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A rare bird in Denmark

Updated: Jul 11, 2023


The 4-speed Gilera is one of the rarer gear knockers from the 70s. They did not come to Denmark in large numbers, therefore not many people know the history. Those who had one of these special mopeds probably remember them.

SWORTH BY PIAGGIO

Gilera was up until 1969 an independent motorcycle factory, even one with several world championships in road racing behind it. The remains were then absorbed by the Piaggio group, which was then best known for the legendary Vespa scooter. The Gilera Touring model came in the autumn of 1971, 2 years after Piaggio had bought the world-famous Italian motorcycle factory.


GILERA TOURING 50 IN DENMARK

The small moped is thus related to the famous 4-cylinder Gilera racers, which were quite so dominant in the fifties. Although Piaggio chose to only use the name to stick on mopeds and small motorcycles, there was a lot of "real" motorcycle about them.

The Knallert model reached Denmark in 1973. The first ones that came here were all metallic blue with red decor. They were type-approved under TUM 192, which was stamped on the engine block and sometimes also in the cylinder, as required by law. Engine and frame number are not tracked.


The Knallert model that came to Denmark was a bit of a mix of the models that existed. Although the model was called Touring, the frame was more Trail than Touring and thus without strut arms for rear footrests. The overhead exhaust and the short seat were also from the Trail model, the rest were from the Touring model.


The model was available in a number of versions abroad, Touring, Trail and the rare Enduro model. All with the same engine with a performance from 2.5-7 hp and 4 or 5 gears. Here in Denmark, at least on paper, throttled down to 1 hp. The type approval on it was withdrawn quite quickly as it could run too fast. There was no seal in the cylinder, and since it had flushing channels of considerable dimensions, there was great potential. Therefore, these could run really fast with very few modifications. The speed limit mostly consisted of a plug in the exhaust. But even with a 13-tooth sprocket and the small 9mm Dellorto SHA 14.9 carburettor, the speed could hardly be kept down. The same carburettor was also available in a number of sizes, so the carburettor from an Everton SHA 14.12, which was completely identical in appearance, naturally did well for traction. Some actually had a 14.12 carburettor fitted from new. It seems as if the Danish importer PJC didn't quite have things under control, because the specifications differed from machine to machine - and not everything was as it should be according to the type approval. Very telling that even the brochures did not have pictures of the model they were selling. It seems as if you didn't pay much attention to the details.


Then if you had a blue Gilera, you didn't have to invest in expensive tuning kits to get speed over the field.


Even with 9 mm to do well with, speed could be gained. The exhaust did not have to be tampered with much before the speed reached 50-55 km/h, and of course the authorities could not have that. So the type approval was quickly withdrawn. Back then, the police had to prove that a moped was illegal in order to issue a fine or confiscate parts. When they were type-approved again, there was a seal in the intake and a very beautiful metallic red / silver gray color combination, type-approved under TUM 262.


The last ones were sold in 1979, when the new moped legislation came into force. The model as such went out of production in 1978. But the TS model that followed was almost identical, apart from some minor cosmetic changes to the engine and different tank, side shields. I am not aware whether the Trail or TS model ever came to Denmark as a type-approved moped.


It was far from all moped dealers in Denmark who took the Gilera home, consequently it is not known everywhere. As far as is known, around 500 units were sold. of that in Denmark. It was most widespread in the Randers/Århus area and on Bornholm. The first models that came here that were without seals had chassis numbers somewhere between 13000-16000.


The 4-speed Gilera moped had a lot in common with the Gilera motorcycles of 125 and 150 cubic meters, which were produced at the same time. Tank and frame were identical, just slightly larger.


The Gilera moped then also drove like a small motorcycle, - the tubular frame and suspension were of a high class and with very fine driving and braking properties as a result. You really had control over things on the low and short seat, behind the tall Tomaselli handlebars. You felt superior when the red light changed to green, because you were usually the first to cross the intersection.


The electrical system was 6 volts without a battery and extremely basic, the same can be said about the paint and chrome, which did not last long. All the money had obviously gone to the engine and frame. The wide, 2.75X17 wheels with Pirelli tires and the dramatic cylinder and cylinder head gave the model just the right motorcycle-like appearance. Big brake drums, a real rubber-suspended chain wheel in the back were things you learned to appreciate when going over sticks and stones.


The engine was built for high performance with large ball and needle bearings all over, and hard chrome plated cylinder. The engine received an update in 1973, whereby the cylinder was given a slightly longer distance between support bolts and a slightly different cylinder head. You can call it an A and a B engine. The clutch cover was also slightly changed, with the oil dipstick being moved slightly back on the B model. It was the updated engine type that was on all the mopeds that came to Denmark.


All that was needed to make it go really fast was to saw off the front pipe, plane grind the cylinder head and install a 12 or 14 mm Dellorto SHA carburettor. It could easily pull a 15-tooth gear. With these few changes it produced about 5-6 hp and went 70 km/h (80 km/h on the inaccurate VEGLIA speedometer).


