1949 Gilera Saturno Sport

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Girder forks used until the end of 1949.
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James Adam Bolton riding Luigi Mazzaccherini’s 1949 Gilera Saturno Sport.
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The 1949 Gilera Saturno Sport.
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Adjustable friction discs control rear damping.
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Marelli magneto ignition.
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Smiths speedo not as optimistic as it might seem — a Saturno will come close to 100mph, or 162kmh.
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28mm Dell’Orto with remote float feeds fuel and air.
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Low and lean, the Saturno was quite the sporting proposition when new. Some 6,000 were built between 1946 and 1958.
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Low and lean, the Saturno was quite the sporting proposition when new. Some 6,000 were built between 1946 and 1958.

1949 Gilera Saturno Sport
Engine type:
499cc OHV air-cooled vertical single w/aluminum cylinder head and barrel (cast iron stock)
Claimed power: 25 HP @ 5,000rpm (measured, rear wheel)
Top speed: 99mph (est.)
Transmission: 4-speed
Weight: 330lb
Price then (1949)/now: 500,000 lire ($800) approx. / $8,000-$12,000

“I’m not hearing it! I’m not hearing that special noise it makes when it comes on cam — you’ve got to give it more gas!” I’m riding Luigi Mazzaccherini’s 1949 Gilera Saturno Sport, and these are the first words he offers me as I pull over to check something with Marco the photographer.

My helmet almost makes a squelching noise as I remove it from my head, as I am sweating so much from the heat and effort of pacing lap after lap, and I need to let my brain breathe for half a moment. “I don’t want to break anything,” I reply pathetically. Luigi laughs and says, “Don’t worry, I ride this on the motorway all the time at high speed, and if anything was to break, I would have broken it by now! Give it some gas!” “Ok,” I reply, and put my helmet back on, and get back on the road. I love this man’s attitude.

Luigi is referring to his very red, very imposing, very Italian Gilera Saturno Sport. It is 500cc of proper man’s motorcycle, and it is hard work to handle it and ride it to the full, in that it seems suspiciously quick. I’ve ridden a couple of Gilera Saturnos before, and on the last occasion I was restricted in how far and how fast I could go. Today is a different matter. Thanks to my friends at the Moto Storiche Toscane motorcycle club, I have a local track to play on with straights, corners and esses, and though the effort to ride it fast and neatly is far greater than anticipated, Luigi’s Saturno is absolutely breathtaking in more ways than one.

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