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Derby and:     Derby’s Dutch cousin


Derby's Italian Connection By: Jan Preuthun

The Århus-based Danish motor and moped manufacturer Derby has already received a great deal of attention in the books on Danish mopeds "Danske knallerter" by Willy Poulsen and "Under 50 kubik" by Jens Jessen. Especilly the latter provides an in-depth history of the company. I strongly recommend these books, which will be of great interest to any veteran moped enthusiast.

During several years of Derby's existence, the company marketed its 2-speed engines and mopeds as though the Danish company worked in close collaboration with the Italian Ferrari company.

As I was going to Italy for my holidays last summer, I got the idea that I might be able to find some of Derby's 2-speed Ferrari engines mounted on Italian mopeds or light-weight motorcycles. As I didn’t succeed in this, however, the heretic idea dawned upon me that the story might not have much truth to it. So here I also bring the story viewed through Italian eyes.

Article translation by Jan Preuthun


Derby Ferrari-engine. For mopeds. 2 speed and kickstart. Silent running

The motor manufacturer DERBY from Århus has sent us the following description about their new 2 speed engine with kick start, that they informs is on the market now. The engine manufacturer does not produce mopeds, but supplies the engines for other manufactures and trades companies for installation. (Actually, they did start to produce mopeds shortly after. Ed.) To avoid any kind of experiments and initial errors, in this case DERBY have choosen to enter a collaboration with the recognized Italian motor manufacturer B.R.M, that is a department of the famous Ferrari Works i Italy.

The engine, that is designed by Ferrari’s chief designer Ballentina, (Bellentani Ed.) has an utmost simple and robust design and is furthermore built by principals known from modern motorcycle engines. During several years the engine has been in ordinary use in Italy, and has already proven its reliability. The design is well tested and any events of initial errors are long ago removed. The engine manufacturer DERBY now produces this engine possessing the exclusive rights for Scandinavia. To achieve the agreement with the Ferrari Works, the factory has to import and supply all the engines with the complete gearsystem in the original version from the Ferrari Works. All other parts are produced in this country on the basis of the original Ferrari - blue prints and guidelines.

The original engine produces 3 hp, which gives a speed of 60 km/h, that is the max. allowed speed in Italy.

According to the conditions in this country, the engine is in DERBY’s version reduced in the scavenging channels, so it produces approx. 1 hp, that gives the moped a max speed of 30 km/h. This reduction of performance in reality, means that the engine is heavily overdimensioned, while it is meant for 60 km/h. Therefore the gearsystem, the clutch and the syncroflex drive achieves an incredibly long life span in comparison to ordinary mopeds. In return the engine seems a little too big for a moped, while the engine gives the moped an impression of being a light weight motorcycle.

Derby launched a new 2-speed engine in the latter half of the ‘50s.

Here the engine is mentioned in the bicycle dealers’ magazine, "Styret” no. 7 from 1957.

(I’ve cut a bit out of the article, hence the small frame in the right hand side.)

In most of their brochures, Derby claimed that their engine was designed by Ferrari.

Cut-through of the 2-speed engine and a couple of cuttings from various brochures where Derby's advertising department in no way curb their appraisal of the engine.-

More about the technicalities of this engine:



So, Derby claims: 1) that the engine is constructed by Ferrari's chief designer "Ballentina", 2) that the company BRM, with whom they have a licence agreement, is part of the Ferrari works, 3) that the gearbox is supplied by the famous Ferrari works and 4) that Derby collaborates with Ferrari on the engines.

Viewed from the Italian perspective, the story is as follows:

  • BRM stands for Bellentani Riccardo Modena. He was the owner and director of the engine manufacturing company.
  • BRM employed Umberto Dalvacchio "Cirillo", who designed all the moped engines. He later went on to design a 6-cylindered engine for Benelli motorcycles.
  • For two periods, the chief engineer at Ferrari was Vittorio Bellentani. He was Riccardo’s brother and also worked for BRM.
  • To land some export deals, BRM exploited their close relationship with Ferrari, and persuaded the acclaimed Ferarri company to vouch for the BRM engines with customers abroad.

With the aid of the head-of-documentation at a large car museum in northern Italy, combined with a couple of hours’ intensive searching the Internet, I picked up the trail of the story viewed through Italian eyes.


