One of the greatest racing engines of all time is the Gilera across-the-frame four. Its origins can be traced back to 1923; by 1934, Gilera’s engineers were bolting on superchargers, and generating a staggering 86bhp at 9,000rpm. After WWII, the double-overhead-cam motor went back onto the bench, and was slotted into Gilera’s all-conquering racers.
The result was incredible: between 1950 and 1957, the exquisite Gilera 500 4 won six World Championship titles. And that’s despite intense competition from Norton, Moto Guzzi and MV Agusta. This bike helped put riders such as Geoff Duke, Umberto Masetti and Libero Liberati on the podium, time after time. And then, in one fell swoop, Gilera, Moto Guzzi and Mondial all withdrew from the Championship. The first post-war golden era of Italian racing motorcycles was over.