The fast 7 hp cylinder looked exactly like the 2.5 hp cylinder that was on the type-approved Danish ones, and you had to be a connoisseur to see the difference. But there was a difference. With such a cylinder and with a highly compressed cylinder head, there was good traction and 90 km/h within reach. The height of the exhaust port is the only visible difference.


A 4-speed Gilera was not something for those who couldn't screw things up themselves - it could be difficult to start, as the carburettor had a tendency to run over and drown the engine. And an ignition system without sufficient capacity. If you drove the Gilera, you therefore sometimes had to settle for starting it in 2nd gear. Plates, condenser and spark plugs had to be changed often.


The engine tended to leak at the gear shift shaft, so oil slicks under a Gilera were almost inevitable. The clutch was big and strong, but still started to slip quite quickly if you didn't use the right engine oil. If the oil was too thin, the clutch began to slip, if the oil was too thick, it could not disengage completely. So choosing the right engine oil was important. It was supposed to have 0.9 liters of SEA 30 oil, nothing else. On the other hand, it had the best gear change you could find on a moped, you actually didn't need to use the clutch at all. As I said, the rear wheel was equipped with a large rubber damper, in which the sprocket was mounted, and it acted as an effective damper of jolts and shocks between the transmission and the rear wheel. First gear was up, the rest down.


It was important to keep the chain taut, otherwise it could jump off the front sprocket with the result that the flywheel cover and sometimes the engine block were damaged. A crankcase without "chain damage" was a rarity.


Today it is a rare moped, and spare parts for them are unfortunately far between. There are only a few complete and almost no original ones left, many of them are now renovated by someone who himself once had one.


Since the cylinder is made of aluminum with a hard-chromed cylinder barrel, it cannot be drilled out so easily, so you have to take care of those parts, and besides, a new cylinder is expensive.


The arrow on the top of the piston must follow the path of the air through the cylinder, otherwise piston rings can jam in the exhaust port and smash the whole thing.


I know this from bitter experience, because I myself made that stupid mistake on my own back in 1976, it was a costly experience. The first of many.


I was not allowed to drive illegally, so for me a Gilera from 1973 was the only way out for a bit of speed and pace.


I found a wreck and used a good chunk of my savings to buy new parts and make my own blue rocket, but that's a story in itself.


Articles you must read:







MY 73 GILERA

When I started making money, one of the first things I invested in was tools for a workshop in my parents' garage. For example, I bought a Beta spanner set, which I actually still have. My interests in screwing have lasted my whole life, and I still screw. I like restoration projects the most. My first restoration project was a moped, - we're back in 1976. Ever since I saw a Gilera Touring for the first time, it was at the top of my wish list for when I turned 15. Not just any Gilera, it had to be blue, because they were all from the year 1973. That year was particularly interesting because it had been mistakenly type-approved without a seal in the cylinder.


If it were today, you would have gone online, where it is possible to find anything, anywhere. But it wasn't like that then. If you wanted something specific that wasn't available on every street corner, you had to be patient. Den Blå Avis didn't even exist, it didn't come out until 1981.


A few had come to town and they were not for sale. I used to talk about this with my friends every now and then. I should have kept my mouth shut, because my best friend, who had a Puch similar to mine, managed to persuade one of them who had one from here in town to trade. NOW it should be, I wanted one like that too. But where did one find such a one? We started by calling moped dealers in the area, but most didn't even know what a Gilera was. We came up with the good idea of calling the importer to joke about where in Denmark most had been sold. Then we could call in those areas from the yellow pages in the phone book. Most were sold on Bornholm and in the Randers area. Bornholm was not relevant, but Randers was ok, and there was soon a profit. Harry's Motorservice had just sold a Suzuki GT 380 to a guy to whom they had sold a Gilera 3 years before. I got the phone number and called right away, because he had the remains of his Gilera. The police had taken large parts of the engine. But the rest was in his father's carpentry workshop and was then for sale. I still remember the wonderful feeling of having found a 73. I persuaded my older brother to drive me up to pick it up the following Saturday. It almost ended up that I didn't get it home, because the young guy had been in town on Friday night and was "intoxicated" beyond all limits that Saturday morning. I couldn't call him up, and even though I pounded on the door, it wouldn't be opened. We drove down to Harry's Motorservice on Grenåvej to consider the situation. It was the first time I stepped into a real motorcycle shop. I was completely blown away by seeing the amazing machines. I remember there was a factory new black Norton Commando 850 in the rows of new motorcycles.


It was about noon, so we drove down into town and had something to eat, then drove back and tried to knock again, and there was a lot of knocking. A young boy poked his head out of his bedroom window. It had succeeded in drowning out the hangover that was surely also pounding in the poor bachelor's head. "Well, it was you who had to pick up the moped", he stammered out in a hoarse voice. He got his DKK 500, and I got a boot from a moped.