The advertising story also smells a bit fishy


One of the most prolific technicians in the engine department at Modena was without a doubt engineer Vittorio Bellentani, an indisputably brilliant man with a hard and unyielding character. After acquiring his diploma as industrial expert, he gained employment at Mignon, who were already famous for their motorbikes. After completing his engineer training at the University of Freiburg in 1940, he left for Auto Avio Costruzioni and worked under Enzo Ferrari in the Ferrari stables’ former base in Viale Trento Trieste, a company which Ferrari so far had not been able to give his own name due to an agreement with Alfa Romeo, who had taken over the stables. Along with engineer Massimino, Bellentani was supposed to work on construction of the new racing car, “815”, which was made from Fiat components. However, the war soon quenched this endeavour, which was limited to only 2 cars. Bellentani remained with Ferrari throughout the war, where he supervised production of hydraulically controlled honing machines, which were used by the largest Italian manufacturers and were copied from a German patent from a company who hadn’t granted Ferrari a licence of production. In 1949 Vittorio Bellentani left Ferrari in favour of Maserati.


He returned to Ferrari in 1955, during one of the company’s most critical periods. The company’s problems were solved, however, by Lancia giving them formula 1 material and FIAT giving financial support for 5 years. Vittorio’s brother, Riccardo, also worked for Ferrari, though he dreamed of starting up his own company. With Vittorio Bellentani’s aid, he realised this dream in the late ’50s and started the mechanics workshop B.R.M. (Bellentani Riccardo Modena) on premises belonging to the brothers Bellentani on Via Sassi Panfilo no. 21 – a company that manufactured mechanical parts and engines for contractors.


Work was carried out in a cellar with a talented team comprising members such as Mario Bonvicini, who had everything under control and was an invaluable asset to the company, Oscar Corradi, a motor expert from Maserati, Carlo Giovetti, a highly skilled grinder, Uber Alessandrini, who with his brother-in-law Amadeo Bertoni was responsible for the machines for grinding work, and the extremely talented Umberto Dalvacchio, aka. ”Cirillo”, a self-taught technical artist and designer with an unbounded imagination in his projecting of engines. The ”Coker” U9 – a 48 ccm 2-stroke engine with roller-transmission mounted on Taurus bicycles with the characteristic cylinder that points downwards is one of his projects. Under the Taurus name, ”Cirillo” also projected a 250 ccm single-cylindered 4-stroke engine, which was prepared at Modena and then sent to Taurus where the engine was assembled.


In this period, a lot was going n in Europe and there was a great desire to create something, contact and cooperation was much simpler. A Dutch company approached B.R.M. to have a 2-stroke 48 ccm engine produced and once again ”Cirillo” created a true masterpiece, which almost from the beginning had a production run of approx. 800 engines a month. Initially this company had contacted Ferrari, who sent them on to B.R.M., being convinced that the latter were fully capable of doing the job. This is confirmed by a letter written by Ferrari to the firm in question, in which he guarantees that B.R.M. is an extremely reliable company and that the work will be carried out under his control.


The business went well and a building that was better suited for the company was built next to the cellar, where 30 people were now employed. In ’52, after having finished his studies, Stefano Gozzoli, called ”Giorgio”, joined the company, where he after an appropriate period of training became head of the workshop and became Vittorio Bellentanis right hand. The latter took care of the technical side of the business in the time he had left over after his other work tasks.


Riccardo Bellentani took care of the commercial side of the business himself, with the help of Mrs. Irma ”Franca” Marchetti, another key persona in the company.


In this period the very popular Fausto Coppi, as other famous cyclists had already done before him, began manufacturing bicycles under his own name. The tendency of the times was that everyone wanted to make mopeds or bicycles. Gino Bartali (another famous cyclist, Ed.) too got involved with Bellentani’s firm and even today his motorcycles are eagerly sought after by enthusiasts and collectors alike. Riccardo Bellentani therefore got in touch with ”the grand master”, whom he was a big fan of, to suggest the realisation of a new, small moped engine.


They met and in the end of November 1957 signed a contract in the restaurant of the Hotel Andreola in Via Scarlatti in Milano for the construction of a moped engine, a 2-stroke ”Coppi” 48 ccm with a 3-speed gearbox. The first order for 300 engines was put into production but due to the sudden death of the famous cyclist production was halted and only about 30 were built.


