool, totally rare, optional "Stinger" pipe, giving 17hp @ 7200rpm, while the stock chrome muffler gave 14hp at 5800RPM!!!




"I never told ya'll the story about when we went to the Mini bike race with the 180 [Benelli Volcano] Prototype.  This first 180 came in by air.  It was gold.  Joe Rottigni himself assembled it & broke it in on the dyno & tuned it.  Mr. Weiss took  Mike, Mark Andy & me in the Mark III Lincoln to the race. We were all gonna' take a shot on it so were all wound up.  We just knew we would clean their clocks.  I think the baddest thing at that time was a CAT when you put an 8hp or better Briggs on it.  We were all ready man, leathers, full wrap "man only the pro's were wearin' full wraps at this time" boots and gloves.  We got to the track early to show off and stuff.  You could ride the rear tire on this bike till the cows came home.  This is the first bike we learned to shift gears on while wheelie'n. You would lift it in 2nd then grab 3rd and boogie.  If you had enough road you could grab 4th and go big time. We were really showin' off in the parkin lot. Comes time to sign up and there askin' what EVENTS we're gonna' ride in.  THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A HINT. 

"We had a choice of the cones, the slow race, the two-up obstacle course & some other goofy things.  Man it was like a HOG event for kids. No shit!  This wasn't a race it was the same stuff they do at over the hill events.  You had to put a spoon in your mouth and then they would put a fresh egg on the spoon then you had to ride the course goin' around cones.  Or see how slow you could go!!!  The last person over the finish line won.  I AM NOT KIDDIN' YOU HERE KIDS.  Hell you could do this crap in flip-flops & shorts. 

"We were cryin' man.  We show up with the baddest Mini ever and it turns out to be some boring - sissy girl - I don't want to get hurt - we ain't got no track insurance so nobody goes fast -  soccer mom - I don't want my kid gettin' hurt deal.  We went back to the parkin' lot and did some tricks for the NON-RACERS, threw the 180 in the trunk packed up and left."

27 Excellent Reasons to Choose The Benelli Volcano!!!

        VOLCANO REGISTRY          
63050       BLUE   STEVEN SALEMI        
          SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO      
62986       BLUE   JOE WESLEY        
          SEDONA, ARIZONA        
62074   10/70   RED   STEVEN SALEMI        
          SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO      

"...the problem with Benelli was different.  The company would make money with production bikes but then lose it all when they went racing.  This is down to something special in the Italian mind, the same "Dolce Vita" that makes a Benelli such a great bike."

 -- Detlef Burian, Benelli Parts of Germany

The Aermacchi-Built 1974 Harley-Davidson X-90 (Benelli #9)

Okay, Okay, It's Not A Benelli...But It's Volcano-Like, It's Vintage, It's Italian, It's Collectible, and It's COOL!

To Be Restored By Ross "Guy" Puleo of Sonny's Motorcycle Repair in Lowell, Massachusetts...

...The Aermacchi Maestro!!!

New Old Stock Pirelli Tires, and Tubes, for the X-90:
Face It, E-Bay is Like Democracy -- It Sucks,
But It's The Best Thing Going!!!

*** Future Benellis...? ***

Benelli Moped (left) or Benelli (Montgomery Wards/Riverside) Scooter (right)?  Just Kidding.  Really. 
Although they are Genuine Benellis and Therefore Cool...

A Nice "Honda-Engined" Benelli, Photo Courtesy Volker Bödigheimer,
Founder of the Benelli Club of Germany!  Benellis Uber Alles!

Read "Benelli's Racing Fours" (Classic Bike Magazine, 1981)

Read "Benelli's Baby Four" (Classic Racer, Winter 1983)

Read Road Test of 250cc Benelli Four (Classic Racer, Winter 1983)

Read Test of Amazing Benelli Factory 50CC ("Moped") Racer!!!
(Classic Racer, Spring 1987)

250CC SuperSport or 250CC Benelli Barracuda or Phantom 250 or 250 Four?  Benelli Cobra or Mini Enduro?  6 Cylinder 750cc or 900cc Sei? Dynamo with factory sidecar???


Active vs. Passive Final Solutions To The Benelli Problem


From: Steven Salemi

To: Audrey Whitesides

Date:  November 3, 2006

Subject: Benelli Addiction


Thanks for updates on all fronts!!!!

I just found a cherry Vintage 1972 Benelli Enduro 175cc with 600 miles (!) on the clock, showroom condition.

Doctor, Stop Me Before I Buy Again!

Steven Salemi


Fellow Biker Pal Audrey, on her Siamese-Untwinned BMW/Sidecar Combo,
and A Rare Spy Photo -- Caught In The Act -- Driving A Four-Wheeler!!!

From: Audrey Whitesides

To: Steven Salemi

Date: November 3, 2006

Subject: RE: Benelli Addiction

Dude, you're a Benelli Junkie.  You're going to be that weird old man with every imaginable Benelli cramming every corner and cranny of his house, garage, workshop with three in the bedroom.

Watch It.



To:  Audrey Whitesides

Date: November 3, 2006

Subject RE: RE: Benelli Addiction


Yeah, I know.  I've got it bad.

I have two solutions, one might be called "active," and one might be called "passive"

Passive: Just wait until the obsession fades, or

Active: NIP IT IN THE BUD and don't buy any more, put an absolute stop to it now before I am ruined.

I'm leaning towards the ACTIVE SOLUTION!!!!!


P.S.  Did I tell you I want to open a Benelli Motorcycle Museum????


The Author with his 65cc 1971 Benelli Cougar in his Office (Viz, on the way to becoming that weird old man
of which Audrey Speaks...), and at a motorcycle junkyard, dreaming...dreaming..."imagine if I could
get every single one of those bikes fixed up and motorbike left behind..."

Fast Forward to the Modern Age...Hold Onto Yer' Helmets!!!

At Left, The President of Benelli, Circa 2007 -- Gosh, he doesn't look Italian!!!  At right, that is one
beautiful specimen...and the motorcycle isn't bad, either!!!  Perhaps calling them
"Naked Bikes" is a form of wishful thinking on the part of the engineers???

Dateline, Pesaro Italy...

Dateline, Pesaro Italy: 
A Rare Peek Inside The Benelli Factory Today!!!


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