Front and left hand side view. Benelli is possibly the oldest European motorcycle factory still in operation. The Benelli Garage was established in Pesaro, Italy in 1911, repairing motorcycles and bicycles and producing spare parts required for repairs. In 1919 the first Benelli produced motorcycle was presented to the public. In 1920 the company built its first complete engine in-house, a single-cylinder two-stroke 75 cc model, immediately adapted to a bicycle frame. A year later in 1921, Benelli built its first motorcycle that used their own engine, which had by then become a 98 cc model.
By 1923 the Benelli marque had taken to the competition track, with son Antonio (Tonino) showing natural skill as a racer. Riding a Benelli 175, Tonino Benelli won four Italian championship titles in five years: in 1927, 1928, 1930 and 1931. Sadly a crash in 1932 cut his career short and in 1937 he died following a road accident. Nevertheless Tonino had spearheaded Benelli's racing success. The Benelli marque, under various racing champions, won numerous victories in the European World Championship as well as the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy (TT) - the most sought after trophy in motorcycle racing.
In 1969 Kelvin 'Kel' Carruthers, one of Australia's most successful and well-known motorcycle racers, won the 250cc World Motorcycle Championship riding Benellis. The Benelli distributors of the day brought the machine, now in the National Motor Museum's collection, to Australia for promotional displays in 1974. Sadly the bike lacks engine internals. There has been some suggestion this motorcycle may have been built five or six years earlier than originally thought, though this claim has not been fully substantiated. While this motorcycle was never ridden by Australian Kel Carruthers, it is a rare example of an exotic racing motorcycle from a highly sought after marque.