1957/2003 Gilera 500cc Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Re-creation
Gilera first sprang to prominence in the late 1930s, when the Italian firm's supercharged four-cylinder racers trounced BMW in Grands Prix and snatched the world speed record away from the German marque. Throughout the 1950s it was Gilera's racers that again grabbed the headlines, the Arcore-built fours taking five manufacturer's titles and six individual championships in the hands of riders such as Duke, Liberati and Masetti between 1950 and 1957.
With the surviving works Gilera fours either in museums or private collections, and thus extremely unlikely ever to be offered for public sale, it was perhaps inevitable that the revival of interest in classic motorcycle racing would lead to the construction of replicas of these precious thoroughbreds. Completed in 2003, the example offered here is the work of Kay Engineering, world famous for its re-creations of classic MV Agustas and other exotica. The machine is the fourth of six made by Kay Engineering using a genuine ex-works 1957 Gilera 500 four, on loan from Italy, for guidance. Gilera's Grand Prix four had reached the zenith of its development by 1957, making that year's model the obvious choice for replication.
The current vendor originally ordered this example to be built as a full-on racing (as distinct from parading) machine with a view to racing it competitively in the Classic Manx Grand Prix. Dave and Mark Kay had similar plans for their own example, which was to be ridden by Pat Sefton. All shared the view that the Gilera would be competitive enough to be a potential winner.
However, by the time its owner took delivery of the bike in November 2003 his circumstances had changed, and with retirement looming he decided that racing a Grand Prix Gilera on a pension might not be such a good idea. As a result the machine has been sitting in his lounge for the past seven years and has never turned a wheel in anger! The Gilera has been most carefully run in on a dynamometer (the only practical way of accomplishing this most important task) and has been started very occasionally - normally once a year at TT time.
As the intention was always to race the bike it was delivered with a comprehensive spares package, costing in excess of £7,500. (We are advised that Kay Engineering remains able and willing to manufacture further spare parts should the need arise). Offered with the machine, the package includes a crankshaft, crankshaft bearings, two pistons, two inlet and two exhaust valves, a camshaft, valve buckets, clutch plate set, clutch basket, clutch end-plate, set of clip-on handlebars, spare glassfibre fairing (the original currently fitted to the bike is hand-beaten aluminium) and sundry other bearings. In what he describes as 'a moment of madness', the vendor ordered a hand-beaten aluminium dustbin fairing and screen costing £2,000, which comes with the bike also. A reconditioned Lucas racing magneto suitable for a four-cylinder engine is available via separate negotiation.
This machine is absolutely stunning and one simply runs out of superlatives when describing the quality of the Kays' engineering.