The Gilera Grand Prix racer.


The revolutionary Honda 750 Four. The roots of its engine architecture go all the way back to Italy.

 2019 celebrated the 50th anniversary of the launch of the Honda CB750, a ground-breaking motorcycle design that became the basic blueprint for other Japanese manufacturers to emulate. It was a breakthrough in its engine architecture – an across the frame single overhead camshaft four-cylinder four-stroke at a price that motorcyclists of the day could afford. When Kawasaki, Suzuki and Yamaha released their spin on the same fundamental concept, motorcyclists had a range of machinery to choose from that provided outstanding performance, reliability, handling and finish. During the 1970s, these machines were often referred to, perhaps somewhat unfairly, as UJMs, or the Universal Japanese Motorcycle. This same engine layout still dominates the model line-ups of the Japanese and many European manufacturers to this day. 

However, it was a design by Italian engineers Carlo Gianini and Piero Remor for a competition racing engine that cast the die for this configuration. After graduating from Rome University in 1923, the two engineers were resolute about producing a single overhead camshaft (SOHC) four-cylinder engine that, uniquely, would sit transversely across the frame for better cooling of the cylinders. 

Although Belgium company F.N. and American motorcycle manufacturer Henderson had already built four-cylinder motorcycles in 1905 and 1912, the designs placed the engine longitudinally in the frame. This configuration tended to overheat the rear two cylinders as not enough cooling air could reach them.

After acquiring a small workshop in Rome, the two young engineers came to the attention of a wealthy industrialist Count Bonmartini. In 1924 the Count formed a company called GRB using the initials of the trio’s surname. The prototype was a SOHC design, governed by bevel gears via a shaft in front of the vertical cylinders. It boasted a bore and stroke of 51 x 60mm for a capacity of 490cc and produced approximately 26 to 28bhp at 6000rpm. Nevertheless, the project was shelved for several years but was resurrected in 1927 when Count Bonmartini and kindred spirit Count Lancelloti injected capital into a new engineering firm called Officina Precisione Romana Automobili, or OPRA. 

The larger premises were equipped with precision tooling, and Gianini and Remor developed several different designs. By 1928 the engine was ready to be fitted into a chassis, and a rider was sought. Piero Taruffi was a prominent racer In Italian national events on his 500cc Norton and had recently finished his engineering studies. He was a natural choice to become OPRA’s development rider.

Count Bonmartini on the left and Piero Tafuffi middle.

The prototype had evolved into a mixture of air and water-cooling with the four cylinders cast as a single block with individual heads that sported double overhead camshafts. It utilised two valves per cylinder set at 90 degrees in a hemispherical combustion chamber. Engine power was believed to be 32 to 34 bhp at 7000rpm, which was exceptional for the era. Bonmartini

entered the machine in Rome’s Royal GP with former Italian National Champion Umberto Faraglia as the rider. Faraglia led the race for three laps, but ironically Taruffi took the lead, and the OPRA blew up chasing the Norton.

Taruffi went on to win the 1928 Italian National Championship on his Norton and finally got to race the OPRA in 1929 at the Belfiore circuit in Mantua. Piero led until the penultimate lap when the engine again blew up. The disappointment of the OPRA team saw the racer retired to one side of the workshop. 

Count Bonmartini by now was putting his energies into a new aviation company he had formed, Compagnia Nazionale Aeronautica or CNA, utilising the talents of Giannini to design experimental aero engines. Remor, however, fell out of favour with Bonmartini and left the company. The Count was still very much a racer, though, resurrecting the OPRA project with Gianini, and draughtsman Luigi Fonzi was brought into the project.

Supercharging was now seen as the best solution to boosting horsepower, and in 1933 the CNA design sported this technology. It borrowed little from the OPRA design as the cylinders now had a bore and stroke of 52 x 58mm and were canted forward by 45 degrees to allow a supercharger to sit above the crankcases. The cylinders were water-cooled while the cylinder heads utilised double overhead camshafts (DOHC) with two valves per cylinder again set at 90 degrees. Taruffi influenced much of the design and was considered responsible for using a car like supercharger.

By early 1934 the machine was ready for testing and was named Rondine (Swallow) by the Count. Taruffi was not available to test the Rondine due to a racing car accident, and a rider named Amilcare Rossetti was enlisted to perform the shakedown runs. 

Piero Taruffi onboard the CNA Rondine.

The CNA Rondine debuted at the 1935 Tripoli GP, with riders Taruffi and Rossetti claiming 1st and 2nd. Both machines sported revolutionary “dolphin” fairings as Taruffi was well aware of the benefits of good aerodynamics, thanks to his car racing experience. The next race was the Coppa Acerbo in Pesaro, and although CNA entered a three-rider line-up, Taruffi took the Rondine to a win. The Italian G.P. followed but was a disappointment for the CNA team as all three riders had mechanical problems, with the only consolation a 5th place and a lap record of 107mph (172.2kph).

Taruffi did capture several world records for the 500cc class over the Kilometre and mile at 152mph (244.62kph), but the racing days of the Rondine were over. Count Bonmartini decided to retire and sold the company to the Caproni aeroplane organisation. Gianni Caproni had no interest in the Rondine, and he charged Taruffi with finding a buyer for the machines. 

Not far from the Monza Circuit, motorcycle manufacturer Guiseppe Gilera based in Arcore received Taruffi with open arms. He insisted that Piero accompany the six Rondine machines and work for him. Gilera also knew from experience that publicity from success in racing sold motorcycles.

The first thing that Gilera wanted to address was the fragility of the design’s crankshaft. Taruffi and Gilera worked on a redesign together, solving the problem by adopting roller bearings in duralium cages. Taruffi refined the Roots-type supercharger, and a new frame replaced the sheet steel unit with a tubular steel design but retained the pressed steel front forks with a single spring and friction damping. At the rear, a triangulated swinging fork was used and controlled by springs carried in horizontal tubes at wheel spindle height that utilised large friction dampers.

It was 1937 when Giuseppe Gilera decided to test the water in international racing. Success did not occur immediately but finally came when their number one rider, Aldrighetti, won the Italian G.P. at Monza. Taruffi had by now decided to concentrate on automobile racing. However, in October 1937, he briefly became the holder of the absolute motorcycle land speed record of 170.37mph (271.18kph) on the A4 Autostrada with the supercharged 500cc Gilera racer. Although it only stood for over a month, until Ernst Jakob Henne on a 500cc supercharged BMW exceeded the mark in November, his record for the hour of 127mph (205kph) stood for many years.

