Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Lost and found - the original Gilera factory

In Arcore I dropped in at a motorcycle shop, enjoying the fact that in Italy they're still that - a shop with a mix of motorcycles, from classic to nearly new: little of the corporate nonsense I grumbled of in issue 10 of  Benzina. Having not been organised enough to have a note of the old Gilera factory's address I asked the staff if anything remained of their hometown's famous motorcycle factory. They had no idea, and nor did anyone else I asked. Oh well, guess it's been knocked down.

So I asked Jan Leek, who seems to know everything about the Italian motorcycle industry and quite a bit more besides: no wonder his articles were required reading in Motorcycle International in the 1980s: Frankly should be working for Google. Not only was Jan more organised than me, when he turned up at the old factory a decade ago he had all his questions ready, and old photos to prompt memories and make comparisons valid.

Guess what? It's still a factory of sorts, and the old Gilera family villa's next door. But nobody he asked realised the fabulous history they were part of; Remember, this wasn't just any old motorcycle factory, this was one of the biggest in the world and built bikes like the 500/4 that Geoff Duke wrested with (above) on his way to world championships. How quickly we forget...

And here's the current Google streetview of the factory - the old family villa is off to the right, behind the trees

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