The Morbidelli Collection offered in the Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale


“He spent day and night in the museum. He had no other life!” –

Gianni Morbidelli on his father Giancarlo.


A world class collection of road and racing motorcycles from the celebrated Morbidelli Motorcycle Museum in Pesaro, Italy will be the centrepiece of Bonhams’ annual Autumn Stafford Sale on 18 – 20 October.


Comprising approximately 300 motorcycles, and representing every decade of the 20th century, this important collection was built up by the museum’s founder, motorcycle manufacturer and Grand Prix boss Giancarlo Morbidelli, over a period of 40 years, and is the largest single private collection of motorcycles to be offered by Bonhams to date.


Including international brands such as Harley Davidson, Honda and Benelli, the machines range from immaculate restorations to prototypes and barn finds.


They represent the passion of the farmer’s son and former woodworking machinist who, while building up a successful engineering firm as his day job, spent his spare time on tuning, racing and later building his own motorcycles.


Highlights of the collection include two examples from the Morbidelli Grand Prix racing motorcycle collection, largely designed and built by Giancarlo, all fabricated by a small but dedicated team in a corner of the Morbidelli woodworking factory.


However, these proved to be ‘giant killers’ seeing off international corporations to claim the 125cc Grand Prix World Championship in three consecutive years: 1975, ‘76 and ‘77, as well as winning the 250cc world title in 1977.


As Gianni, Morbidelli’s son and motor racing driver, said of Giancarlo: “He was a genius with bikes. He did everything by himself, working in a very small room.


“Forty years ago, he laid the foundation of this incredible museum, spending a lot of effort, time, energy and money.


“One part of the museum is dedicated to the period between the end of the 1960s to the 1980s when he built racing motorcycles. It’s our family heritage, a part of our life, but we thought it would be correct to include in the sale two Morbidelli motorcycles that my father built.”


Bonhams will offer the 1974 Morbidelli 125cc Grand Prix motorcycle (estimate £80,000 – 120,000) raced by the great Angel Nieto to second place in that year’s Spanish and German Grand Prix, as well as a 250cc machine designed for the fifteen-time Grand Prix world champion Giacomo Agostini, who rode for the team during its golden period in 1976, gaining a second place at Misano (estimate £60,000 – 100,000).


However, the Morbidelli family will retain ownership of the majority of the Morbidelli Grand Prix motorcycles, including the world championship winning 125cc and 250cc examples, raced respectively by Paoli Pileri, Pierpaolo Bianchi and Lego Mario.


Not surprisingly, the Morbidelli Museum collection in the sale features a strong showing of Benelli motorcycles which were also a great passion of Giancarlo, coming from Pesaro, where this great historic brand was also founded.

1942 Benelli 250cc supercharged 4-cylinder (estimate £400,000 – 600,000)


One of the most interesting examples of the marque on offer is the 1942 250cc supercharged 4-cylinder example (estimate £400,000 – 600,000), a racing machine that never actually raced. It was built just in time for motorcycle racing to be stopped due to the war, while supercharging was banned by the FIM in post-war years. Giancarlo had a personal relationship and friendship with the Benelli family and so was able to procure the original parts which he rebuilt into a fully-functioning motorcycle.


Other Benellis to be offered include:


  • 1950 Benelli 250cc Grand Prix racing motorcycle – the world championship motorcycle ridden to victory by Dario Ambrosini. Estimate £120,000 – 180,000.


  • 1934 Benelli 175cc Bialbero – believed raced by Dorino Serafini, one of only three in the world. Estimate £40,000 – 60,000.


  • 1964 Benelli 250 Grand Prix racing motorcycle, ridden and signed by two-time world champion Tarquino Provini. Estimate £80,000 – 120,000.


Another jewel of the Morbidelli Collection is the 1964 Ducati 125cc 4-cylinder Grand Prix racing motorcycle, (estimate £400,000 – 600,000), another GP racing machine which never raced. Created by Fabio Taglioni, Ducati’s chief engineer, this motorcycle disappeared for some years before its engine was found in Russia while its chassis reappeared in Yugoslavia, now Croatia. With the two essential components reunited, Giancarlo rebuilt the mythical motorcycle.


Alongside the pristine restorations, there are several unfinished projects in the sale, offering the opportunity to restore these machines as Giancarlo was hoping to.


The collection also comprises motorcycling memorabilia including Giancarlo’s own reference library, original drawings, trophies, signage and other artefacts, giving a complete picture of the museum and the motorcycling world.


Ben Walker, International Department Director for Bonhams Collectors’ Motorcycles, said:


“We are very proud to have been entrusted with the sale of this stunning collection, carefully put together over 40 years by Giancarlo Morbidelli.


“Giancarlo’s passion for machines is evident in his Grand Prix involvement but interestingly some of the first motorcycles he collected were flat tank and early pioneer motorcycles which stand up very nicely with the later bikes restored in his workshop. His restorations were exceptional, he was a stickler for detail, and a man of invention. This is very clear when looking at the collection.


“This is the largest single collection to be sold by Bonhams and as such means that we will extend our Autumn sale to three days for the first time. The majority of the collection will be offered at ‘No reserve’ which is extremely exciting.


“It really will be a unique opportunity for motorcycle collectors and enthusiasts from across the globe to bid for some truly special lots and indeed, a piece of history.


“We expect international interest from collectors and enthusiasts who will give the motorcycles a new lease of life in other collections and homes around the world.


“We very much look forward to bringing the ‘dolce vita’ to Stafford and selling this magnificent part of motorcycling history.”


The auction takes place at the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show on October 19-20 at Stafford County Showground. Advance tickets are £12 each and are on sale now – click here.