Parilla Days USA 2015

A look back at this summer’s gathering of the Parilla faithful just north of Denver, Colorado, at Parilla Days USA.

| January/February 2016

  • Ennis King and Jarl Wathne take PJ Johnson’s Parilla race bikes out on the track.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • A beautifully restored 250cc Parilla Wildcat. These were sold in the U.S. from 1961-1966.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • A 1957, 250cc overhead cam Parilla Sport — very few of these came to the U.S.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Doug Jandebeur and the 1960 250cc Grandsport Racer he rode at Daytona in 1961.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Jarl Wathne set a 2013 Bonneville class record of 73mph with his 1954 175cc Parilla Sport.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • A circa-1957 250cc Competizione single overhead cam production racer.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Brian Slark brought the Barber museum’s dustbin-faired 1956 250cc single overhead cam race bike
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • An extremely rare circa-1950 double overhead cam factory racer.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Parilla importer Larry Wise of Cosmopolitan Motors.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • A high-cam Parilla, showing the chain-driven camshaft placed high in the cylinder head.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Orrin Hall’s “Gadget 2” 250cc racer. Hall’s tuned and tweaked Parillas were extremely competitive in early 1960s racing.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Parilla specialist PJ Johnson’s impeccable “Killa Parilla” 250cc special features an aluminum fairing, gas tank and seat pan hand-formed by Evan Wilcox
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • A rare 125cc 2-stroke Slughi, sold as the Ramjet in the U.S.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Even rarer is this late-Fifties Gran Turismo 350cc twin. Few were sold in the U.S. before the model was phased out in 1961.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • The Jims behind Parilla Days: Jim Dallarosa (left) and Jim Dillard III.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • The Moto Parilla greyhound logo
    Image courtesy Moto Parilla

Glimpsing even a single Parilla, with its shapely lines and graceful hound logo, is uncommon — gazing upon a pack of them is extraordinary. Ten years have passed since the last U.S. Parilla owners gathering. So when smoke signals went up confirming Parilla Days USA 2015, the faithful came, drawn together by their shared passion for a rare Italian motorcycle that’s been out of production for more than 50 years.

Held Aug. 19-22 at Colorado National Speedway just north of Denver, the 2015 Parilla Days USA event was a chance for the Parilla clan to hang out, bench race and scrutinize one another’s bikes. They rode on the street and the track and they shared Parilla lore, listening to stories told by the very people who established Parilla’s presence in the U.S. almost 60 years ago. It was four days of immersion in everything that is endearing about these small, rolling Italian sculptures: their curvaceous shapes, their nimble handling and the raucous barking that emanates from their exhaust pipes — appropriate for a marque whose logo was a greyhound.

If you didn’t know about Parilla Days, don’t feel bad; the event wasn’t publicized. The organizers wanted a Parilla family reunion, so if you don’t own a Parilla, you wouldn’t have heard about it. The focal point for the event was a large tent housing an incredible selection of Parillas brought by their owners, little placards fronting many of the bikes explaining their significance — a welcome touch for those of us not steeped in Parilla history and lore.

The speedway location was no accident, and was chosen to inspire attending owners to exercise the bikes on track. A 3/8-mile short track, Colorado Speedway is perfect for the little Parillas; intimate, but still big enough to let riders get up to speed and flog their dogs.

A rare 350 parallel twin (one of fewer than 100 twins sold here and believed to be the only running example in the U.S.) and some even rarer overhead camshaft models were fired up, and witnessing these exotic machines getting a workout, actually being used as intended, was amazing.

Remarkably, there was no registration fee for the event. In fact, with the exception of the event T-shirts and posters, everything was free, including Parilla caps and pins for all attendees.

1/21/2016 10:56:49 AM

Had a 250 Wildcat dirt bike back in the day. Quite a bike. Followed a guy named Mr. Hamilton around for six months and finally got around him and shortly after he retired. Together we owned the South Florida sand scrambles for over a year or two. Sure would like to find a good example today but afraid the cost would be sky high ??? Richard

1/21/2016 8:31:37 AM

Touching story. Thanks for covering it Corey. Next Parilla I see will make me think a bit harder about what model it is and the back story to the company.

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