1946-’50 Gilera Saturno Hemmings Motor News

29 Jan 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on 1946-’50 Gilera Saturno Hemmings Motor News
Gilera Saturno

The Milano Manx helped put post-war Italy back on track

Feature Article from Hemmings Motor News

After World War II, Italy’s economy and its manufacturing infrastructure were in shambles, but the need for affordable motorized transportation was greater than ever.

From the ashes rose a wealth of mopeds, scooters and motorcycles, putting the first sets of wheels under Italy’s miracolo economico.

Gilera was among the companies making bikes for the masses, but its Saturna was definitely not typical of the small-bore two-wheelers being built as low-cost people movers. This was a thrill ride in its day–a racy rival for the 500cc Norton Manx or the BSA Gold Star. The Saturna was beautiful and fast, plus its design incorporated some practical engineering that made it rugged and reliable as well.

Gilera’s 489cc four-stroke engine was a sealed engine using no external oil lines to move lubrication from the crankcase to the top end. Instead, the oil flowed through the pushrod passages. The oil tank, pump, filter, gearbox and primary drive were all also enclosed in the Gilera’s beautiful engine cases, like a modern motorcycle. The Sport version of the Saturn used an aluminum head while the Turismo used a cast-iron cylinder and head.

Both benefited from a fully hemispherical combustion chamber fed by a 28mm Dell’Orto carburetor.

The chassis of the Saturna used the engine as a stressed member for weight savings and to keep the center of gravity extra low. The front suspension was a girder fork design with a spring mounted at the steering head. The rear suspension was a unique arrangement that used levers acting on springs concealed in the frame tubes. Friction shocks helped tie the lower swingarm to the upper frame tubes containing the springs, as well as providing damping action.

This was fairly heady stuff in an age when many bikes were built with hardtail chassis.

Gilera Saturno

The Saturno made a name for itself in racing, winning at San Remo in 1947 and repeating there over the next four years. Thus the competition version of the Saturno was dubbed San Remo.

The Saturno was conceived prior to World War II, but didn’t make its debut until 1946. Approximately 5,000 of the Saturno Turismo and Sport (pictured here) were built between 1946 and 1950. After 1950, telescoping forks were added up front and later the frame was revised in order to use more conventional twin rear shocks.

The end of the line for the classic Saturno came in 1958, with just over 6,000 examples built. Gilera today is part of the Piaggio group and the brand is associated primarily with high-performance scooters and mopeds.

The name was revived in 1988 on the Gilera Nuovo Saturno Bialbero–a sporty café racer sold with a 500cc DOHC single-cylinder engine borrowed from an on-road/offroad bike, the Gilera Dakota. Just over 1,000 copies of the Nuovo Saturno were built in its brief three- to four-year production run, and most were sold in Japan.

The beautiful 1947 Saturno Sport pictured here was exhibited at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2011, where it won third place in its class, Italian Touring Motorcycles Through 1979.

This article originally appeared in the November, 2012 issue of Hemmings Motor News.

Gilera Saturno
Gilera Saturno

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