1960 Motobi Imperiale

In 1911, a family in Pesaro – a town on Italy’s Adriatic Coast – founded a motorcycle company.

Giuseppe Benelli, along with his mother Teresa Boni Benelli and his brothers, were the founders of what would become one of the most famous and important Italian motorcycle manufacturers of the 20th Century.

However, shortly after the end of WWII and in spite of a growing reputation as an industry leader, a family quarrel led Giuseppe to split with his brothers and the Benelli brand, before founding a new company – Moto B Pesaro, which became Motobi in 1954. The factories owned by rival manufacturers Motobi and Benelli, thus, could be found operating across the road from one another.

The first of Giuseppe’s motorcycles were two-strokes, on which the egg-shaped engine featured horizontal cylinders and cooling fins, a layout that became a Motobi trademark that was carried over to the first four-stroke engines in 1955. The pushrod-operated, overhead-valve 125cc and 175cc engines – which preceded the similarly-configured Aermacchi engines by a full year – were designed by Piero Prampolini and carried the name Catria.

When Giuseppe died in 1957 his sons, Luigi and Marco, were tasked with keeping the company successful. Italy’s economic conditions continued to improve following the end of WWII, and the middle class grew – which meant the arrival of affordable family vehicles started to make a significant dent in the motorcycle market, and Motobi’s fortunes. In 1961, the company was absorbed into the Benelli family business, which became the Gruppo Benelli-Motobi.

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