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Thursday, May 31


Moto Gilera S.p.A. is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers in the world established in 1909 in the small village of Arcore, Italy by a then 22 year-old Giuseppe Gilera.  Gilera from its start made a wide range of motorcycles and was heavily involved in international racing right up into the 1990’s.  Just prior to the Second World War, Gilera fielded one of the most advanced race bikes at that time; a four-cylinder, double overhead camshaft, water-cooled and supercharged racer that made an incredible 90 horsepower from just 250cc displacement.  In the 1930’s most motorcycles, even premium race bikes, had conventional push-rod engines that were air-cooled, normally aspirated with only one or two cylinders; they usually made their power through much larger engine displacements (1000cc).

I acquired this particular Gilera 10 years ago from a fellow enthusiast who had come to look at a Lancia Beta coupe that I had for sale.  He didn’t buy the car, but I ended up adding this Gilera to my collection.  It’s a 1966 Gilera Giubileo 5V with a single cylinder (of 124 cc displacement), overhead valve engine and five-speed transmission (quite unusual for the time).  The motor produces only 10.5 horsepower but because of its light weight (93 kg) had a top speed of just over 120 kph.  The Gilera model  101 (it’s official model number) was made in a full range of styles from touring to off-road specials; the Gilera featured here (a 5V) was the sport model of the range with its clip-on handlebars and bum-stop seat.  This Gilera has never been restored or even seen any major cosmetic or mechanical work; it has all its original parts right down to the battery.

When this Gilera was manufactured, smaller displacement motorcycles were very popular around the globe; even Honda, one of the world’s most successful manufacturers, largest bike was only 350cc in size.  Unfortunately, Gileras were never officially imported into Canada (except for a brief attempt by Sears to bring some badge-engineered models in the late 1960’s).  If a rider wanted one, they would’ve needed to find a motorcycle shop owner who’d be willing to import one specifically for them.
Text by William Yasui

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