By 1939 the blown Gilera 500 produced 92bhp at 8,000rpm, enough to put it on equal terms with the supercharged BMW flat twins while possessing superior handling. It was enough for Gilera to win the European Championship (the precursor to the World Championship) when Dorino Serafini triumphed at the Swedish, German and Irish GP. The racing department developed an air-cooled 250cc four the following year using the experience gained on the 500 but with the supercharger mounted in front of the crankcases. It never saw competition but became the basis for the post-war 500cc Gilera.

The 1937 Gilera Rondine.

After the hostilities of WW2, in November 1946, the Fédération Internationale des Clubs Motocyclistes (predecessor of the Fédération Internationale Motocycliste) banned supercharging from international competition. Without forced induction, the power of the 500cc racer dropped to almost half, from over 90bhp to 45bhp with negligible weight saving. The decision was quickly made to develop a new machine based on the technical advances of the Ing. Piero Remor designed pre-war 250cc four-cylinder. Taruffi had brought Remor into the team prior to the war, although he was initially pre-occupied in the prototype department before embarking on the new 500cc four-cylinder.

But the water-cooled pre-war CNA inspired racer had one last hurrah. With a pair of Weber carburettors replacing the supercharger, Nello Pagani managed to win the 1946 Italian National Championship. Sporadic appearances in 1947 and 1948 brought little success and saw the curtain finally close on the pre-war Gilera racer. 

Ing. Remor’s new design was ready by the end of 1947. The air-cooled engine had its individual cylinders inclined at 30 degrees. It boasted double overhead camshafts with two valves per cylinder driven by gears running between the two pairs of cylinders. Lubrication was by wet sump incorporating the four-speed gearbox with a wet multi-plate clutch. Weber supplied a new model carburettor for each cylinder, and ignition problems were solved by using a Marelli magneto mounted vertically behind the cylinders. Primary drive was taken between the first and second cylinders, transmitting the 55hp at 8,500rpm produced to the rear wheel. 

The engine was mounted in a steel tube frame which utilised a blade girder-type front forks with a central coil spring and torsion-bar swinging-arm rear suspension. What was impressive was the noticeable low weight of 125kg (275lb). And with the benefit of constant improvement, the design remained at the forefront of racing over the next decade.

But success was not to come immediately. At its race debut in May 1948 at Cesena, the experienced Nello Pagani could only describe the machine as “unrideable”. Much of 1948 was spent refining the Gilera by working on its high-speed handling and reliability due to its poor lubrication system. It didn’t stop Masserinni from winning the Italian G.P. on the Gilera, even though his teammate Bandirola blew up his machine without completing a lap.

1949 saw the newly named Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme introduce the first 500cc World Championship series. The Gilera team riders consisted of Pagani, Bandirola and Arcisco Artesiani. The Championship was held over six rounds, with British rider Les Graham on the AJS E90 “Porcupine” twin beating Pagani and Gilera by a single point, which he gained from setting the fastest lap by a finishing competitor at Berne. Pagani had victories at Assen and Monza, taking second place in the Championship, while Artesiani claimed third place with consistent finishes in the top three at most rounds.  

The 1955 Gilera four.

Ing. Remor suddenly left the Arcore factory at the end of the season, taking rider Artesiani and chief mechanic Arturo Magni with him. It’s fair to say that relationships between Remor, Guiseppe Gilera and some of the riders had become strained to breaking point. Remor also took the drawings of the next phase of the Gilera’s development to rival manufacturer M.V. Agusta. The 1950 M.V. Agusta racer was unveiled during the offseason and was seen by many as a clone of the Gilera four.

After Remor’s exit, Guiseppe Gilera re-hired Piero Taruffi as team manager and engaged Remor’s former assistants Franco Passoni and Alessandro Colombo as combined technical department heads. The main changes made to the racer was the adoption of paired cylinder heads, larger 30mm carburettors, full hub width front brakes and a return to the pre-war rear suspension system of horizontal cylindrical spring boxes beneath the saddle and friction damping. The engine’s lubrication system was also improved, and the power unit was now making 52bhp at 9000rpm.

For the 1950 season, Umberto Masetti was brought in to replace Artesiani in the Gilera rider line-up alongside Pangani and Bandirola. As only four of the highest points scoring places counted towards the six-round World Championship, Gilera opted to miss the opening round at the Isle of Man. They returned for the Belgian round at Spa, which was also the scene of the MV Agusta’s debut in the hands of Artesiani. Geoff Duke riding for Norton led initially until tyre troubles forced his retirement, giving Masetti the win with Pagani second and Bandirola in fourth for Gilera.

The Gilera team repeated the same finishing places at the following Dutch T.T. in Assen. In poor conditions at the Swiss GP in Geneva, Masetti managed a second-place, although he could only achieve sixth at the Ulster T.T. on the Clady circuit behind winner Geoff Duke. Duke won again in the final round at Monza, but Masetti managed second place to claim the title by a point for the Acore factory.

Pasoni redesigned the Gilera’s running gear during the off-season, taking a page out of Norton’s book by utilising a tube duplex frame with swinging fork rear suspension and hydraulic telescopic forks of the Norton type. Also, smaller diameter 19inch (48.26cm) wheels were adopted with a wider rim.

Despite this, Duke went on to win both the 1951 500cc and 350cc World Championship, the first double title in a single season. The reigning World Champion, Masetti, could only manage third place while his new teammate Milani took second in the Championship.

1952 saw only minor modifications to the Gilera with the addition of a nose fairing and a redesign of the fuel tank for better ergonomics. Unfortunately, Geoff Duke put himself out of contention after an accident in a non-championship event at Schotten in Germany. Massetti went on to win the 500cc World Championship, the second title for himself and Gilera, with wins at the Dutch T.T. and Belgian G.P.

Team manager Taruffi broke with tradition for the 1953 season by signing Irishman Reg Armstrong and Englishman Dickie Dale alongside Masetti, Malani and Guiseppe Colnago as part of their rider line-up. But the bombshell came later when it was announced that the 1951 double World Champion Geoff Duke would be riding for Gilera as well after a falling out with the Norton management. 

500cc and 350cc World Champion Geoff Duke on the Gilera.

Ing. Pasoni carried out a number of modifications to the Gilera after extensive testing at Monza by the foreign riders, led by Geoff Duke. This brought about what many called the Nortonised Gilera, although the engine remained almost unchanged. The season opener was the Isle of Man T.T., and with the likes of Duke and Armstrong in its rider line-up, Gilera contested the event for the first time. Unfortunately, while dueling with Ray Amm, Duke crashed out on soft bitumen when accelerating away from Quarter Bridge. The best Gilera could manage was a third-place for Armstrong. But for the rest of the classics, Gilera dominated, with Duke clinching the World Championship.