The agreement made with Fausto Coppi no longer had any value and though Riccardo Bellentani contacted the new owners with two friends they did not succeed in getting a renewal of the order. The new owners were unwilling to continue the cooperation and the agreement was thus suspended.


From the moment that B.R.M. were no longer short of demand, their own production of moped engines of the make ”B” was initiated, for women and men, respectively. These were 48 ccm 2 strokes, first the ”B5” with 2 gears (Canarino), then the”B6” with 3 gears, of which about 200 were produced per month. This production was of a more local than national nature, as the company were engaged in the production of unassembled engines (5000/6000 a month) for export to Gemany, where they were assembled, as well as to Holland. For this purpose, 3 new employees were taken on: Elio Guerra and Giancarlo Nicoli, who were in charge of testing, and the upcoming young engineer Ivan Montanari, who was to assist ”Cirillo”. At the same time, engineer Vittorio Bellentani started his own company in Via Canaletto, which specialised in general mechanics for contractors. For the Argentinean racing driver A. De Tomaso the ”De Tomaso-Osca 750 Sport” was realised and in 1952 an ”F2”, which had an Osca 1500 ccm engine mounted on a Cooper T 43 frame.


In 1963, in addition to manufacturing engines and taking care of orders on behalf of Ferrari, the company also assembled ASA 1000, a small sports car better known as ”Ferrarina” (”little Ferrari”, Ed.), which was subsequently produced in small batches of about 100 altogether at a factory in Milan. At the same time as Montari in B.R.M. (B-motors) was working on the ”B7” Rondinella 75 ccm  project and ”Cirillo” was engaged in the realisation of a future (two-axled) 175 ccm engine, the much talked about Fiat 500 appeared on the market. This was a great success for the car industry and a true disaster for the motorcycle industry, which was facing a crisis. Nothing could stop the success of the car market, and unfortunately some companies just couldn’t survive.


The market was rekindled with the success of the Japanese designers, but meanwhile B.R.M., which after Riccardo Bellentani’s early demise had been carried on by his son Antonio, dedicated itself to other activities in the field of mechanics, including for the Ferrari company.


In the meantime, Umberto Dalvacchio ”Cirillo”, who was a very well-known figure in the motorcycle scene in Modena, moved to De Tomaso, who in addition to Guzzi also controlled Benelli, and he succeeded in flabbergasting the world yet again with the fantastic project, the 6-cylindered Benelli.


The above text is taken from the book ”Le Moto Maserati e l'artigianato motociclistico modenese" (”The Maserati- engines and the art of motorcycle engineering in Modena” p. 160, by Dante Candini. (Presented by Roberto Orsi and with a foreword by Nunzia Manicardi), the publishers Il Fiorino, Modena, 2002.

Here you can read what the famous Italian writer of motor literature Dante Candini writes about the history of BRM


A translation of the Danish translation by Hanne Laila Petersen and Anne Felici.

Engine for a Taurus Cocker.


The picture are borrowed from the writer of the very interesting and beautyfull book,


de collectie van Jan Bosveld

ISBN : 978-90-902759-8

by: Joost Heesakkers.

You can buy it here



Thanks to


Via Marinuzzi,28

41100 Modena, Italia

Tel. 0039/59/281577


Author of the book "Le Moto Maserati e l'artigianato motociclistico modenese", Dante Candini, and his publisher, EDIZIONI IL FIORINO

Museo Nicolis

Via Postumia – 37069 Villafranca di Verona

Tel. +39 045 6303289 / 6304959 Fax +39 045 7979493

e.mail museonicolis@museonicolis.com

website www.museonicolis.com

Head of documentation: Antonella Marcocci from Museo Nicolis.


Picture of the Taurus Cocker engine are borrowed from the writer of the interesting and beautyfull book “Rijwielhulpmotoren - de collectie van Jan Bosveld” ISBN : 978-90-902759-8, by Joost Heesakkers. You can buy it here

Writer Joost Heesakkers, The Netherlands

email: hulpmotor@hetnet.nl

Damgaard-Nielsen A/S

Bjarkesvej 3, 3450 Allerød

Tel. 7023 0901 og 7023 0902, website www.dna.dk

Ulrik W. Rasmussen of the Danish importer of Ferrari and Maserati, Damgård-Nielsen

Translation to Danish

Hanne Laila Petersen,

Anne Felici


Erik Nurup

Dear reader. Should you have any information that can shed further light on this subject, please write to: preuthunATveteranknallert.dk