The ups and downs of owning a classic motorcycle
Barry Porter's affinity for his Benelli Sei 750 is rooted in childhood. He was one of those lucky kids who grew up in a dirt bike-friendly family. After a Thanksgiving visit to cousins who had a Yamaha 80, Barry pestered his parents until he got his own Kawasaki. As he remembers: “I had a competitive spirit, and started racing when I was in high school. I stopped riding for four years while I went to college, but got back into it after I graduated. I raced enduros for several years, but I didn’t want to be away from my family after I married and had kids.”
Barry continues: “In 1985 or 1986, I went to a swap meet and saw British bikes like I remembered from high school. When I saw a BSA 441 Victor on a bulletin board, I bought it, tore it up and restored it. I really enjoyed doing it. That got me into collecting.
“I got into Italian bikes when my best friend told me his brother- in-law was selling his Moto Guzzi LeMans III. I went to look at it, went ‘OOOH,’ and of course bought it. Later, I took the Guzzi to the Concours d’Italiano, held every year in Monterey, Calif. I basically went to look at the exotic cars, and found out I could get in a lot cheaper if I brought my bike to show. They were driving these rare Italian cars around and the exhaust note of each of them was incredible. My Benelli Sei 750 sounds just like one of those Italian racecars.
“The Benelli was a score. I found it on eBay, of all things. It had only 420 miles on it and it was all stock, although it did have this ugly aftermarket fairing. I bid on it, but even though it was the highest bid, it didn’t meet the reserve. After the auction was over, the seller contacted me, and we worked out a deal on the shipping.
“The bike was in good shape except for the mufflers; Italian chrome in the 1970s wasn’t the greatest. I removed the ugly fairing and tracked down stock indicators, since the ones on the bike were molded into the fairing. Not many Sei’s came to the States, but there was this guy in Germany who had a huge stash of Sei parts. I was also able to contact the Dutch Benelli club, which has a lot of information.”
While he was searching for information about the bike, Barry located a Newtronic electronic ignition. When it arrived, Barry started disassembling the points. “I found the condenser was attached by two strands of Italian wire. I realized that the bike never ran correctly under load, which is why it had so few miles on it.”
Finding parts for a rare 30-year-old motorcycle can take some ingenuity. “Some Honda items fit, like the oil filter. Honda also made a spark plug socket that works — the plugs are recessed and hard to get to. Some Guzzi parts fit, especially electric gear. The carburetor manifold rubber sleeve is the same as the Guzzi.”
Unlike some unusual motorcycles, Barry says the Benelli Sei 750 is easy to ride. “It’s wide, but not as heavy as it appears to be. It’s a beautiful sport tourer, and lots of fun on twisty roads. The light clutch pull makes running through the five gears easy, and the double discs on the front stop like anything.”
The weak points? “The switch gear on the handlebars looks delicate — I’m concerned about durability. I’m also concerned about the instrument mounting. The plastic bucket around the instruments gets pulled downwards by the cables. It cracked, and I fixed it. A guy from Seattle was looking at my bike, and told me, ‘Look, it cracked where mine’s cracked.’
“It’s very unique. I bought it to hear that Italian racing car sound, and it’s a delight every time I fire it up — there’s nothing like it. It’s a thrill when I ride the Sei to see the cylinders sticking out from under either side of the fuel tank.”
Read more about this classic motorcycle:
• Benelli Sei 750