If you rank Italy on a wide range of manufactured products, from fashion to furniture to cars and motorcycles, the country is still ranking number one for artistic design quality. World War II is the reason why Italy became a 2-wheel country and started to produce some of the most beautiful motorcycles.
In 1945, Italy’s manufacturing industry was destroyed by intense plants bombing. With help from the government who authorized anyone at age of 14 to operate, unlicensed, any internal combustion vehicle not exceeding 50cc and able to travel at a top speed of 27 miles per hour, the need for mobility in an impoverished country pushed old and new manufacturers to produce cheap scooters, mopped and small size motorcycles.
And they did it, producing affordable motorcycles on a very large scale. In 1950, only 5 years after the end of the war, an outstanding 220 motorcycle manufacturers were competing on price and design originality. That year, 2-wheelers outnumbered cars by 1 million.
The 2 following decades demonstrated and exemplified to the rest of the world Italian motorcycle design excellence, and this until Japanese manufacturers invaded Italy offering larger, faster, quicker, and lower maintenance motorcycles like the hugely successful CB750 launched in 1969. The beautiful Italian motorcycles of the 50’s and 60’s are rarely seen in the US. It’s well worth taking again a glimpse at some of them. (more bikes after the jump)
1951 Turismo 125 cc
1951 Bialbero Grand Prix 125 cc
1952 Competition SS 52 125 cc
1955 CSS Super Sport Volante 175 cc
1955 Raid 160 cc
1956 GrandSport Marianna 125 cc
1959 Giuletta Super Sport 50 cc
1957 International Sport 160 cc
1963 Tresette Sprint 175 cc
1968 Record Sport 48 cc
1969 Astor Super Sport 50 cc