Eighty-five-year-old Giancarlo Morbidelli’s life story is a rags-to-riches saga worthy of Hollywood.
One of the several self-made men from humble backgrounds who in the 1960s and 1970s powered Italy’s post-World War II resurgence from derelict battleground to thriving economy, Morbidelli was born in 1934 into a poor family living off the soil in the Marche region of Italy. He began work at 16 as an apprentice fitter in a factory repairing woodworking machinery for the furniture industry, one of the two engineering specialties of what became his home town of Pesaro, on the Adriatic Coast south of Rimini. The other? Motorcycles — it’s the home of Benelli.
This helps explain Giancarlo Morbidelli’s passion for motorcycle sport which he pursued from a very young age, even after starting his own machine tool company in the late 1950s with working capital of just 30,000 lire (then about $40). Using his technical skills after hours to tune locally built Benelli and Motobi bikes to a succession of race victories came as a relief from the punishing days spent building Morbidelli Woodworking Machines into the global industry leader it had become by the 1980s. The company eventually employed over 300 people to manufacture increasingly high-tech CNC machine tools for worldwide export to over 60 countries. In 1997, Morbidelli sold the firm to his SCM rivals from Rimini (coincidentally, the then owners of Bimota), who built a new Morbidelli plant on the outskirts of Pesaro. This left Giancarlo himself with the previous inner-city factory site, which he then converted into a motorcycle museum that opened to the public in 1999, displaying over 350 bikes dating from 1904, including a complete array of Morbidelli GP racers.
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