Born in 1887, Guiseppe Gilera started his career as an apprentice at the Bianchi Motorcycle Company as a teenager before moving on to the Swiss Moto Reve company in Geneva. Moving to Milan, by 22 years old, Gilera was designing and building his own motorcycles. In 1911 he started a modest racing team and participated in many regional races.
Immediately following World War II, Gilera launched with the inimitable 500cc Saturno. Although it was seen in 1940, it didn’t enter the production line until 1946, but was an immediate success on the race circuit with Massimo Masserini winning the Targa Florio in Palermo and to first place in 1947 and 1948 by Carlo Bandirola in San Remo. Boasting 36bhp, privateers instantly recognizing the potential of this machine. It took the rear suspension from the supercharged four-cylinder pre-War racer – a horizontally spring, friction damped swingarm. The Saturno was developed into the San Remo racer, up on power with 582cc and with blade girder fork and full-width front hub, it was a formidable contender to larger, multi-cylinder rivals on tight circuits. Saturnos would win the Italian championships in 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952 and 1954. Production ceased in 1959, marking the end of one of Italy’s greats.
This 1952 Gilera 499cc Saturno, a late model girder fork machine, was purchased by our vendor as a restoration project, as seen here, but is now for sale, as a busy schedule prohibits taking on such restorations. A lot of the heavy lifting has been taken care of: the bike presents well with restored frame, tank, engine finishes, etc., but there is still work to be done. The engine internals accompany the bike in a box, so it will need to be rebuilt. It should be noted that there is a broken fin on the engine, rudimentary repaired (pictured). There are several boxes of miscellaneous parts and the bike appears to be complete, but for the exhaust.