Development of the Gilera didn’t stop, and Ing. Passoni instigated a major redesign of the cycle parts and engine for the 1954 season. Duke again dominated, winning five rounds in a row, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland and The Nations G.P. at Monza, out of the nine-round series. However, the Ulster round was not counted as it did not meet the FIM minimum distance as officials shortened it due to bad weather.

Apart from adopting a large air scoop for the front brake and enclosed dolphin fairings for all the factory bikes, the 1955 500cc Gilera was unaltered. Gilera’s first World Champion, Massetti, had left the team to join the MV Agusta squad. The Gilera rider line-up now consisted of Duke, Armstrong, Liberati, Milani, and Colnago. Martin, Monneret, and Veer also rode for the team. 

1955 was to be Duke’s final dominant season. Wins came at the French, the British, the West German, and the Dutch T.T. Geoff may have won more races, but the Gilera’s had suffered from a batch of improperly heat-treated valve springs. Armstrong finished second in the Championship and Colgano fourth. Gilera also wrapped up its fourth 500cc Constructors World Championship. But it was the privateer rider’s strike at the Dutch round that would undermine Gilera’s 1956 season. Duke and Armstrong supported the strike and were banned from the Grand Prix for the first half of 1956, while Colnago and Milani were suspended for four months. Piero Taruffi also quit the team as manager, and Giuseppe’s enthusiastic son Ferrucio Gilera took over.

The 1955 Gilera Grand Prix racer.

Ing. Passoni, however, had made more improvements for 1956 during the offseason. A new dustbin fairing with superior aerodynamics to that of the previous design. The frame was also beefed up, and the exhaust system now boasted four megaphones upping the power output to 70bhp at 11,000rpm, although the racer’s weight had increased to 150kg (330lb).

Due to the FIM ban on its riders, Gilera missed the Isle of Man T.T. and its Dutch equivalent. MV Agusta had signed another English rider named John Surtees, who romped home in first place at both T.T.’s. Duke built up a one-minute lead at Spa in Belgium on his return to the classics and set the fastest lap. Unfortunately, poor fuel quality destroyed a piston, and Duke retired two laps from the finish. Surtees won, his third of the six-round series, and had an almost unassailable lead in the Championship.

Some hope appeared for Duke when Surtees broke his arm during the 350cc race in Germany at the Solitude track. His Gilera teammates salvaged some pride with Armstrong winning the race with Pierre Monneret third. Again, misfortune came Duke’s way, and magneto trouble spelt the end of any Championship aspirations.

Duke came off at the next round, the Ulster G.P., and Armstrong suffered gearbox failure. This left the final round, The Nations G.P. at Monza. Gilera had given Liberati a more powerful and better handling machine in the hope of a popular Italian home victory. Much to the crowd’s dismay, Duke caught and passed his teammate. After a fierce battle, Geoff held on to win his first race of the season. Both Gilera riders had recorded the same time to claim the fastest lap. 

In October that year, Giuseppe Gilera’s only son died tragically of a heart attack while visiting a subsidiary in Argentina. Giuseppe lost not only his son but also his passion for Grand Prix racing. From this point on, the company went into an irreparable gradual decline.

The previous month Reg Amstrong had won at the Avus circuit in Berlin, Germany, and announced to Gilera that he was retiring. As a result, Bob McIntyre was drafted into the team on Duke’s recommendation for the 1957 season. But misfortune followed Duke into the season opener at Imola, where he crashed spectacularly and put himself out for most of the classics. Liberati won the opening 500cc Grand Prix at Hockenheim in Germany from McIntyre, who suffered electrical issues. Liberati “took the double” by winning the 350cc class riding the new sleeved down version of the 500cc machine. 

McIntyre struck back at the Isle of Man, winning the 500cc and 350cc Golden Jubilee T.T.’s. A new version of the 500cc racer had arrived midweek and featured a lighter frame with a removable bottom frame rail copied from the 350cc version and a neater “dustbin” fairing complete with built-in pannier fuel tanks. The end result was the first over 100mph (160.934kph) lap of the Island course. Aussie Bob Brown had been drafted into the team and repaid the opportunity with two fine third places.

At the Dutch T.T., McIntyre fell after stopping to change a faulty spark plug while pursuing the reigning World Champion, Surtees, on the MV Augusta. The result was an ongoing neck injury that would plague McIntyre for the remainder of the season. Liberati claimed second place to Surtees, adding to his points tally. At Spa in Belgium, the new team manager for the season, Roberto Persi, appropriated Brown’s Gilera when Liberati’s machine refused to fire. Liberati went on to win the race, although he was later disqualified after protests by MV Agusta and Norton. The race win was handed to Jack Brett on a Norton. A counter-protest by Gilera finally had the race awarded to Liberati in January 1958.

Liberto Liberati astride the 1957 Gilera Grand Prix racer.

Duke returned for the final two rounds of the Grand Prix season at the Ulster and Italian Grand Prix. Liberati surprised many by winning the penultimate Ulster Grand Prix after Surtees, who was riding away, had machine failure. MacIntyre and Duke took second and third, respectively. In Italy, McIntyre had outclassed Liberati by winning the 350cc category but could not make the grid for the 500cc event ending up in Hospital with a bilious attack. Liberati sealed the 500cc Championship at Monza with a win while Duke finished in second with Milani in third. 

Monza brought down the curtain on the 1957 Grand Prix season, with Liberati 500cc World Champion and Gilera achieving a fifth manufacturers title. Unexpectedly, Gilera, Moto Guzzi and Mondial all pulled out of racing. The tragic loss of Guiseppe’s son and the increasing cost of racing made the decision easy for Gilera to make. But sadly, it also heralded the end of a golden era in road racing.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2022. Images courtesy of, and


The B.R.M. V16 P15 and Vanwall VW5 continuation cars.

The 1958 Vanwall VW5

For some time now, rare and expensive classic cars have continued to multiply in value, year on year, fetching tens of millions of dollars at auction. They are seen as “a good investment” by many, but the limited supply of these classics has witnessed the phenomenon of continuation cars take off. Continuations such as the Jaguar D Type, the Lightweight E- Type and XKSS, as well as Aston Martin’s DB4 GT, Zagato, and James Bond “Goldfinger” DB5, to name a few, have been made available again in limited numbers.  Constructed by the manufacturers in their specialty departments, these vehicles attract a premium price using original plans and drawings. However, there are plenty of collectors with deep enough pockets to purchase them.

