When it was first manufactured, the Gilera Rondine 500 was one of the most powerful bikes around, developing 87 hp at 9,000 rpm. It was such a monster of the road that it soon achieved the most important international victories – and of course established the 1937 world speed record, at 274.181 km/h.
The history of this wonderful motorcycle is quite complex. While its aesthetics are perfectly clear – you can see a 1937 “naked” and faired model in the gallery below – the mechanics had a more difficult story. Its futuristic, transverse 4-stroke engine was designed in the early 1920s by two Roman engineers, in a workshop near the Baths of Diocletian; it was manufactured first by GBR (Gianini-Bonmartini-Remor) and later by Opra (Officine di precisione romana automobilistiche), which presented the first model at Milan’s 1928 Auto Show.
The two engineers – Carlo Gianini and Piero Remor – continued to work on the project, giving it the name “Rondine” in memory of a Transadriatica airplane that had flown over the 1922 March on Rome.
In the second half of the 1930s, the six existing versions of this mighty motorbike were acquired by Milan-based Gilera. With its turbocharger, the Gilera 500 Rondine won everything there was to win. What’s more, it stayed on its lucky streak even after such compressors were banned from international races in order to limit unreachable performances.