1948 - 1963
The Caproni aeronautics factory was founded in 1908, 1909 when Gianni Caproni Conte di Taliedo, graduate in Civil Engineering in Monaco, Electrotechnics in Liegi and Aeronautical Engineering in Paris, come back to Massone d' Arco Italy. Here he founded what was ultimately to become one of Italy's largest industrial groups of the pre-war years, the giant Caproni group. On 27 May 1910 the Caproni biplane flown by Tabacchi, took off for its first flight, from Malpensa near Milan. In the beginning, it was fesable to produce an airplane that was big and powerful and able to carry heavy loads. So, when the First World War began, Caproni produce a line of heavy bombers which were considered very advanced for their time. Even US Army Air Corps used them to form its first heavy bomber squadron in 1918. The Caproni factories used its big productive capacity and tecnology, in other fields, like marine, industrial engines and a collaboration with Isotta Fraschini .
The development of aircraft had stoped, so at the start of a Second World War the heavy Caproni aircraft was obsolete and unsuitable to satisfy the requirements of a new war. The production had continued with light bombers and the Reggiane 2000 fighter series aircraft. An altitude record was achived (17.083m in 1938 by Pezzi) with a helix CA-161/bis model powered by Piaggio pistons engine and the first one of the first Italian jet aircraft, the 1940 Caproni Campini CC2, that flew the first time during a 1941 flight to Milano Guidonia. The end of Second World War had seen a wide range of production facilities badly affected by the bombardament, times was hard for the Caproni organization in the immediate postwar era. Count Caproni realized that motorcycles would be an excellent way to restart the productions. So in the native undamaged Arco factory began the project of a lightweight motorcycle. Probably the natural alpine scenario suggest the logo and the fauna the marque name "Capriolo" (the word Capriolo, is the name of a small deer in the Italian language).
In 1950 the factory Aero Caproni was born and the first motorcycle powered with a 49cc engine and a Ducati elastic frame. The Ducati Cucciolo frame , at that time, was made in the Arco factory. A realization was made by G. Perini. It already have the engine based on the scheme from where will come the lucky model Capriolo 75 and after some time the elegant Cento 50. Unfortunatly the 49cc version don't have continuation; we know only that one exemplary of this bike is surviving until today and that a similar model was present to Milano Taranto of 1950. The joint venture with Ducati for to making this bike stopped.
The Capriolo 75
1951 the Capriolo 75 was presented from Aero Caproni; show immediatly original solution altrought not inedited and with particular stylistics interpretation that to distinguish it from other 75cc primary competitor like Guzzi, Laverda, Ceccato. Sold at first as Normal version was early to place side a Sport version with slight aesthetical revision, long seddle, crouching handlebar and several engine modifications with power increment up to 1hp.
The Frame of Capriolo 75
The frame pressed in steel sheet, show a evident influence from German school (DKW, BMW). In fact the fueltank faucet take printed the inscriptions "ZU" and "OFFEN" in German language. In any case it is revisit accurately specially aroud the rear fork. In the first version the rear fork is pivotted just rear the engine, connected to the frame with a "flipper" and a couple of two coaxial springs enclosed in its case located under thr engine; two compass absorbers mounted in classic positions constitute the quench element of the suspension. In the second frame edition, the rear swinging fork lost its "flipper" and springs in favour of two idraulic shock absorbers instead of the compasses, mounted in inclined position. For to do the two printed sheet iron part the Aero Caproni buyed special press that after will also used for to print some parts for Guzzi bike. The frame assembled take configuration like a full double cradle with two strong bracket to support shock absorbers. The fueltank with its ovoidal shape is partially deep set in the middle of the frame. The telescopic front fork with helicodal springs (variable pitch and progression) don't have idraulic oil inside. The pistons roads runs over axle boxes made in microtex; it is necessary to lubricate every 1000 Km beteween caps put over the superior plate of the fork. The wheels 24x21/4 have hubs in alluminum alloy with lateral brake and removable pivots. The rear hub is separable at rubber buffer level, so to permit to keep out the rear wheel without to remove the chain.
