c1968 Benelli 'Montgomery Wards' 250cc Motorcycle
The Benelli Garage was originally established by widow Teresa Benelli in Pesaro, Italy in 1911 with the hope that it would provide her six sons with employment, beginning with repair work. By 1920 the Fratelli Benelli produced their first engine, a single-cylinder two-stroke, and the following year installed it in a motorcycle of their own manufacture. By the time the Second World War started, Benelli had won four Italian Championships and continued to do well in competition through the Fifties and Sixties. In an effort to boost sales in the lucractive American market, Benelli entered an arrangement with the now defunct Montgomery Wards department store based in Chicago, Illinois in 1959 to sell motorcycles via a mail order catalogue. Strange as it might sound today, mail order motorcycles was a real fad at the time and Montgomery Ward weren't the only retail chain to get involved; for example Sears imported both Vespas and Puchs. Sold in unassembled, crated form, the Benellis were rebranded as Montgomery Ward Riversides and sold alongside similarly rebadged Lambretta and Mitsbushi scooters. Unlike the Benelli-Motobis sold in Europe, with their horizontally positioned cylinders, the Riversides all had vertical single-cylinder engines and all manner of different capacities were catalogued in the Sixties, including 125, 175, 250, 350 and 360 Mojave models. Indeed, many Americans got their first taste of motorcycle riding on one of these high quality machines and they enjoyed a reputation for reliabilty and lively performance. Following Alessandro de Tomaso's takeover of the company in 1971, a new range of two-strokes was unveiled but Benelli fell on hard times and disappeared from sight for several years. Fortunately the famous Italian marque has been revived and produces high quality superbikes today.