Impression Benelli 750 SEI
The animal in the bike
When Benelli pulls out an old 750 SEI from the factory museum, that’s a great thing. But the kick is only given by the meaning of the term museum. Because in Italy it evidently encompasses less a perfectly restored, and more a relaxed way of being as you are. And this example of the sensational six-cylinder motorcycle is really relaxed. Offers authentic Italian motorcycle life. Unobstructed and maintenance-free. For 25 years.
I hear them before I see them. Slip on the motorcycle clothes in the Benelli workers’ changing room when the mechanic outside seems to find the right kick to elicit the tone from the old SEI that once drove the Porsches of the glorious days through the Hockenheimer Ostkurve. An unbelievable bark, bright, hotter and somehow animal. Six cylinders, six tubes. Inimitable. The OHC engine screams up and down the speed range out there – the man does not give up. He seems to find the mill from the factory museum just as superfluous as I did before – when it was clear that I really wanted to drive with it. A quick look in the mirror of the washroom ?? how the hell do you encounter a legend?
»We were fascinated«, the former MOTORRAD tester Ernst Leverkus recalled when looking back at the motorcycles of those days, »because no one had ever built a six-cylinder engine of this length across the chassis of a production motorcycle. … You expected a huge engine run that would certainly look bombastic and kill everything smoothly. «Afterwards it wasn‘t that bad at all. 62 centimeters full broadside and thus narrower than a boxer BMW between the cylinder covers. In general – the motorcycle is anything but a dream. Rather delicate and deeply stacked. I too am amazed when it is as small as a 500 in the factory yard. And the burden of the legend is just as unimpressive as the disgruntled mechanic who mercilessly shakes it awake. “Italian motorcycles are screwed together with a lot of love,” said the former Ducati importer Fritz Roth, “and that’s the only way they can maintain their incomparable character.” Well, Italy is probably no longer what it used to be. In any case, this motorcycle has 51,000 kilometers under its belt and is not hiding a single one. Unraveled and barely movable Bowden cables hang in wobbling handles, insulating tape holds the load-bearing electrical connections together, and the shine has probably already gone from the paint in the last millennium, the electric starter probably never worked. No matter. Historically. Okay, see you tonight. The man pushes the handlebars into my hand, and eager to maintain my position, I lurch from the courtyard. This day will not be a children’s birthday.
In front of me lie the mountains of the Adriatic city of Pesaro, where the six Benelli brothers tightened their first motorcycle screws as early as 1911. And where test colleague Peter Limmert gathered his impressions for the first driving report on the 750 SEI. »Benelli knows how to construct a chassis around the engine that can compete with the best English chassis in terms of balance. The compromise between comfort and firmness is combined in extreme harmony «(MOTORRAD 19/1974). I think a little wistfully of his words when I try to make my way through the serpentines with the almost motionless steering head bearing already in a technical coma and Dunlop tires, which, according to cracks and hardness, probably came on the beautiful Borrani rims 20 years ago to slide. This motorcycle is a piece of Italy. Instead of a museum, it could have spent its last decades in a Neapolitan backyard. Yet ?? Peter’s words are tangible, the chassis is really amazingly handy. And within the scope of the current possibilities, the old Sebac struts together with the Marzocchi fork offer comfortable feedback from the SS 81. The models for the SEI were not sought in Italy. They have nothing in common with the hard-core Ducati, Laverda and Guzzi, which rely entirely on stability. No, their mission is rather to let the pilot swing around 250 pounds in a carefree Far East.
We are gradually getting used to each other, the SEI and I, dealing with each meter becomes easier. The old bearings are apparently making themselves comfortable again in their warm fat and the decades-old ridges, the trains remembering the laws of levers and pulling. It will be. The engine is sometimes even purring. With three 29er Dellorto double carburetors, the output of originally 76 hp was enough to intimidate the big competitors Honda CB 750 and Kawasaki Z 900. But the SEI never found its way into the series. Exhaust and noise regulations allowed only 24 carburettors, leaving a meager 63 hp. Nevertheless: “We have never seen a more refined response to turning the throttle grip millimeter by millimeter in this perfection … compared to a four-cylinder, this engine looks like a racehorse next to a field.” Peter Limmert has now reached a standing ovation. But he’s right. Incredible, this engine. When idling, it wags a little, because the intake manifolds are just as old and cracked as the tires and snorkel the air unrestrained on both sides of the rubbers, two spark plug plugs dangle from hose clamps, and the small Dellortos shine brown from decades of overflowing Api Petrol. Really historical. As with the blissful 500-Four, I automatically reach for the carburetor and try to regulate the idle speed. There is no doubt that with its four-cylinder engines, Honda was the inspiration behind many Benelli engines. The engine designs match almost to the icing on the cake. The SEI – basically just a 500 Quattro with two attached cylinders – is no exception. Just wider the whole thing.
I give up trying to adjust, this motor here simply requires a working range of 500 to 2000 rpm, that’s that! I prefer to pull again on the throttle, which weighs tons, and let this unbelievable sound trumpet, which reconciles with everything. While it rattles relatively civilized up to about 5000 rpm, lets the primary chain rumble a bit, the timing chain rattles softly, the acoustics increase afterwards, as if a big cat had crawled into the aluminum. The whole malady exterior seems to peel off, the Benelli to blow up the rotten shell, to whistle on dripping carburetors and holey rubbers and only to be what it wants? one animal! Roaring, she storms ahead, literally dragging the jammed landing gear behind her. Regardless of the terrifying braking distance of the aging Brembo system, it turns enthusiastically through yellow and red scales until I finally push the throttle back. Sky! That’s how she imagined it.
At the same time, the motorcycle feels more and more bizarre. In the lower half this fighting machine, this animal one, and above the staidness of a dash-and-eight Daimler. This line, from the bench with its chrome railing to the angular tank, which looks like a 20-liter canister with a tap and bracket, to the end with the fittings. As wide as the Amazon and ugly, they are enthroned over the bridge. The era of Alejandro de Tomaso, who directed Benelli and Moto Guzzi in those years and who also dictated some such cruelty into the design notebook in Maranello. No, upstairs the Benelli is really not much nicer than my sister’s first vinyl sofa set at her wedding in 1968.
Riccione and the holiday mecca of the 1960s is now spreading out in front of me on the Adriatic coast. Today just as overtaken by time as the Benelli soon after its appearance. Hardly more than 300 pieces found their way to Germany and already 19xx and xx, Honda and Kawasaki with their 100 hp 1000 and 1300 engines showed what is going on when it comes to six-packs. Even the later 900 SEI could not catch up with its 80 hp, Benelli had lost.
A.hen I roll back to the factory yard in the evening, the mechanic has already gone home. I push the SEI into the factory floor myself while it cools down crackling and smells almost familiar of gasoline, rubber and a hot engine. She lived and shouted for a whole day, now she is allowed to fall back into her historical coma. It wasn’t a child’s birthday, no. It was better.
Engine: Air-cooled six-cylinder four-stroke in-line engine, OHC, two valves per cylinder, bore x stroke 56 x 50.6 mm, displacement 747 cm³, output 47 kW (63 PS) at 8500 rpm, three Dellorto double carburetors, o 24 mm. Chassis: Steel central tube frame with double beams, Marzocchi telescopic fork, o 38mm, Sebac struts, Borrani high-shoulder rims, front Brembo double disc brake, o 280 mm, rear Grimeca drum brake, o 200 mm. Dimensions / weights / measured values: wheelbase 1420 mm, seat height 800 mm, weight with a full tank of 241 kg, top speed 192 km / h. Information: Benelli SEI-IG, phone 089/32038 16
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