Engine of Capriolo 75
The engine, four stroke, have a interesting architecture, refined for this type of bike. The crank shaft, dispose longitudinaly, is supported by two bearings. In front there is the flywheel, while a conic couple transmit the rotation to clutch coassial to the shaft of four speed gearbox integral with monobloc. Disposed traditionally, it permit to have chain final trasmission. The gearbox balance joystick with internal preselector to stand on the left side. A ulterior conic couple with a slim shaft, give motion to the face came inside in the head. The lubrication at umid case is well made with a piston pump that push the oil in visible internal pipes inside in the monobloc (first engine version). Subsequently the pipes will be drowned inside of the monobloc fusion (late type engine). The delivery capacity of the oil pump for the head pipe is plentiful so to do that also the kinematism of head works in oil bath . The pump command is derived from a coxial cam to put on auxiliary gear shaft. Usefull the centrifugal oil filter, pity that it is mounted in front to the crank shaft so to oblige to remove the head, cilinder, flywheel and frontal case engine for clearing it.
The Capriolo 75 was a good commercial success, it was produced how describle in some thousand of pieces and various models from 1951 up to 1957 also under the name Aeromere. Note how the transaction beteween the production years aren't sudden but soft with particular that vanish changed. Is possible to assist updating of the engine mounted always on the first frame, after the introduction of ovidal fueltank without boun shape but with longitudinal black line so for all the other changes. At this time Aero Caproni decided also to take part at the age sport races for to give promotional support at commercial bike. Born a special model that we can call "derived by production", competition or CORSA, destined only to sporting use. It is distinguished from a idraulic front fork with handlebar register, new front brake, backward command, particular seddle shape and fueltank . About the engine besides the revolution counter, bigger pan oil, there is mounted a special alloy castle with conic couple that rend the machine over head cam shaft. Because the model was destined for the racing, the various changing do hard to classify the bike, but the basic characteristic describle now are verifiable in the major part of survived models. Considering the robustness of the bike the principally races where picks victory was long distance races how Milano Taranto of the 1954 with Galliani and always the same pilot the Giro Motociclistico d'Italia of the 1955. In many other races, also with bike not much far from series production, the little bike to take honour striked or contrasted efficaciously Laverda and Ceccato its adversary at that time.
The Cento 50
In November of 1953, at Milan Show is presented the model Cento 50 aesthetcally quite with frame structuraly identical to Capriolo 75 but with plentiful dimension, Earles fork, idraulic suspension, have four stroke flat twin engine ( two opposite horizontal cilinders of 75 cc), equipped with 2 Weber carburettors. Even if it is schematicaly similat to BMW, represents a new in the Italian production. The purpose of the Aero Caproni was to build cleanly, smart superior bike respect to comperitors of same cylinder capacity.
Made in Arco di Trento factory have the same structure of the 75 for to underline the continuity of the species. The prototype have the front fork more sophisticated respect to Capriolo 75. Of original costruction, with pressed steel sheet arm it is Earles type but will replaced with a plus traditional telescopic type just before to go in production. The rear fork arm still remain in pressed steel sheet with two idraulic bumpers mouted in inclined position. Refined it is also the care of the particulars how the use of directional indicators embeded in the rear optical group or the warning light of neutral position included on headlight. Comfortable also the single seater seddle and the little carrier. In the 1955 will born a second series of the bike and at this time, besides other improvment, will insert the full width brake hubs.
Apparently obtained from the union of two termal groups of 75cc put in a new basament with integral four speed gear box, result instead different from progenitor whose keeps only the architecture. In fact the major part of the pieces aren't interchangeable and the generous monobloc seem calculated for to ospitate more bigger cylinders. This will do not much lubrification problem ( emulsion with condensation water ) so to conduce to replace the two axes crank shaft with two solid counterweight ( second engine version ) for to reduce the empity space. The ignition with two coils is battery-coil ignition type with automatic spark advance ( centrifuge mass ) post inside a large frontal case. This position will not favour the reliability of the bike that is vulnerable in the ignition. So for to put remedy the igition contact was moved from battery coil ignition cap to classic igniton contact inside flywheel. At the same time the ignition coil was reduced from two to one. Only one carburettor is present for to give the mixture at both cilinders. This solutions seem derived from automobilistic technique instead of calssic BMW implementation with one carburettor for each cilinder. Although tried, the difficult to syncronized two carburettors have carry to this solution, only concession is a air regulation screw for each (long) aspiration pipe. The distribution keep the face cam put in the lower point of the head in manner to favour the lubrification. The two cams are specular and only the left cam is the same to 75. Differently from Capriolo 75, the gearbox have the same longitudinal orientation like crank shaft, but the final trasmission drive use a chain inside a shaft so to avoid one of two conic couples and its power dissipation. This choice favour also the travel comfort because the bike is deprived of classic overturn pair associated to shaft trasmission drive. Other side, vibrations, in the twin flat engine structure are absent.
