Like Italian cars, Italian motorcycles have always attracted a dedicated band of followers and always seemed to have an exotic aura about them. Certainly in the UK it has, until recently, been the better-known marques that have appeared in the showrooms and magazines. Ian Kerr MBE reviews A-Z of Italian Motorcycle Manufacturers.
With the continuing interest in all things classic and the rebirth of some traditional Italian events like the Moto Giro, more historic Italian motorcycles have started to appear in events both at home and abroad.
Journalists, like myself, have been privileged to vast private collections full of small machines bearing names that, like many British marques, are just names in the history books.
In many ways, just as the UK industry did many years ago, bikes produced in small volume using proprietary engines are now surfacing. Many of these bikes are now being dragged from barns to be sold on the internet to willing buyers the world over, eager to have a piece of Italian automotive history to adorn a living room or provide access to events such as the Giro mentioned above.
Life-long Italian bike enthusiast, Greg Pullen, has managed through a lot of research to produce an excellent hardback tome listing all the Italian factories that have built machines. Look through the 176 pages in this quality publication from the Crowood Press, and you will be amazed at the sheer number of Italian motorcycle factories.
Obviously, in this definitive guide, the most famous Italian factories get more pages than the marques that have had, up to now, had little or no coverage as their production period was short. Some names and models might be familiar, while others, solely built for racing, are remembered only by real Italian motorcycle historians.
The jacket boasts that this is the most complete directory of Italian bikes and having read through its well-illustrated pages I cannot fault that claim; certainly in English language books. It has to be said, Pullen has done an excellent job in alphabetically listing every marque. And, where it was possible, establish when and where the factory was active as well as detailing the most important motorcycles each manufacturer built, and the marques’ most significant achievements.
In cases where he has been unable to do so, perhaps with homebuilt specials with a constructor’s name on the tank, he has listed these in a separate appendix at the rear.
Although of great value as a reference guide, it also makes fascinating reading. It helps you realise that motorcycling has a rich history in many countries, showing that, despite vast numbers of manufacturers trying to become mainstream, only the best survive and become household names.
A really excellent publication and good value at £35, it is available from all good bookshops or direct from the publishers Crowood at www.crowood.com