Tanshanomi's Snap Judgments

Benelli 250 Quattro

Fri, September 9th, 2011

Image by unknown photographer. (I was unable to locate a decent Benelli press photo.)
The copyright holder is invited to contact tanshanomi@tanshanomi.com

1976–79 Benelli 250 Quattro
Benelli's littlest Quattro was the first production 250cc four. It was interesting technically, but not a stellar ride. It was as weak off idle as you'd expect, but it didn't rev out as willingly as its Grand Prix lineage would have suggested. It was the most expensive and least powerful multi-cylinder 250 available while it was in production. To increase performance, the original 231cc displacement was increased to 300, then 350, then 400cc, but it never performed as well as others in whatever displacement class it was it. Eventually Japan produced its own, better 250 fours. By then, the little Benelli had already lost its novelty.
The 250 Quattro was compact, as light as its unnecessary complexity allowed, and sourced its chassis components from high-end vendors. From all reports, steering and cornering were the bike's high points.
I've always liked the looks of the original version. Its blended tank (really a cover over an inner plastic fuel tank) and side covers came along before the similarly styled Honda Hawk. It looks fresh and original even today. That's the original version; the revised and more plentiful Moto Guzzi/Benelli/MotoBi '254' version was just plain homely.
The 250 Quattro is known for being a fragile engine. Despite accelerated top end wear, it is somewhat undeserving of that reputation. Even new, the Quattro's top end always had an uncommonly loud and corse-sounding top end clatter. Therefore, it was difficult for riders to tell when things were getting dangerously worn and loose. This led to many tales of catastrophic top end failure that could have been mitigated with conscientious preventive maintenance. It was plagued with other, typically Italian bugaboos, including erratic electrics and substandard chrome parts that corroded quickly.
Quarter-liter fours are inherently impractical. The Benelli has lower performance and more puzzlingly bizarre engineering details than any other. Never officially imported into the U.S., Cosmopolitan Motors brought in perhaps less than a dozen in total. Parts are scarce. (To dispel a common rumor, the motor was neither designed nor built by Honda.)
The 250 Quattro was previously one of the dream bikes in my wishlist garage. Over the years, it has ceased to matter nearly as much.
The 250 Quattro is the only bike in the world that has all the glaring faults and undeniable allure that come of having both an Italian lineage and the tiniest of four-cylinder engines.