The Cento 50 respect to the competitors is comfortable, elegant but expensive and delicate. It will produced in few hundred of exemplary between the first and second series from 1953 to 1956.
The Capriolo 125
Although the Cento 50 was great class bike that met the favour of sector specialists and the praises of specialized press, don't was sport bike useful to satisfy the racers and also if it had moderate fuel consumption don't was able to meet the users favour considering its start up pirice. So during 1955 was presented, at Milan Show the Capriolo 125. The engine, always four stroke, completely renewed, lose the classic face cam, has the crankshaft trasversal to the road and the basement that has a traditional oval line, include the four speed gearbox with command on left side. The primary transmission was made with cylindrical gears with helicoidal tooth, the clutch is under oil with multiple iron plates and friction materials. The secondary transmission is made with chain on right side of bike. The cylinder, finning generously, have on left side the vertical distribution shaft unseemly in two parts for to compensate the thermical dilatations. On upper side a conic couple transmit the motion to over head camshaft, while lower side is couple with crankshaft by a helicoil tooths gears pair. The power to the wheel of 7.5 hp is fairly good, and the torque is good distribute over all 6000 rpm; in addition, with light weigth of only 95 Kg, the machine was able to compete with Cento 50 as a performance, but with less price. The double cradle frame made in pressed steel and the swinging rear fork arm retaked the frame of Capriolo Cento 50 with wheels 19 x 2.50 and removable axis. The brakes, with a full width hubs have diameters of 160mm x 30mm to guarantee a efficient braking. The rear hub is decomposable and include the shock bumpers made with rubber elements. The bike will stay in production until all 1957 and the first of 1958 for are replaced from Capriolo 125 De Luxe.
The Caproni Vizzola
Before to proceede besides with the bikes produced in Arco is necessary to open a parenthesis. How already mentioned in the introduction the beginning of Second World War see the Caproni as a bigger industrial group that has inglobed a lot of little and middle factory among, in the 1935, the CNA of Rome involved in the bike world with the Rondine. The project was solded to Gilera (Arcore bikes factory) and around it borned the Gilera four cylinders. In this scenario is natural that the group had a lot of productive units among they there are the Costruzioni Aeronautiche Vizzola Ticino and the Taliedo factory for aircrafts production. At the end of Second World War the allied forbid to Caproni to continue with airplane production. The Taliedo factory was demolished and in Vizzola Ticino on the good success of the Capriolo was decided to produce a new line of bikes. Contrary to the choice made in Arco to made integrally the bike, in Vizzola was decided to assemble the vehicle derived from an existing model. Take an agreement with German NSU factory, at the Milan Show in November of 1953 was presented the model Max 250 of 247 cc powered by NSU. Exception for the engine, equal to German bike, the double cradle pipe frame was revised and improved specially in the front fork and in the rear suspension both teleidraulic now. New is also the fuel tank design that, in conjunction with the large case carefully polished do the bike very fine and ligth aspect respect to massive appearance of German project. The discreet success push the Caproni Vizzola to introduce, in a next time, the model Lux two stroke, always NSU powered and 175 four stroke powered by FBM. Besides at the bikes with high cylinder capacity, in the 1955 will produced, for range completion, the motor bicycle Capriolo Quickly with NSU engine of 48 cc two stroke, two speed. The triangular pipe frame, has the engine hanging bound and curiously the carry tools bag has the same shape of Capriolo 75. During 1956, at the Milan Fair was also presented a scooter with high wheels, NSU engine and rear wheel partially careened. Named Scooter is endowed with a tube frame designed for a easy acces but it will stay like preseries model. Pratically the motorcycles productions was finished at the end of year 1959. The crisis around year 1960 will overwhelmed also this group branch that will given to Augusta group.
The 1957 is a particular year for Aero Caproni; in fact in the October the engineer Giovanni Caproni disappear at the age of only 71 years old and the Aero Caproni, given to Trentino region, has a societary reorganization for to present again on the motocycling scene with the Aeromere denomination, acronym of Areo Meccanica Regionale. The production of early models continue but as short as possible will be replaced with new models. The need to reduce the costs force Aeromere to use more conventionals solutions without to distort the past style.