In October and November last year, two more series of continuation cars were announced, and interestingly they are significant 1950’s British Formula One racers. Three Supercharged B.R.M. 1.5 litre V16 P15 Mk1’s will be constructed to celebrate British Racing Motors’ first Grand Prix 70 years ago. The other is the Vanwall VW5 which won the inaugural Formula One Constructor’s Championship 63 years ago in 1958. Six of these cars are also to be completed this year.

Interestingly, these two Grand Prix racers’ story is entwined both in the past and present.

The 1952 B.R.M. Supercharged V12 P15.

Raymond Mays conceived British Racing Motors to champion British engineering ability post-WW2 to the world. Mays brought together a consortium of leading British automotive firms such as Joseph Lucas Ltd, Rubery Owen, and the Standard Motor Company to fund or “donate” components for the project. The engineering drawings for 135-degree V16 powered car were completed in Spring 1947 and drew on technology from the all-conquering pre-war Mercedes and Auto Union Grand Prix cars. The P15 was unveiled in 1949 to the press at R.A.F. base Folkingham with Mays at the wheel.

1950 was the inaugural year of the first Formula One World Championship, but due to reliability problems and the lack of development, the B.R.M. P15 V16 Mk1 struggled. By 1952 Stirling Moss had been drafted into the team while Mays pursued the great Juan Manuel Fangio services. The V16 engine produced 600bhp (450kW) at 12,000rpm, but because of the P15’s ferocious power delivery, due to the two-stage centrifugal supercharger, it not surprisingly suffered poor driveability. Britain’s finest Formula One driver of the time, Stirling Moss, was to comment in Motor Sport magazine, “The brakes were OK, the acceleration was incredible until you broke traction but everything else, I hated, particularly the steering and the driving position,” he told Motor Sport. “Handling? I don’t remember it having any…”.  But it was the sound of the intricate V16 with its Rolls Royce sourced supercharger that left a lasting impression on anyone that saw it in action. 

Juan Manuel Fangio driving the B.R.M P15 at Goodwood.

When Alfa Romeo withdrew from Formula One in 1952, and with B.R.M.’s missing the non-championship Gran Premio Valentino of Turin, the race became a Ferrari whitewash, prompting the F.I.A. to change Formula One to a 2 litre normally aspirated category. These events brought down the curtain on the P15’s Formula One aspirations, and B.R.M. was put up for sale. It was bought by Alfred and Ernest Owen and their sister Jean Stanley on behalf of Rubery Owen.  The irony of the fate of B.R.M. was that it had provided the motivation for the Vanwall VW5 to be conceived.

Guy Anthony Vandervell was a part of the B.R.M. consortium thanks to his company Thinwall bearings. Vandervell, however, lost patience in 1951 with the racing efforts of B.R.M. and had been testing the water himself, first by using modified Ferrari’s known as the Thinwall Special. This eventually brought about the construction of the first Vanwall, with the chassis designed by Colin Chapman and the aerodynamic bodywork by Frank Costin, which ultimately won the Formula One Constructors World Championship (iniitially called the International Cup for F1 Manufacturers) in 1958.  Britain’s first World Championship.

2.5-litre four-cylinder Vanwall engine was based on the Manx Norton racing motorcycle engine.

The man behind the building of the Vanwall VW5 continuations is a marketing entrepreneur and former offshore powerboat world champion Iain Sanderson, whose Vanwall Group has owned the rights to the Vanwall name since buying it in 2012 from Mahle, the German automotive component manufacturer. Sanderson has customers for two of the six cars, each of which represents a Grand Prix win in its world championship year. Vanwall clinched the Constructors’ Championship title with a Sir Stirling Moss victory in the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix. The cars will be made to the 1958 Vanwall specification in every detail using original blueprints, at a cost of £1.65 million plus V.A.T. They will be powered by a 270bhp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, faithfully recreated to original specification. These cars will be fully race eligible for Historic Racing.

The B.R.M. V16 P15’s are also being painstakingly put together with the help of 20,000 technical drawings with the first going to 81-year-old John Owen the son of B.R.M. team principal Sir Alfred Owen. It has been his ambition to hear the 16-cylinder race car driven in anger again so he and others can relive his childhood experience of the car.

1.5-litre supercharged B.R.M. V12 P15 engine.

“Watching the likes of the Pampas Bull (Gonzalez) and, in particular, Fangio, master the power of the V16 was very special”, said John. “And the fabulous noise of the engine still rings in my ears 70 years on!

“In a selfish way, I have always dreamed of hearing that sound again but now I’d also love to share that sensation with others. To hear the V16 screaming at full tilt for the first time is something special – something you never forget.”

“The cars will be constructed to F.I.A. standards and therefore will be fully eligible for historic racing. Thus, taking the first and most important step in the preservation and growth of the B.R.M. marque – the ability for future generations worldwide to see, and above all, hear, the mighty V16 for years to come.” Three of the B.R.M. 1.5litre supercharged V16 P15 are to be built using chassis numbers allocated in the 1950s but never used. No price has yet been mentioned.

Where the story of these two iconic British examples of 1950’s Formula One cars entwine again is via the company that is manufacturing both continuations series. Rick Hall and his son Rob, of renowned company Hall and Hall, who restore, rebuild, and remanufacture historic racing cars, will be recreating these special racers. Rick and his core personnel are also former B.R.M. technicians.


Words © Geoff Dawes 2021. Photos and video courtesy B.R.M., Vanwall and Wikimedia.

The M 1000 RR

The first M 1000 RR.

The letter “M”. To European performance car officiandos, it is a magic letter that precedes the designation of some of the world’s finest high-performance vehicles.  BMW founded its famous Motorsport sub-brand way back in 1972 to facilitate their successful racing car program from the 1960s although the first official M car made available to the public was the 1978 BMW M1. It was not until 1993 that BMW officially changed the subsidiaries name from BMW Motorsport Gmbh to BMW M Gmbh. Over the years M variants of most of the car brand’s nameplates have been developed along with optional M performance parts and accessories.

In keeping with its sister companies’ tradition, BMW Motorrad’s S 1000 RR has now come in for the “M” treatment. Although BMW Motorrad had previously used the HP (High Performance) moniker for its performance motorcycle range, since 2018 the “M” logo has become more prevalent on the S 1000 RR, with M packages and accessories available for the supersport machine. It was clear the time had come for BMW to release a full M 1000RR to enhance their World Superbike racing program and create a new flagship for their sports motorcycle range. Only 500 of these special motorcycles are to be built with BMW’s eye firmly on FIM Superbike and Superstock glory.

