‘Many enthusiasts would argue that the DOHC 250 Morini, which reached a peak in 1963 when the might of Honda only just managed to vanquish the lone Italian single with Tarquinio Provini in the saddle, was the most outstanding design of its type ever conceived. Whether one subscribes to this particular theory or not, it is an indisputable fact that the bike was the fastest single-cylinder four-stroke of its capacity ever made.’ – Mick Walker, ‘Classic Italian Racing Motorcycles’.
Before the arrival of its family of v-twin roadsters in 1973, Morini’s reputation had rested mainly on its highly successful double-overhead-cam single-cylinder racers that came within a whisker of snatching the 1963 250cc World Championship from mighty Honda. Founded in 1937, Alfonso Morini’s company built two-stroke lightweights at first before developing a range of fast four-stroke roadsters during the 1950s, the first of which appeared at the Milan Show in November 1952. Previously, Alfonso Morini had been in partnership with Mario Mezzetti, manufacturing motorcycles under the ‘MM’ name. MM had built several successful racers and Morini continued to be actively engaged in competition after WW2, commencing with a ‘racerised’ version of his 125cc two-stroke roadster.
In 1949 Morini built a single-overhead-camshaft single-cylinder four-stroke for the 125cc class and from then onwards it was four-strokes only for racing. Built in 1957, Morini’s first effort in the 250 class was based on the successful 175cc Rebello sports roadster and featured chain drive to twin overhead camshafts, an arrangement that was soon superseded by a train of gears running up the cylinder’s right-hand side. In this form the bialbero (twin-cam) Morini won first time out in the 1958 Italian Grand Prix at Monza with works rider Emilio Mendogni in the saddle. Development continued, with outings confined mainly to Italian Championship events, and by the start of the 1963 season Morini felt confident enough to launch a serious assault on the 250cc World Championship. Despite missing two rounds of the Championship, works rider Tarquinio Provini lost out by only two points, the title going to Honda-mounted Jim Redman. By way of consolation, Provini again won the Italian Championship. Provini was succeeded by Giacomo Agostini, soon snapped up by MV, followed by Angelo Bergamonti, who brought Morini its final Italian Championship title in 1967.
In 1987 Morini was bought by the Castiglioni brothers (owners at that time of both Ducati and Cagiva) who later sold off the contents of Morini’s race department. We are advised that this example was one of a container load that included all the competition engines and frames. Offered for sale from an Italian private collection, the machine was restored in 1995 by engineer Nerio Biavati, an ex-Mondial employee who had worked in the Morini race department in the 1960s, specialising in cylinder head design. The vicissitudes of active competition being what they are – crashes, blow-ups, rebuilds, component swaps, etc – it is not at all surprising that racing motorcycles seldom stay original for very long. Indeed, the owner advises us that this Morini’s original magnesium brakes were too corroded to use and have been replaced, while the oil catch tank, throttle and tyres are likewise non-standard.