Absolutely unbelievable that a 3-year-old moped could look like this. But it was a 73 and it was mine. We took it apart so much on site that it could fit in the boot of my brother's Vauxhall Viva.


Back to Grindsted it went.



RENOVATION STARTS

The renovation started as soon as we were home. It was completely taken apart and parts that needed to be repaired laid out on the workbench in a long row and parts that needed to be renewed written down - and the list was long! My mate worked at his brother's car workshop, a workshop where you did a little bit of everything. They probably thought that through this we could buy the spare parts we needed directly from the importer. We were allowed to do that, and it was great to pick up a huge package at the post office with the first shipment of new parts. My cousin worked at an auto body shop so he was given the job of painting. While it was going on, the engine revved up. It was well worn, even the crankshaft was broken, so it got the whole trip with new bearings, clutch and packing boxes. I remember the joy of watching it being built step by step. It was gradually getting cold out in the garage, so the assembly work was allowed to take place in the basement, not far from the oil boiler. I wanted as close to new condition as I could get, and I got pretty close. It turned out so beautiful! On a Friday at the beginning of December, it was assembled and started up. It was wildly exciting, and I have since chased that feeling again and again.


It sounded like it should and ran really well, but didn't shift gears properly. It took some time to find the cause, but it was the gear pedal return spring that was worn. Not a big problem, because it sits on the outside of the gearbox. But whoa, could it really be that it went so well legally? It was going 60 km/h. It was perhaps a little more than you could explain to Laurit's police officer if you were stopped by the police. So I called over to the importer and asked if they were now sure that I had gotten legal parts. They weren't at all - they admitted to sending me a tuned cylinder by mistake. They offered to trade around and sent me a new cylinder set. It was a bit of a pain to peel off the tuned cylinder and send it back. But the legal Danish cylinder came on, and it went its 50 km/h as expected. It went well, until one evening on the way home from the cinema it made an 'expensive' sound from the engine - it had smashed the piston and cylinder. I had gotten around to turning the piston the wrong way when I put the legal cylinder on. It was an expensive lesson! The price of this project ended up being higher than a new moped, but that didn't worry me because they couldn't run fast. Such a Gilera from 73 went approx. just as strong in 3rd gear as a legal Puch, and it was cool to overtake my friends who drove legal Puchs (there were a few) and shift up into 4th gear and slide past. That spring and summer we drove a lot. Both Varde and Vejle were within reach, and the police showed well that it was not worth stopping a blue Gilera driving 50 km/h. Back then, the police had to prove that a moped was illegal, and they didn't mind that once they got a long nose. So we were allowed to drive in peace. We enjoyed it, and refrained from being too provocative towards the law enforcement when we drove in the city.



INVOICE FROM 1976


It was sold when I bought my first car. I've regretted selling it many times since - I should have kept it. Because when my son turned 16, of course he had to have a Gilera. I found one in Den Blå Avis, which we renovated together as a father-and-son project in the late 90s. But it wasn't a 73!


I never forgot my blue Gilera and never expected to get one again, but in recent years old mopeds from that time have become a collector's item for many of my generation. So when I had found and renovated a red Puch VZ from 1974 similar to my own, the idea arose to also make a blue Gilera, so that I had a copy of the two mopeds that had been running at the time. But finding a 73 was probably a bit too much to ask. I got a nap again in Randers. But there was basically only a frame and an engine left of it.


With the internet you can find anything with a little patience, and there I found a blue 72 almost at the same time. It was in a warehouse in Germany just outside of Bremen with a man who made a living emptying the estates of the dead. I picked it up on the way home from a skiing holiday in Austria. It was the German model with a long seat and an underlying exhaust. This was not a wreck. It was completely complete, but it hadn't been driven for many years, so it needed a major service, and there was a lot of chrome that needed to be renewed. But it was not legal to drive in Denmark, if that were to be true. I put the legal Danish engine from Randers on the German and enjoyed driving a little Gilera again. A trip to the cottage to mow the grass becomes a completely different experience when it's at Gilera, because then I'm 16 years old again for a while. I was completely satisfied with my two mopeds, as I think it's more fun to refurbish motorcycles after all.


A few years later, I hear by chance about a man in Ringkøbing who has inherited a Gilera from his father. The father had been a moped dealer in Gammel Sogn, which is a little outside Ringkøbing. It was blue, I was told over the phone, so I knew the vintage. I drove out there the next morning and bought it on the spot. It was 100% original and had driven 2000 km. How unlikely! The story was that his father, who mostly sold Yamahas, had gotten a Gilera home and when it didn't sell right away, he started using it himself. So this was a bit strange. If I had called this moped dealer then, it would have been mine there 40 years ago. Talk about a case. It is now in my small moped collection.

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