Officially named the M 1000 RR, the motorcycle uses cutting edge technology and materials that lift the “base” model S 1000 RR to a whole new level. And the changes are quite comprehensive. Starting with the heart of the machine, the engine, the M RR is based on the S 1000 RR water-cooled inline four-cylinder unit still utilising BMW ShiftCam technology but with revised variable valve timing and lift. There are lighter rocker arms and machined intake ports with revised geometry enhanced with optimised camshaft timing. There are also new two-ring forged pistons from Mahle bringing an increase in compression ratio from 13.3:1 to 13.5:1 that are 12g lighter. The connecting rods are 85g lighter titanium components by Pankl giving a maximum engine speed of 15,100 rpm compared to the S 1000 RR 14,600 rpm. All the above spells out an increase in horsepower – 156kW (212hp) at 14,500 rpm and maximum torque of 113 Nm at 11,000 rpm compared to the RR’s 152kW (207 hp) at 13,500 rpm both sharing the same 113 Nm of torque at 11,000 rpm. A new titanium Akrapovic exhaust system was added to improve engine breathing and weighs 3,657 g less than the RR stock system.

Lightweight Akraprovic exhaust system.

Based on the S 1000 RR chassis, the M 1000 RR aluminium bridge frame comprises of four gravity die-cast elements that use the engine as a stressed member while tilted at 32 degrees. The rear subframe is constructed from lightweight aluminium tubing to support the rider. BMW refers to it as a “flex frame” due to its optimum interaction with mainframe, the rear frame and swinging arm, allowing the tires the best possible interface with the road. The primary objective though is to achieve winning lap times at the race track.  To add to this philosophy, BMW has also delved into aerodynamics’ new frontier by adding carbon fibre wings to the M 1000 RR’s fairing. Combined with a redesigned high windscreen for better air-flow over the rider’s helmet it has resulted in a maximum total downforce of 16.3 kg (36 pounds) at 300 km/h.

Winglets produce a maximum of 16.3 kg of downforce at 300 km/h.

Just as important as going fast is the ability to slow and stop the motorcycle with reliable controlled and consistent braking.  BMW has worked together with Japanese company Nissin to develop the first M brake caliper designed from World Superbike experience with the bonus of each mono-bloc four-piston caliper weighing 60 g less. The 320mm front brake discs though have been increased in thickness from the RR’s 4.5mm to 5 mm. The suspension has also come in for the M optimization. Just like the RR, the M variant uses 45 mm upside-down fork legs. The triple clamps though are machined from solid aluminium and are 20 g lighter than those fitted to the RR. Although front suspension travel remains the same as the RR at 120 mm, the M’s internals have been heavily modified. The rear Full Floater Pro kinematics rear suspension has revised compression and rebound damping with 1 mm more travel but the lever kinematics have been completely overhauled compared to the RR with a greater degree of mechanical adjustment and a new lighter blue steel spring is fitted.

M four-piston monobloc calipers developed with Nissin.

M carbon wheels are also a feature on the M 1000 RR providing the benefits of lower unsprung weight and a decrease in rotational mass helping acceleration and deceleration while aiding easier changes in direction for even more agility and driving dynamics. The carbon wheels are also 1.7 kg lighter in total than the RR’s cast aluminium items. BMW left no stone unturned to reduce weight with M RR using a lightweight lithium-ion battery. All in all the M 1000 RR weighs in with a DIN kerb weight of 192 kg compared the already lightweight 197 kg of the S 1000 RR

The M 1000 RR also boasts a 6.5 inch TFT display with an M logo starting animation. Through this interface the usual suite of electronic riders’ aids is available including:

“Rain”, “Road”, “Dynamic”, “Race” and “Race Pro1-3” riding modes and the latest generation of the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) and DTC wheelie function with 6-axis sensor box.

Two adjustable throttle curves for optimum response characteristics. Engine braking with threefold adjustable engine drag torque in “Race Pro” mode.

Shift assistant Pro for shifting gears up and down without the clutch. Simple reversibility of the shift pattern for race track use.

ABS Pro settings for RAIN, ROAD, DYNAMIC mode, no ABS Pro in RACE and Race Pro 1-3 mode.

Launch Control for perfect race starts and a pit lane limiter for precise speed in the pits.

M animation on the 6.5 inch TFT screen.

If all of the above is not enough for you BMW also provides an M competition pack that includes high-quality components and exclusive M branding. The anodised aluminium billet parts, folding clutch and handbrake lever, M brake lever guard, M rider footrest system, and M engine protectors are high-quality components. Then there is a comprehensive selection of carbon fibre parts plus a DLC coated M endurance chain (no adjustment or lubricating needed here). To cap off this quite wide-ranging kit is a silver anodised aluminium swingarm which is 220g lighter than the standard swing arm.

The M pack also includes a pillion package and seat cover while an activation code is provided for the M lap trigger that makes it possible to automatically record lap times at the race track using the display.

In Australia the M 1000 RR is priced at $54,167.21 ride away with the M Competition package included in the ride away price is $61,447.20.

Words Geoff Dawes © 2020. Images and video courtesy of BMW Motorrad © 2020

Ducati Release Performance Parts For The Streetfighter V4 And V4 S

Ducati V4 Streetfighter.

It’s pretty hard to imagine that owners and potential owners of the Ducati Streetfighter V4 and V4 S would require more performance from the worlds most extreme naked bike. Ducati obviously thinks so and has released a comprehensive performance-enhancing kit that takes the Streetfighter to a whole new level from its opposition.

Available from the Ducati website in the dedicated section and at all Ducati dealers, the kit is truly comprehensive.

Akrapovic titanium exhaust system. and carbon fibre heel guard.

A full Akrapovic titanium exhaust system developed from racing experience lowers the Streetfighters already impressive low weight by 5.5kg. It comes with a special map which allows the freer-flowing system to integrate with the parameters of the Ducati Traction Control, Ducati Wheelie Control, Ducati Power Launch and Slide Control. The titanium exhaust system also improves mid-range power and torque by a healthy 6%.

Aerodynamics have become the new frontier of motorcycle development, not just in racing but now also on road bikes, and Ducati has been at the forefront of this technology. The performance kit enhances this aspect still further with the structural rigidity and lightweight of biplane carbon fibre wings.

Lightweight 9 spoke forged magnesium wheels, type-approved for single-seater use and type approval as original equipment, reduce the unsprung weight of the wheels by 3kg (-33%) compared to a conventional aluminium wheel and 0.7kg (-10%) of the S versions forged alloy wheels. Inertia is also improved by 40% over a standard wheel and 12% compared to the S models forged aluminium wheels optimising the motorcycle’s dynamics during a change of direction and enhancing rider feel.

Lightweight forged magnesium wheels.

