STORM SURGE

This in­car­na­tion of the Ital­ian par­al­lel twin is called the 650S. Does that ‘S’ stand for ‘storm’ or ‘squall’, pon­ders Paul Miles…

Real Classic - - Benelli Tornado -

Walk­ing rounnd the shiny blue Ital­iann bike (why is

it Latin bi­kees only ex­ist in two states; ul­tra-shiny or tree trunk brown with rust? I’ve never seen a gen­tly pati­nated ex­am­ple) I ex­pe­ri­enced a slight sense of déjà vu. A few years ago I was lucky enough to test a very early ex­am­ple of the 650 Tor­nado, badged a Mo­tobi (see RC88), whereas this later twin proudly dis­played the ram­pant Benelli lion and crown of stars. Fam­i­lies, eh?

Al­though fun­da­men­tally sim­i­lar, the later ma­chines dif­fer in a few im­por­tant ar­eas. Most ob­vi­ously, this Benelli has a huge, rub­ber-mounted but­ton on the bars. It must op­er­ate ei­ther the world’s loud­est and most pow­er­ful horn or, whis­per it qui­etly, an elec­tric start. The beau­ti­ful – but al­most im­pos­si­ble to de­ci­pher – art deco in­stru­ments and quite hope­less switchgear had also been re­placed in the Mk2 ver­sions with al­most-use­ful han­dle­bar con­trols and wor­thy but unin­spir­ing-look­ing clocks, sim­i­lar to those found on other mod­els in the range. By the time this cracker rolled off the line in 1972 De To­maso had taken the helm and was busy try­ing to bring the en­tire Benelli range up to date in both style and man­u­fac­tur­ing pro­cesses.

This mod­erni­sa­tion led, iron­i­cally, to the pre­ma­ture demise of the Tor­nado model. The 1970s needed over­head cams and mul­ti­ple cylin­ders to woo prospec­tive buy­ers, not a bor­ing old pushrod twin. Yet, back in 1967 when it was first dis­played at the Mi­lan show (where else?), the 650 pushrod twins were by­words for per­for­mance. With hor­i­zon­tally split crankcases se­curely grasp­ing a mas­sive, four bear­ing crank and un­der­square dimensions of 84mm x 58mm, this new twin promised lots of revs and fewer leaks than its mar­ketlead­ing Bri­tish cousins. De­spite be­ing well re­ceived, ex­ten­sive test­ing, in­clud­ing 40,000 mile shake­down rides that re­vealed no sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems, they de­layed the launch un­til 1970.

The orig­i­nal, kick­start-only bike claimed 50bhp and a kerb­side weight of 210kg. Sales proved steady, rather than spec­tac­u­lar, so for the 1972 sea­son they un­veiled the ma­chine you see here, the elec­tric start, Se­ries Two Tor­nado S.

Pho­tos by Paul Miles

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