Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Precious Metal: 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer

The 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer, with its fairing removed. A great bike...
Pic: Allucchettati

Today, they only make some very neat bicycles, but from 1897 to 1967, Bianchi also made motorcycles. The Italian company was set up by Edoardo Bianchi in Milan in 1885, and Bianchi started with making bicycles, moved on to motorcycles in 1897, and also started making cars, in the year 1900.

Over the seven decades when they made motorcycles, Bianchi made various single-cylinder and v-twin bikes, some of which also saw a fair bit of success on the racing circuit between 1925 and 1930. In the late-1930s, Bianchi also experimented with a four-cylinder, DOHC, 498cc, supercharged engine, but perhaps due to financial or engineering constraints, this did not go too far.

Edoardo Bianchi passed away in 1946, and his son Giuseppe took over the company. By the mid-1950 however, Bianchi were in financial trouble and ultimately, their vehicle division was merged with Fiat and Pirelli. They still struggled on though, and even went GP racing – Bob McIntyre raced a Bianchi in the now-defunct 350cc class in 1961. He finished the season with 10 points, taking fifth place in the 1961 350cc world championship.

The 1964 Bianchi Bicilindrica 500cc GP racer
Pic: Vintagebike

A tireless Bianchi kept working on their racebikes, which brings us to a very interesting machine – their 1964 500cc GP racer. This was fitted with a twin-cylinder engine with custom-made Dell'Orto carbs, preload-adjustable rear shocks, telescopic front forks, steel-tube cradle-type chassis and huge drum brakes. This bike, ridden by Italian rider Remo Venturi, was quite sophisticated for its time, though it did not do very well – Venturi (who also rode in the 350cc class...) finished the 1964 season with only six 500cc world championship points to his name.

1964 was also Bianchi’s last year in motorcycle GP racing. By the mid-1960s, battered by relentless financial trouble, Bianchi were reduced to mostly being a parts supplier to bigger companies like Ferrari, Fiat, Puch and Motobecane. They did, however, also continue to make motorcycles till 1967, after which the motorcycle division was shut down.

It’s a great pity that a company which once went motorcycle GP racing in the 350 and 500cc classes today only makes bicycles. But we suppose that’s the price many European bike manufacturers had to pay, for lacking the Japanese opposition’s foresight, business-savvy and the ability to move quickly and decisively. Rest in peace...

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