A dry clutch is also available reducing internal engine friction compared to a wet clutch (a dry clutch is standard on the race orientated Panigale V4 R ) while also keeping the engine oil cleaner.  It’s an STM EVO-SBK unit made from billet aluminium and housing a 48-tooth plate pack. Benefits include a more effective “slipper” function during aggressive downshifts and greater fluency when off-throttle in corners. It also creates the sort of music Ducatisti dream about.

The dry clutch also has a carbon fibre clutch cover available that produces optimal cooling of the clutch plates while offering both lightweight and strength.

If you’re looking for more bling, there are adjustable Ducati performance billet aluminium footpegs by Rizoma that boast five different positions and are high quality anodised units incorporating a carbon fibre heel guard. A Ducati designed billet aluminium fuel cap with an anti-tamper system, again by Rizoma, is also on offer.

Dry STM EVO-SBK clutch and carbon fibre cover.

And yes, there’s more. A carbon fibre fuel tank cover compliments the overall appearance of the Streetfighter while a sturdy plastic passenger seat cover is a nice finishing touch and necessary if the forged magnesium wheels are to be used on the road. Ducati has thought of everything, including a pair of handgrips that provide excellent adhesion with gloved hands and also reduces engine vibration through the handlebars.

Accessorised Streetfighter V4

Words Geoff Dawes © 2020. Photographs courtesy Ducati Media House © 2020

The BMW Motorrad M Endurance Chain

A revolution in motorcycle chains.

I have to admit that as a motorcyclist, the occasional bit of tinkering to my pride and joy is generally an enjoyable experience.  But there are some jobs though, that do become a bit of a chore.  Frequent drivetrain maintenance is one of them – I’d sooner be riding my motorcycle.

Well, our friends at BMW Motorrad have come up with a solution that will put a smile on the face of most motorcyclists. The BMW M Endurance chain is a real breakthrough in final drive technology and promises very low maintenance.

Perhaps this is not surprising as the first BMW badged model, the flat-twin R32 of 1923, sported a low maintenance shaft final drive which has been a mainstay of its model line-up for the past 97 years. Now thanks to modern technology, BMW has created a chain with similar qualities.

Like all X-ring chains, the BMW M Endurance chain has a permanent lubricant filling between the rollers and pins, enclosed by X-rings. What is entirely new, however, is that additional lubricant for the rollers is no longer needed, or is any re-tensioning required due to wear.

This has been made possible by using a new coating material for the rollers: tetrahedrally amorphous carbon (ta-C), also known as industrial diamond. This coating is characterized by extreme hardness and places it between the well-known DLC coating (Diamond-Like Carbon) and pure diamond. The ta-C industrial diamond coating does not wear off, and at the same time, it also offers a drastically reduced coefficient of friction.

Thanks to the excellent dry lubrication properties and the elimination of wear, the tetrahedral amorphous carbon-coated rollers offer the maintenance equivalent to that of a shaft drive motorcycle. This includes eliminating the cleaning that is unavoidable with a conventional chain due to thrown off lubricant.

The M Endurance chain is available in 525 pitch, initially for the four-cylinder BMW S 1000 RR and S 1000 XR as an accessory or directly from the factory as an option. According to the German website the recommended retail price is 286.08 €, while a complete chainset including sprocket, chain wheel and small parts costs 425.59 €. If the M Endurance chain is ordered ex-works as an optional extra with a new motorcycle, only 100 Euro will be charged (RRP).

Words © 2020 Geoff Dawes. Photographs courtesy © BMW Motorrad.

Ducati Starts Production Of The Superleggera V4

Ducati V4 Superleggera.

In keeping with Ducati practice since 2014 with the Panigale L  twin range, the Italian company has produced a limited run “Superleggera” (Superlight) version of its flagship sports bike based on the race orientated Panigale V4R. Below is the official press release. Enjoy. 

Borgo Panigale (Bologna, Italy), 17 June 2020 – The first Superleggera V4 has come off the Borgo Panigale production line.  This is the #001 of the 500 units scheduled in a limited and numbered series; the only motorcycle in the world approved for road use with a frame, swingarm and carbon fibre rims, is finally available. A masterpiece of mechanical engineering, technique and “made in Italy” design, which sets a new benchmark in terms of performance, style and attention to detail.

The exclusivity of the materials and technical solutions adopted on the Superleggera V4 are also reflected in the maximum number of motorcycles envisaged: 500 numbered units accompanied by a certificate of authenticity . The progressive numbering of the motorcycles (XXX/500), coinciding with the chassis number, is shown on the steering head, and on the ignition key.

Number one of the limited run of 500.

The first of the lucky owners of this fantastic bike has been invited to Borgo Panigale for a delivery ceremony and, in the next few days, he will personally meet Claudio Domenicali, Ducati CEO, to receive his Superleggera V4 001/500.

The uniqueness of the Superleggera V4 project is underlined by the experiences that Ducati together with Ducati Corse has exclusively reserved for the owners of the motorcycle: the “Superbike Experience” – the possibility for all fans who purchase a Superleggera V4 to be able to try out the Panigale V4 R that takes part in the SBK World Championship on track at Mugello. Even more incredible and exclusive is the opportunity – limited to 30 owners of the Superleggera V4 – to purchase access to the “MotoGP Experience “, thus realizing the dream of every sports motorcycle enthusiast. For the first time, it will be possible to ride the Desmosedici GP on the circuit, followed directly by Ducati Corse technicians. Both “Experiences” have been confirmed for 2021.

The attention that completes the purchase experience of the Superleggera V4 also includes the possibility of personalizing the Superleggera V4 leathers with airbags from the “SuMisura Ducati” line, as well as completing the look with a carbon helmet, both dedicated to this motorbike, whose colours and graphics they replicate.

Each motorcycle is equipped with a Racing kit: complete exhaust for Akrapovič racing track use in titanium; open clutch cover in carbon fibre; swingarm cover in carbon fibre with titanium “slider”; headlamp and light replacement kit; license plate holder removal kit; side stand removal kit; mirror replacement aluminium caps from billet; Ducati Data Analyzer + GPS (DDA + GPS); racing fuel cap, brake lever protection, motorcycle cover; front and rear stand and battery charger.

The bike is delivered inside a wooden crate with specially made customization for the transport of this “made in Borgo Panigale” masterpiece.
Finally, all customers receive a sculptural reproduction of the Superleggera V4 in 1:10 scale, modelled in futuristic aerodynamic shapes. A real collector’s item personalized with your motorbike number.

Carbon composite rear wheel.

