Benelli is an Italian motorcycle manufacturing company founded back in 1911, in Pesaro, Italy. Originally Teresa Benelli. Once she became a widow she invested all her money into a company in order for her six sons to get a decent job. At first, the company was called Benelli Garage and handled the repair of cars and motorcycles and could also produce the spare parts needed for those repairs.
Because they were very good manufacturers and somewhat engineers, the Benelli boys came up in 1920 with their first engine produced completely in-house. It was a 75 cc single-cylinder two stroke engine and it was adapted to a bicycle frame. In 1921, the company built its first motorcycle, based on the 75 cc engine, which had become by then a 98 cc one.
In two years time, Benelli became interested in motorsports and sent Tonino Benelli on the track to ride a racing version of the company's first bike. After a few years, Tonino became successful in motorsports and riding a Benelli 175 won the Italian championship in 1927, 1928, 1930 and 1931. A year after his latest success (1932), Tonino tragically died in a road accident.
Just on the break of World War II, the Italian company presented a four-cylinder supercharged 250cc racing bike. They wanted to use this bike in the 1940 season but because of the start of the war their plans failed. Another downside of the second World War was that Benelli seized production until 1949, the same year that Giuseppe Benelli left the company and founded Motobi.
Business continued without him and the Benelli company had a few bikes on sale by the time 1951 came. The most notable are the 98cc and 125cc Leoncino models, available in both two-stroke and four-stroke. Almost ten years passed until 1962 when Benelli and Motobi were able to produce around 300 motorcycles and had a total of 550 employees.
Benelli underwent some rough time, as all European motorcycle manufacturers did, when Japanese companies entered the European market. Although they were selling a lot of bikes on the American market, by the the late 70s came Benelli halted production.
This lasted for a few years, until Giancarlo Selci decided to back up and revive Benelli which proved to be a wrong move, things not working out for Selci. Benelli had to wait until 1995 to meet somebody capable of reviving the brand. This person was Andrea Merloni who helped to the development of the Tornado 900 Tre super sport bike in 2002.
At the current moment, the Italian manufacturer is part of the Chinese group Qianjiang.