’72 Benelli Tornado 650
“This is the roadburner Italian style. Neutral,well damped,geared high,stiff on the buff, sharp to the ear,fleet and masculine. Italian engineers have a whole different set of priorities so that this vertical twin is truly different from other vertical twins”, so says Cycle World magazine back in 1972. And they were right. The Benelli Tornado 650 was quite different from British twins of the time. It had a somewhat familiar (British) sound, maybe a bit sharper, but that is where the similarities ended. The Tornado was also quite different from its twin cylinder Italian brethren, Ducati and Moto Guzzi. The Tornado handled quicker than the long legged Ducati 750 and not as heavily as the shaft drive Guzzi, it really was well balanced and easy to ride.
Over the years Benelli tried everything from mini-bikes, (which were actually somewhat successful), to small two strokes sold under the Wards Riverside name at Montgomery Wards stores throughout the US, to the marvelous 750 Sei. The Sei was a beautiful six cylinder machine with an intoxicating exhaust note. One thing about the Sei that caught everybody’s attention was how much the motor looked and felt like a Honda 500 Four with two extra cylinders added on, it really was a dead ringer for the Honda powerplant. The Benelli 750 Sei was a great motorcycle that didn’t sell, it was just too expensive for what you got.
I found this morning on ebay, a reasonably good condition Tornado 650 S that could be a good project for someone looking for a unique ride. The Benelli’s are actually pretty simple to work on, the main issue will be finding hard parts for the bike. This one only has 1658 miles on it and the owner says it starts and runs, OK that’s good. It looks as though it may have hit the ground at one time or another but nothing serious, looks to me more like a fall over than a crash or, if it was crashed, it was at a pretty low speed. Benelli’s of the era were a bit sketchy when it came to general build quality. Wiring was, at best, iffy (and you thought Lucas electrics on British bikes were bad??!!), chrome was not much better than a piece of tin foil and ergonomics were just a bit shy of torture. However…good useable power and superb handling made all the other things seem trivial.
A Benelli Tornado is a nice little piece of history that will be a rewarding ride. The one I found today doesn’t seem to need all that much other than a couple of cosmetic fixes, a carb clean, battery…the standard stuff, a good polish and some tires. With all that done, this is what it will look like…
To quote Cycle World Magazine once more, “The Benelli 650 is definitely worth a try for the person who is willing to look at things differently”. Click on the pic’s below for more info and a lot of pictures.