The New Capriolo 75
Born, around the second half of 1958, the new Capriolo 75 Turismo Veloce, accompany by the Turismo Normale. The frame is still made in pressed steel but it is simple cradle type and englobe also the mudguard. The pivotting rear fork of new workmanship, always made in pressed steel is cased and supported from two idraulic shock absorbers. The front fork is updated, lost the rubber bellows, keep the aesthetics of a true teleidraulic fork but remain with guided bush and springs. Evident is the assembly semplicity; is sufficient mount the rear fork with its pivot, the shock absorbers to the frame, the front fork with its mudguard and the bike is practically finished. The engine is keeped with two bolts on the rear and with two triangular little plate on the front. Also it is full revised either as architecture and internal mechanics. With the past preserve two similitude: the face cam and the bore and stroke measure of previous 75. The oval design of crankcase with integral oil cup came from 125 of two years old. New is the internal part disposition; the four gears pedal command is put on the right and the flywheel on the left side of crankshaft, decomposable now. The camshaft, lightly inclined or so twelve degereeds in front, keep the motion directly from the crankshaft thanks a gears couple type pinion/endless screw. Very interesting is the solution used for oil pump mouted coaxial to the camshaft. The engine is in any case planned to highest semplicity, affidability and efficiency. The new Capriolo was a good project, elegant with modern drawing, easy to manage, with maximum speed superior to its similar competitors like Parilla, Bianchi, Guzzi. In fact the bike, involved in sporting activity, picked up good succes even if don't results a winner like the previouse 75. The victory was in case given, for the little bike from enduro races like International Six Days from 1958 to 1961 with omniopresent Strenghetto and other good pilots, that from Italian Championship.
The Aeromere, galvanized from the 1958 goods results, increases the effor for to impress a new rush at the production for to update the model range. So, during 1959, was presented the new Capriolo 125 Gran Turismo also it with single cradle pressed frame, comfortable single seddle, raised handlebars, new engine, gearbox pedal on the right side, startup pedal on the left side, and equipped with face cam direct derived from new 75. Of the 125 was done also another version named Capriolo 125 De Luxe well finished, compact handlebars, long seddle, with speed of 100 Km/H max. Very fine the fueltank, with its stretched lines that brings printed in white, on the metal paint red background, a frieze that seems the stylized shape of the flying bird to recall the new factory symbol.
The Capriolo 100
At side of the two models of 75cc and 125cc, for to obtain more pervasion in the market and to satysfy a large numbers of users, was introduced the new model named Capriolo 100. They was, in fact a 75 T.V. potentiated in the thermic unit, the bore grows up to 53 mm and the stroke is unchanged equal to 43mm. The engine is pratically unvaried but the available power is up to 6.2 hp with good distributions. The frame, have a new aesthetics specially in the central zone. Now the tools box stay on the left side and the horn on right. The fuel tank have the same aggressive shape of 125 and the frame is same to 75. As the previouse machines keep the stability and handling characteristics prerogative of the off road models involved in the races. Two road version will do, one touristics with single seater, the other sporting setup long seddle, huddle drive position thanks the two little half handlebars. They will taken name respectively Capriolo 100 Turismo and Bondone, from the famouse slope that stay near Trento. Original is the paint of 100 do in ligth finely metallized brown with white friezes on fuel tank; the chromatic matching is in any case elegant and good succesful. All models, in the three cylinder capacity, don't have the deserved commercial success in sprite of the effor in the races and the try to sell the bikes in English and North American market. During the 1962 in April at the Milan Fair, was also presented the Capriolo Scooter 150, engine of 150cc, four speed, little wheels and with an design that recall, specially in the rear, a Bianchi bike named Orsetto. The bike don't will have continuation, such as the trial special version of 125 realized in England by Rickman brothers during the same year.
The time was changed. In fact the years after 1960 was undoubtedly hard for all Italian motorcycling industries; the car, intended as utility car, erode always more the space to the bike and force the manufacture to reduce the price at in same time improve the performance. But unfortunately the market isn't yet prepared to interpret the bike like as a relaxation vehicle so the destiny of a lot of trade bikes is marked. The parable of the industrial adventure in motorcycling field of the Caproni farm is during around twelve years; practically at the end of 1962 the production of motorcycles was finished, only ligth airplane production still doing. Now remain the bikes, the alive memory in the peoples that have in the past a Capriolo bike, the passion in the peoples that have know the mark in a more recent time. This brief history want to contribute to spread the knowledge of Capriolo and to encourage the effor to support the trade mark of the Count Massimo Caproni. Since always engaged with its family in the meeting bikes of Vizzola Ticino and from 1999 also in Massone, has recently constituted , with headquarters in Trento Via Mazzini 14, the Registro Storico Capriolo ( Capriolo Historical Register ). He is also the President.
A special thanks to Enrico and Giorgio that have contributed at the genesis of this adventure. Info source and more data
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