The Gilera History

The history of the Gilera company began in the early 1900s with the launch of the VT 317, the first motorbike designed by Giuseppe Gilera, in 1909. After the first World War, Gilera’s 500cc flathead motorbikes won the top international races. The mid-1930s saw the arrival of overhead models like the Quattro Bulloni 500 and the Otto Bulloni. 1936 marked the launch of the Rondine, a futuristic racing bike with compressor and 500cc straight-four engine. The Rondine set a host of world records (274.181 km/h on a flying kilometre in 1937: a feat that remained unbeaten for nearly twenty years) and took Dorino Serafini to the 1939 European Championship title.

After the war, Gilera returned with the new Saturno 500 and a range of medium-small engines. On the race track, the new four-cylinder 500cc models dominated the Moto GP World Championship, the stars of epic duels with Norton, Moto Guzzi and MV Agusta, and won six rider titles between 1950 and 1957. Umberto Masetti was world champion in 1950 and 1952, followed by Geoff Duke (three world titles) and Libero Liberati (one title). Gilera also clocked up six constructors world titles, three Tourist Trophy victories, seven Italian titles and a spectacular record-breaking victory by Bruno Francisci in the Milan-Taranto. Overall, by the time of its withdrawal from racing in 1957, Gilera had won 40 world Grand Prix. It was a redoubtable competitor in offroad races too, dominating the International Six Days events. On the market, Gilera made its reputation with its medium-cylinder touring bikes - Giubileo, Rossa, Turismo, Sport - turning out impressive production figures; its top-of-the-range models, in addition to the Saturno (the choice of Italy’s armed forces) included the 300 Bicilindrica.

In 1969 Gilera joined the Piaggio Group, which re-launched the historic two-ring brand by focusing on production of medium and medium-small models and a range of road and offroad bikes. Gilera’s performance in Cross and Regularity races revived the traditional splendour of its name, with the support of leading-edge innovations such as the futuristic 125 Bicilindrica Cross. With the 1980s came a new four-stroke dual-shaft single-cylinder engine—initially 350 and 500cc, later in a 600cc model—which reached its peak on the RC enduro series (600 and 750), with two class victories in the Paris-Dakar and an “outright” in the Pharaoh Rally. In the 125 class, Gilera led the field with the all-powerful SPO2 and the futuristic CX125.

Gilera returned to the 250 cc Moto GP World Championship in 1992 and 1993. Production was transferred to Pontedera in 1993, where the brand focused on development of sport scooters like the Runner, an innovative road scooter-bike, now available in four-stroke four-value 125 and 200cc versions. In 2000, Gilera expanded its range with the revolutionary DNA, a “stripped down” automatic that took the scooter-bike concept into a new dimension. The end of 2003 saw the debut of the Nexus maxiscooter, marking Gilera’s return to the 500cc class. More than 40 hp, sophisticated design solutions and easy driving made the Nexus the sportiest scooter on the market.

In 2007 the Gilera GP 800 is the fastest and most powerful scooter seen to date: dual-cylinder, 8 valves, 839cc, electronic injection, liquid cooled, 75 hp. The Gilera GP 800 is the link between the performance and pleasure of a mid-range model and the practical features of a scooter with loading capacity, aerodynamic protection and driving comfort. The other outstanding new entry, in 2007, is the Gilera Fuoco: with its striking design and dual-ignition, electronic injection 500cc engine, the Fuoco is the standard-bearer for the Piaggio Group’s exclusive “three-wheel” technology: a fundamental development in safety and riding pleasure.

In 2001 the two-ring brand made an unexpected move when it entered the 125 class World Championship, a return to racing made possible by the Piaggio Group’s acquisition of Spain’s Derbi. With young driver Manuel Poggiali (Republic of San Marino), Gilera was one of the leaders in the 125 category. On 20 May, at Le Mans, Manuel engineered a spectacular race to finish first in the French Grand Prix and put Gilera back on top of the podium. By the end of the season, Poggiali had scored two more victories (the Portuguese GP in Estoril and the Comunitat Valenciana GP) and crowned an extraordinarily consistent performance to become 125 World Champion, adding another title to the Gilera hall of fame, 44 years after the last world title won by Libero Liberati.