Before remembering the 1990 Sei 900, let's start with the history of Benelli itself. Based in Pesaro, Marche, Italy, Benalli Q.J. was founded in 1911 by a recently widowed Teresa Boni Benelli. Upon the death of her husband, she invested the family's money into a business she hoped would encourage her six sons to find stable work so they could sustain themselves. The oldest songs, Giuseppe and Giovanni, were sent to Switzerland to study engineering. The other three brothers, Francesco, Filippo, and Domenico, made up the five brothers who were old enough at the time to work at what was called the Benelli Garage at the time. Antonio was the youngest of the six brothers but was not old enough just yet to join the working class at that time. Those five brothers, along with six employees, worked on repairing bicycles and motorcycles, as well as producing the spare parts as they were needed.
A Series of Fortunate & Unfortunate Events
During World War I, this company fixed parts for various Italian machinery. In 1920, it built its first in-house engine that was fitted to a bicycle frame. It was a single-cylinder two-stroke 75cc model. In 1921, Benelli then built its first motorcycle as a 98cc model. In 1927, what put them on the national and international map was the 175 cubic centimeter, four-stroke engine with a cascade distribution and overhead camshaft that was installed in the motorcycle lineup. This bold, patented solution for improved cycle performance became a trademark after the inspired Giuseppe read a 1925 Edward Turner article that was published in a French magazine called Moto Revue. Giuseppe knew in order to beat the competition he needed to find an ingenious but simple solution to come up with a better motorcycle model than the rest. From 1927 until World War II, Benelli was the leader of the pack as the youngest brother, Antonio, raced and won four Italian championship titles in a row using the family recipe for optimal motorcycle performance. In 1932, this winning streak ended after a horrific crash in the Grand Prix put an early end to the racing career of Antonio Benelli. On September 27, 1937, the youngest of the six brothers was fatally wounded in a road accident.
When the world was at war a second time, Benelli, debuted a motorcycle that was built for racing, capable of reaching 230 kilometers per hour. It had a maximum power output of fifty-two horsepower at 10,000 reves per minute. The intent was to use the new design in the 1940 Isle of Man TT Lightweight 240cc race but a series of events that took place during WWII prevented that from happening. When WWII ended, the factory that built the motorcycles was mostly destroyed. It took approximately four years to restart the business as the crew scavenged for motorcycles that were abandoned by the armies on the battlefields. After repairing these motorbikes, they were sold for civil use. In the meantime, Giuseppe found himself constantly at odds with his four brothers which would lead to his split from the company in 1946. It was that same year he founded BBC Automobil. In 1952, he also founded MotoBi. With Giuseppe out of the picture, his younger brother, Giovanni, took over the direction of the family business. While Giovanni did not have the design expertise Giuseppe did, he did excel when it came to organizing and management. Because of this, he was able to provide the design team with all the resources they needed to develop the Letizia series. This became the forerunner of the legendary Leoncino series that began its decade-long run in 1950. This came to an end once the Japanese motorcycles began to dominate the European market, putting companies like Benelli into a financial crisis. In order to stay in business and compete, it needed to reinvent itself as a production company once again. It would be at this time the financially challenged Benelli would be purchased by Italian-Argentine industrialist, Alejandro de Tomaso, in 1971. This is the same Tomaso that founded De Tomaso Automobili in Modena in 1959 before acquiring Maserati, Innocenti, Ghia, and Vignale. Shortly after acquiring Benelli, the 750 Sei would make its impressive introduction to the global market that would put the company back in the running as a world-class motorcycle manufacturer.
Along Comes Benelli Sei 900
The Sei 900 series became a spawn of the 1972 Sei 750, which made history as the first six-cylinder motorcycle produced in the world. The English translation of the Italian word, "Sei" is "Six." Despite this new breed of motorcycle, there were a series of delays and setbacks that prevented the Sei 900 from launching until 1974. At the time, this new model sat at the asking price of $3,995.00 USD. The design of the engine of the Sei 750 was similar to the Honda CB500. The only difference was two extra pots that set it apart from everything else. The inline-six displaced 747cubic centimeters, which was fed by three 29-millimeter Dell'Orto carbs. This served as a designer's obstacle to synchronizing all six units to work out this friendlier arrangement. The gearbox was a five-speed that sent up to seventy-five horsepower to the rear wheel through a single drive chain. At the time, a six-into-six exhaust was considered unique, as was the sound coming from the chrome tips. The bike's styling had a fairly thin saddle and was more square compared to the motorcycles produced by the Japanese market. There was also a pair of disc brakes up front, as well as a drum at the rear. At the time, there were complaints of this bike's failure to deliver optimal performance in its gauges and switchgear.
When 1979 came around, the Sei 750 was upgraded to 906cc and the exhaust was now back to a six-in-two system. This is when the Sei 900 series officially began in 1979 with its unique duplex drive chain. It featured wire wheels and a rear disc brake that replaced the layout of the gold-colored rims and drum unit of the Sei 750. The Sei 900 also had a side stand, along with the safety feature requirement of the stand to be in proper position before this motorcycle could start. In 1983, the Sei 900 sold for $5,400.00 USD and remained in production until 1987. At the time, the Sei 900 series was considered an outrageous flash bike that was rare, expensive, handsome, performant, quirky, and distinctively European. For a decade, the Sei 900 brought forth a motorcycle brand that later became dubbed the Benelli Sei Sport, which was technically the 1990 Sei 900 as we know it. According to Fichas Motor, the specifications of the 1990 Sei 900 had a 905-cc displacement with its in-line, six-cylinder, four-stroke engine. At 8,500 revs per minute, it had an eighty horsepower output. The maximum speed this bike was capable of was almost one hundred and twenty miles per hour. When fully fueled and ready to go, this bike weighs nearly five hundred and fifty pounds.
In 2005, Benelli became the acquisition of Qianjiang Motorcycle, which is owned by Geely Holding Group. Still in business today, it is the second oldest Italian-based motorcycle business. It still has the design, development, and marketing teams working out of the Benelli Q.J. headquarters in Pesaro, Italy. The actual production of the motorcycles takes place with its parent company, which is located in Wenling, China.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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