Benelli Tornado 650S
With Phil Aynsley
Benelli’s 650 Tornado is an often overlooked motorcycle. It suffered from being late to market after a three-year development period. As a result it found itself up against the likes of the Honda CB750 and Kawasaki H1 rather than the Triumph/BSA/Norton 650cc twins it was originally aiming at.
It was first shown, in prototype form, at the 1967 Milan Show but it wasn’t until 1970 that the first production model went on sale in its main intended market, the USA. European deliveries started the following year.
Originally intended to be a 350cc, it was soon changed to a 650. The motor was designed by Piero Prampolini (who created Benelli’s successful horizontal singles) and Luigi Benelli penned the double-cradle frame.
The first version (just the ‘650’) suffered from the lack of an electric starter and engine vibration above 4000 rpm. Power from the very over square motor (84×58 mm) 360º twin was a claimed 50 hp at 7400 rpm, giving a top speed of 176 km/h.
With the transfer of the company to Alejandro De Tomaso in 1972 Prampolini redesigned the bike (now the 650S) to add a Bosch electric starter behind the cylinders (formally the place of the alternator), rebalanced crankshaft, increased compression, revised gear ratios, new exhaust system, new instrumentation and revised graphics. Power was increased to 52 hp and claimed top speed to 190 km/h. The bike seen here is an original, unrestored 650S.
The final S2 version appeared in 1973 and featured improved low end torque and increased rubber mounting of various components such as the handlebars and foot pegs.
A clear handlebar fairing, long humped seat and revised graphics including black engine side cases completed the makeover. Altogether about 3000 of all versions were built.