Collector Series: Giancarlo Morbidelli Motorcycle Collector - Here's Gianni!

Giancarlo Morbidelli not only ran his own Grand Prix team, he's also one of the world's preeminent motorcycle collectors

On one side of his elegant card it says "Giancarlo Morbidelli-Vintage Motorbike Collector." On the reverse is a photo of a '70s-era Grand Prix bike, also bearing the name Morbidelli. Clearly there is more to this man than just being a "collector" of old bikes. Although he has done a pretty good job of doing just that with over 250 bikes on display in his museum in Pesaro on Italy's Adriatic coast. Another 250 await restoration out back.

As you enter the large, modern museum, this impression is driven home by the two bikes flanking the stairs leading to the viewing area overlooking the collection. On the left is the first motorcycle Morbidelli built in 1967, a 125cc two-stroke Grand Prix bike. On the right is the last complete bike he built in 1997, the mighty 850 V8 sport-tourer. In the space of those 30 years he made his fortune manufacturing woodworking machinery, ran a Grand Prix team that won four world championships using bikes of his own design, set up a factory (MBA) that produced competitive privateer GP bikes in quantity and slowly continued to accumulate motorcycles. Continuing up the stairs the view is jaw-dropping. Four main "halls" house the bulk of the collection which is laid out in chronological order, production bikes mixed with racing models in an ever-escalating ode to the technological improvement of the motorcycle. Each bike stands on its own mirrored plinth so you can easily see the bits normally hidden by fairings. Niches in the walls hold individual motors and other mechanical bits and pieces. And most importantly, the bikes are generously spaced, so you get an excellent view of each.

The oldest bike on display is a 1906 Swiss Moto Reve, candle sitting proudly in its headlight nacelle. The most recent is a late-'80s Ducati 851 Superbike. In between is a smorgasbord of both the everyday and the exotic. You don't see a 1942 vintage, supercharged 250/4 Benelli GP bike on every street corner! On the other hand, you used to see Honda 350 Fours there all the time. Something for everyone. At the rear of the building is a smaller room holding all of the Morbidelli racing bikes.

Behind the main building is the busy workshop where both Morbidelli's own bikes, and those of like-minded collectors, are restored. A pair of '50s vintage GP Mondials have pride of place at the moment. Also here is where the latest Morbidelli creation is taking place: a mind-blowing 750cc V12! Designed to fit in a CBR600RR frame, this jewel of a motor is due to be completed soon. Giancarlo says (via translation), "It is not the horsepower that is important. It is how it sings!" The man's passion continues.

The Morbidelli Museum is located at Via Fermo, 39 - Pesaro. It is open Saturday afternoons from 2 to 7 (but like all museums in Italy, call first).

Giancarlo Morbidelli Motorcycle Collector
Close-up detail of the DOHC single in a 1954 Mondial 175. Mike Hailwood, among others, helped make Mondial one of the most successful names in racing during the '50s.
Giancarlo Morbidelli poses with a mock-up of his latest engineering project, a 750cc V12 designed to fit in a Honda CBR600RR frame. He hopes to have a running prototype soon.
Machines are organized chronologically at the Morbidelli Museum. This is the "modern" hall, which contains everything from pedestrian Honda production bikes to exotic factory Superbikes like Raymond Roche's Ducati 851.
A smaller, fifth hall contains Morbidelli's own motorcycles. Machines range from 125cc two-stroke singles to 500cc two-stroke square fours. Morbidelli produced racebikes through the end of the '82 season.
Benelli, like Morbidelli based in Pesaro, is well represented. This supercharged 1942 250/4 makes more than 50 horsepower. Developed during the war, it never saw Grand Prix action.
The last Morbidelli motorcycle, the 1997 850 V8 sport-tourer, greets visitors at the main entrance. Featuring a liquid-cooled V8 and Pininfarina styling, it's an elegant, advanced machine.
Book-ending the V8 at the main entrance is the very first Morbidelli produced, a 125cc two-stroke GP bike from 1967. Morbidelli motorcycles won four 125cc world titles in the '70s.
No Italian motorcycle museum is complete without one of Count Domenico Agusta's amazing machines. Cecil Sandford won the 1952 125cc world championship on a Bialbero Competizione like this.