Superleggera V4
The Superleggera V4 is the only motorcycle in the world, approved for road use, with the entire load-bearing structure of the chassis (frame, subframe, swingarm and rims), made of composite material, obtaining, for these components only, a weight saving of 6.7 kg compared to those of the Panigale V4 MY20. To ensure the highest quality and safety standards, these components are 100% controlled by the most sophisticated techniques borrowed from the aerospace industry, such as thermography, ultrasound checks, and tomography.
The specific set-up of the chassis gives an unparalleled deceleration capacity, an extraordinary speed of descent when cornering and a marked tendency of the bike to close the trajectories when exiting corners.

Many components are made of carbon fibre, modelled in advanced aerodynamic shapes. These include the fairing, which reaches efficiency levels higher than those of today’s MotoGP bikes, which are limited in this by the current technical regulations. Thanks to the aerodynamic biplane appendages inspired by Ducati’s 2016 MotoGP bike, the most highly-performing in this field, it is able to guarantee a vertical load of 50 kg of “downforce” at 270 km/h, 20 kg more than that produced by the wings of the Panigale V4 MY20 and V4R. This downforce improves acceleration by counteracting the tendency to wheelie and increases braking stability.

The carbon fairings are embellished with a livery inspired by the Desmosedici GP19, with an alternation of lines and depths between the red colour of the GP19 and the visible carbon that highlight the shapes, the materials and the technical details. The red continues on the coloured sides of the OEM Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa SP tyres, specifically developed in the construction for the Superleggera V4.

Desmodromic cylinder head

The most powerful and lightest Desmosedici Stradale R engine is hidden under the carbon skin. The 998 cc 90° V4 unit of the Superleggera V4 weighs 2.8 kg less than the 1,103 cc V4 and, thanks to the Akrapovič approved exhaust, produces 224 hp of power in road configuration (EU homologation value), which becomes 234 hp by mounting the titanium Akrapovič exhaust for track use, which is included in the Racing Kit supplied with the bike.
The racing connotation of the engine is emphasized by the use of a dry clutch and by the timing of the Desmodromic system made manually by a specialist who, after checking, confirms the positive result by affixing his signature on the metal plate that embellishes the carbon cover of the rear cylinder bank.

Only on the Superleggera V4, by loading the engine calibration for the racing exhaust, is it possible to enable the display of the “RaceGP” dashboard. Intended for circuit use only, it derives from that of the Desmosedici GP20 dashboard designed on the indications of Andrea Dovizioso.

Thanks to the extensive use of carbon fibre, components made of titanium, magnesium and others from aluminium billet, the Superleggera V4 shows a dry weight of 159 kg on the scale (16 kg less than the Panigale V4), for a power/weight ratio of 1.41 hp/kg. A record value for a homologated sports bike. In track configuration, by mounting the Racing kit supplied with the bike, the power rises to  234 hp and the weight drops to 152.2 kg, with a power/weight ratio of 1.54 hp/kg.

The electronic controls have also been evolved in a purely racing perspective. By default, the operating parameters of these are associated with three reprogrammed Riding Modes with specific names (Race A, Race B and Sport). In addition, for the first time, five Riding Modes can be added, customizable with your favourite settings. The rider can monitor lap times through the evolution of the Lap Timer, which now allows you to store the coordinates of the finish line and the split times of five favourite circuits, so as to recall them every time you go out on the track without having to repeat the data logging procedure. By default, the system proposes the coordinates of the finish line and intermediates of Laguna Seca, Mugello, Jerez, Sepang and Losail. Added to this is a latest-generation electronic package that includes EVO 2 strategies for DTC and DQS up/down.

Öhlins lightened suspensions with a pressurized fork and lightened billet foot and shock absorber with titanium spring and GP-derived valves are part of the equipment, which improve the absorption of road roughness in the initial compression phase.

The braking system is the best of Brembo production with an MCS radial-pump equipped with a remote control for adjusting the distance of the lever and Stylema® R calipers, an exclusive of the Superleggera V4 that allows greater consistency of front brake travel in long runs on the track.

All this translates into a level of performance of absolute importance. Alessandro Valia, official Ducati tester, with Racing Kit and slick tyres, lapped the Mugello circuit in 1m52.45s, less than two seconds away from the time of the Panigale V4R SBK winner with Michele Pirro in CIV 2019.

An example of maximum attention to detail is the aluminium radiator cap machined from billet and the dedicated ignition key with aluminium insert on which the motorcycle number is indicated.

The completed article.

The Superleggera V4 is an extreme machine, devised and designed to achieve maximum performance on the circuit, but at the same time guaranteeing the reliability and ease of use requirements typical of a sports motorcycle homologated for road use. With this motorcycle, Ducati pushes the limit even further. The technical competence and knowledge developed and continuously evolved in MotoGP is made available to fans of technique and performance on two wheels.

Words  Geoff Dawes and courtesy Ducati Media House ©2020. Photographs and video courtesy Ducati Media House ©2020.

Mitsuo Ito Passes

Mitsuo Ito, the first and only Japanese rider to take a TT victory at the Isle of Man, has passed away at 82 years of age.

Ito had recently been inducted into the inaugural Motorcycle Federation of Japan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in December 2018.

A lifetime employee of Suzuki Japan, Ito won a TT riding a Suzuki RM63 in the 1963 50cc Ultra-Lightweight Class.

Mitsuo also participated in domestic and international Grand Prix racing from 1959 to 1967 and competed in the 50cc and 125cc categories, claiming two 50cc Grand Prix victories 13 podiums and 1 fastest lap from 29 starts.

In 1970 Ito also had a foray into car racing in Japan and won the only event he entered, the Japan Automobile Federation Junior Seven Challenge Cup held at Mount Fuji International Speedway driving a Suzuki Fronte RF single seater.

Mitsuo also famously partnered Stirling Moss in a Suzuki 360SS for a high-speed run on the Autostrada del Sol between Milan and Naples as a publicity stunt, with the 356cc two-stroke machine averaging 122.44kph (76.08mph).

After retiring from racing, Ito took part in Suzuki’s racing activities helping to develop racing machines and world-class technologies. In addition, Ito served as an engineering committee member of the MFJ for many years. He not only contributed to Suzuki but also the popularisation and development of motorcycle racing in Japan.

Words Geoff Dawes & Team Suzuki News Service © 2019. Image courtesy Team Suzuki News Service © 2019

Tragedy At Pikes Peak International Hillclimb

Carlin Dunne, a four-time winner of the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hillclimb, has died during the 97th running of the “Race To The Clouds”. Dunne had set pole position for the event and was well on his way to setting a new overall record with the fastest time in the first three sectors of the 156-turn 20km course before fatally crashing within a short distance of the 4,300 metres above sea level finish line.

