The BBC adventure started with these prerequisites thanks to Beretta, famous for their weapons, engineer Giuseppe Benelli, joint owner with his brother of the eponymous motorcycle company and Luigi Castelbarco, a financier also involved in motor sport activities.
In post-war Italy many industrial companies tried to branch out into areas different from their usual production, in an attempt to revive business or simply to increase their opportunities in a country rising from the rubble. The BBC adventure started with these prerequisites thanks to Beretta, famous for their weapons, engineer Giuseppe Benelli, joint owner with his brother of the eponymous motorcycle company and Luigi Castelbarco, a financier also involved in motor sport activities. In 1947 the three characters met to discuss the design and production of a car to compete with the Fiat Topolino, with four comfortable seats and a competitive price.
All the prerequisites to realise the project seemed to be there; as arms experts Beretta could boast long experience in the metal-working field; Benelli would supply the motorcycle engine and the no less-important Castelbarco would provide the necessary capital.
In 1948 Benelli had already completed development of the 750 cc 21 bhp (4.5 more than the rival Topolino) V-twin aluminium engine, located in the front in company with the four-speed gearbox and clutch. The front wheels were also driven. Welding of the chassis, with side-members and boxed cross-members, was also the work of the Pesaro manufacturer. The bodywork, vaguely inspired by American cars of the period, was designed by Benelli but built by Carrozzeria Rosso of Turin, who made the prototype of the car along with a cabriolet and a van version. Soon, however, enthusiasm waned, partly due to the departure of Beretta, perhaps after pressure from Fiat, who undoubtedly saw the BBC as a potential competitor, or perhaps simply because he was discouraged by the much higher costs of getting the car into production than had been expected. Benelli remained the only one to maintain belief in the project, but sadly he had to abandon the idea in 1948, consigning the whole project to oblivion.
As mentioned, three prototypes of the vehicle were produced, one of which is now part of the Beretta collection.
Text by Tommaso Lai
Translation by Norman Hawkes
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