Saturday, July 19, 2008


The sight of two dohc ex-works Mondial 125's at the MotoConcorso certainly brought the marque to the forefront; Dave has been furiously sending me photos from here and there.
First a little history on the name FB Mondial; the fratelli Boselli (that would be Carlo, Ettore, Giuseppe, and Luigi) were all keen motorcycle enthusiasts and racers, and established the 'FB' motorcycle dealership in Milan, 1929. They began producing three-wheel delivery trucks before and during the War, using 600cc ohc single-cylinder engines.
Post-war, Count Giuseppe Boselli, the most successful racer of the brothers (having won a gold in the '35 ISDT), resumed industrial capacity with a flourish, creating (with Alfonso Drusiani) a wholly new 125cc dohc racer for the 1948 season (see second photo). Produced chiefly for publicity for his new works, the new design completely outclassed and outperformed all others in this capacity, which were primarily two-strokes or pushrod ohv machines.

The twin overhead camshafts were driven by a shaft-and-bevel system, with the unit-construction engine built of all alloy castings, an outside flywheel, and straight-cut primary gears, with a bore and stroke of 53x56mm. Using 9.7:1 compression, this first engine gave 11hp, enough to propel bike and rider to 90mph.

All other factories in the 125cc class, chiefly MV Agusta and Morini, scrambled to produce a four-stroke ohc racer, but Mondial had the edge for several years, winning Italian and World championships (1949/50/51).

Interestingly, in 1951 Cromie McCandless (designer of the Norton Featherbed frame) joined the FB team, yet it took another 5 years for Mondial to adopt the frame technology for which McCandless became famous; this was partly the cause of a lull in their racing success in '52-55 - failure to update their chassis. Plus, MV and Morini poured a bit of their own racing experience into the class, making race wins a bit more difficult for the tiny FB factory.
By 1956, the dohc Mondial was producting 17hp @ 13,000rpm, good for a speed of 110mph.

In 1957, further tweaks (such as a twin-plug cylinder head) brought 19hp @ 13,200rpm, and success at the Isle of Man TT (125cc and 250cc classes - Tarquinio Provini and Cecil Sandford riding, respectively), as well as Italian and World Championships in both classes.

Later that year, Morini, Moto Guzzi, and Gilera pulled out of racing, as motorcycle sales in Italy were grim (blame the Fiat 500!).

Count Boselli retired in 1960, leaving the factory in the hands of his nephew. Racing interest resumed in the 1960's, as Francesco and Walter Villa convinced the factory to dust off the 1957 125cc and 250cc racers. While the 250 proved uncompetitive, the 125 was still good enough for Francesco Villa to win the Italian Championships in 1961/2/3.
He then designed a 125cc two-stroke racer (two stroke technology having evolved by leaps, due mainly to the efforts of MZ's Ernst Degner), and won the Italian Championship in 1966/'67, but the firm began to experience financial difficulties, and racing was halted. (Walter Villa went on to win multiple World Championships with Harley Davidson/Aermacchi). Mondial continued to produce quality roadsters until 1977.

[I raced a '38 350cc mkVIII KTT Velocette at Montlhery in 2001, and was surprised to find a dustbin Mondial dogging my heels on the circuit. I simply couldn't lose the lightweight bike, and although I never saw it on the banking, on the infield corners it would always reappear, cutting inside my line...and I soon realized we were evenly matched. The Mondial had less hp than the Velo, but was 100lbs lighter!]

1 comment:

Jorge Pullin said...

Interestingly (or sadly, depending on your point of view), motorcycles of Mondial brand are being sold today in Argentina. They are all chinese scooters, and a clone of the Honda Dax, creatively called Mondial Dax,