36-year-old Dunne, the 2018 winner in the Heavyweight Class on a Ducati Multistrada 1260, had been lured back to the event by Ducati North America to ride a prototype model 2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4 1100 in the Exhibition Powersports division.

Below is a joint statement issued by the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb Board and Ducati North America.

“The collective hearts of the Colorado Springs community and the Board of Directors of The Pikes   Peak International Hill Climb, along with Ducati North America, share the grief and pain of Carlin Dunne’s family, friends and fans over his untimely death.

Throughout the 97 years that this unique race has been conducted on America’s Mountain, we have experienced the ultimate joy in victory, the disappointment of failure and now, the unexpected heartbreak of the loss of a competitor, whose love of the race brought him to Pikes Peak. We mourn the tragic death of Carlin, and he will remain in our hearts forever as part of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb family. Carlin will be remembered as a warm-hearted mentor with a competitive spirit. He was a gentle and thoughtful man who touched everyone who met him. We will always remember his contagious smile and genuine love for the sport.”

“There are no words to describe our shock and sadness. Carlin was part of our family and one of the most genuine and kind men we have ever known. His spirit for this event and love of motorcycling will be remembered forever as his passing leaves a hole in our hearts,” said Jason Chinnock, CEO Ducati North America.

With our deepest condolences,”

The Board of Directors of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Ducati North America.

Words Geoff Dawes and Ducati Media House © 2019 Image courtesy © 2019

Ducati Panigale V4 Streetfighter.

The prototype Ducati Panigale 1100cc V4 Streetfighter.

After an absence of four years in Ducati’s model line-up, the Streetfighter name is to be resurrected for a 2020 model based on the 1100cc Panigale V4.  A prototype model has been revealed and is set to compete at the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on the 30thof June 2019 ridden by the four-time winner of the Heavyweight Class, Carlin Dunne.

Dunne rode a Ducati Multistrada 1260 to the win in last year’s event beating Australian Rennie Scaysbrook riding a KTM 1290 Super Duke by mere hundredths of a second as both went under the ten-minute mark for the 156-turn flight to the summit.

With the entry of the 1100cc Panigale V4 Streetfighter, an escalation of potent machinery looks likely to follow with Scaysbrook for one changing to Italian machinery by entering an Aprillia 1100 Tuono Factory in “The Race to the Clouds”.

Ducati Panigale 1100cc V4 prototype and rider Carlin Dunne in action.

And the Streetfighter is something very special. In keeping with Ducati tradition, the Streetfighter is derived directly from the MotoGP inspired Panigale V4 but stripped of its fairings, and fitted with high and wide handlebars. The front wheel lifting high-performance of the 1100 cm Desmosedici Stradale engine is kept in check by the use of MotoGP type aerodynamic winglets specifically designed for this model.

The prototype will race with a “pixelated” livery, designed by the Centro Stile Ducati and unlike normal practice with prototypes, the livery does not hide the lines of the motorcycle but reveals how the bike will look.

MotoGP type winglets are used to keep the front under control.

“The Streetfighter V4 will be one of the stars of the Ducati World Premiere 2020,” stated Claudio Domenicali, CEO of Ducati. “The Streetfighter V4 is the Panigale for road riding; so there was no better stage than the Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for what will be the highest performance Streetfighter ever put into production.”

The bike will be presented to the public at EICMA 2019 and will be available in Ducati dealerships starting from mid-March 2020 onwards.

Words Geoff Dawes and Ducati Media House © 2019. Images and Video Ducati Media House © 2019

The Swind E Classic Mini

A sight becoming more commonplace in major cities.

As Governments around the world wrestle with the possible long-term effects of climate change and aided by a groundswell of public opinion to stop global warming, Electric and Hybrid vehicles continue to gain traction in the model line-up of many of the mainstream automotive manufacturers.

Outwardly a classic E-type but with an electric heart.

It has also created the by-product of a potential electric future for classic vehicle enthusiasts to consider.

Last year Jaguar Land Rover Classic Works in Coventry, part of the Jaguar Land Rover group, revealed the E-Type Zero.  The Concept Zero is built around a 1968 Series 1.5 E-Type Roadster, which has been converted to utilise an electric powertrain that offers equivalent performance to the original petrol engine but with zero emissions. The conversion is fully reversible and future-proofs classic car motoring, and the good news is it can be applied to any classic Jaguar built between 1948 and 1992 and is intended to preserve the looks and handling of the original petrol XK engine classics.

The Mini still holds its own in the efficient use of space.

And now this year, 60 years on from the birth of the iconic Mini, British engineering firm Swindon Powertrain, is offering an electric classic Mini.  The Swind E Classic is the brain-child of Swindon Powertrain’s managing director Raphael Caille, who saw an opportunity to produce an electric car that people from all walks of life would instantly fall in love with. “This is the first time an electrified classic Mini has entered production,” confirms Caille. “There have been one-offs and prototypes before, but Swind is the first company to launch such a car to the public. The classic Mini has such a special place in people’s hearts, not only in the UK but around the world. The packaging of Sir Alec Issigonis’ 1959 design was truly ground-breaking, and now we are making it relevant again. Its compact size and good visibility, together with contemporary performance and handling, make it a car you’ll want to drive in the city and put a smile on your face.”

Iconic Mini instrument dial still looks good.

It is city driving that the Swind E classic is built for, utilising state of the art EV technology, replacing the petrol engine and gearbox with a bespoke 80kw electric motor and 24kWh lithium-ion battery give a range of over 200km. A full charge takes four hours from a type 2 connector and with the petrol tank removed boot space is improved by 200 litres. Performance is nippy to with 0-100kph in under 10 seconds and a top speed of nearly 130kph

The conversion adds 80kg to the total weight of the car, but the centre of gravity is 44mm lower, helping to enhance its already legendary handling. Weight distribution is also superior from 68:32 to 57:43 front and rear. Other nice modernities are new brakes with regenerative capability, new suspension and contemporary rust protection. Also, there’s heated front, and rear windscreens, underfloor heating, 2 USB ports, and leather heated seats.

60 years young and still good looking.

There are a number of options on offer as well such as an infotainment system, electric air-conditioning, central locking, electric front windows, openable rear windows, electric power steering and full electric sliding roof.

The Swind E Classic is also available in left or right-hand drive. Only 100 are to be produced and with a price tag of 79,000 pounds ($145,000 Australian) without options.

Words © Geoff Dawes 2019. Images © 2019 Courtesy of Swindon Powertrain,  Jaguar Land Rover Classics…/jaguar-e-type-zero-most-beautiful-electric-car-world