1957 Parilla 175 Sport and 1962 Parilla 250 GS

Two takes on a single theme

| July/August 2011

  • 1962 parilla 25 grand sport 1
    1962 Parilla 250 Grand Sport.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 2
    Lovely suede Radaelli seat on the 1957 Parilla 175 Sport.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 1
    The 1957 Parilla 175cc Sport.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1962 parilla 25 grand sport 4
    The Parilla 175 Sport's success logically led to the larger, more powerful 250. The 250GS (for Grand Sport) was the cream of the crop.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1962 parilla 250 grand sport 2
    Gas tank decals on the 1962 Parilla 250 Grand Sport celebrate 1957-1959 wins, including the Motogiro d’Italia.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1962 parilla 250 grand sport 3
    The 1957 Parilla 175 Sport.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 4
    Intense competition in the Italian motorcycle market produced beautiful but functional designs like the high-cam 1957 Parilla 175 Sport.
    Photo by Robert Smith

  • 1962 parilla 25 grand sport 1
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 2
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 1
  • 1962 parilla 25 grand sport 4
  • 1962 parilla 250 grand sport 2
  • 1962 parilla 250 grand sport 3
  • 1957 parilla 175 sport 4

Greyhounds are some of the world’s fastest land mammals, capable of sprinting to faster than 45mph. When Giovanni Parrilla (two “r”s, unlike the company name) chose a stylized greyhound for his company logo, he no doubt intended his exquisitely engineered little bikes to be pretty quick, too, as one can see with the 1957 Parilla Sport and 1962 Parilla 250 GS.

The indigenous pup, the Italian Greyhound, is much smaller than the standard breed, however, and its slender bones are notoriously fragile. There are those who would attribute these same characteristics to Moto Parilla motorcycles.

Out of the trap

Giovanni’s company, Moto Parilla, was one of the first Italian motorcycle makers into production after WWII, manufacturing a 250cc racer (and corresponding sports roadster) in 1946. Itinerant engineer Giuseppe Salmaggi (responsible for the Gilera Saturno and Moto Rumi’s racing twins) produced the design to Parrilla’s specification, which was strongly influenced by the most successful racing engine of the day, the Norton Manx. Like Arthur Carroll’s design for the Bracebridge Street boys, Parrilla specified a bevel-drive single overhead camshaft with hairpin valve springs.

The new bike first raced at Lecco in northern Italy in October 1946 with Nino Grieco in the saddle, and was launched at the Milan show in 1947. Arousing particular interest were the huge 10.2-inch drum brakes of the racer (eight inch or smaller was common on small-displacement machines), quickly nicknamed padellone (frying pans).



Like Norton with the Manx, Parilla next produced a DOHC (bialbero) version of its 250cc racer, still using a shaft and bevel gears to drive the camshafts. Salmaggi designed the engine for strength and durability, no doubt with Italy’s long-distance road races in mind, keeping weight down by using magnesium alloy engine castings. The Parilla Bialbero reputedly offered a much wider powerband than other small-capacity racers, attributed to engine development on the track rather than the dynamometer. The Bialbero’s greatest success was probably its 250cc class win in the 1950 Milano-Taranto, the same year a 350cc version was announced. Though rarely outright winners, both bikes placed regularly in road races and helped establish the credibility of the Parilla name.

Giovanni Parrilla’s next venture seemed at first like a step backwards in technology. Credited to Salmaggi and Alfredo Bianchi, the high camshaft (camme rialzata) overhead valve 175cc single was nonetheless unique in execution and remained competitive for more than a decade. The camshaft was mounted at the top of a tower in the left side crankcase cover and driven by chain. The cam acted on two short pushrods, which operated the 90-degree-spaced valves via screw-adjustable rockers. The design offered much of the advantage of an overhead cam engine, but with simple valve adjustment common to most OHV designs. First seen in 1952 as the Fox street bike, the high-cam engine continued in production for 15 years, until Parilla closed its doors in 1967.

Danilo Gurovich
7/26/2011 8:01:36 AM

I've got a 1960 Tourist with that is now a GS "Clone". It has the X1 cam. It really"comes on" as the revs build, but it also has a surprising amount of torque for a small single down low. Things that make the bike special are the "D" Smith's mechanical tach, wonderful workmanship and of course the fabulous engine. Earlier engines had gear drive, not chains. I'm looking around for the "curved" kick starter so I can mount rearsets. I'm push-starting mine, and ride nearly every weekend. There's a great Parilla Owners' group on Yahoo.




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