Additional photos of this Mondial Piega are available here for your perusal.
In the post-WW2 Italian motorcycle market, the name of the game was lightweight and affordable offerings that offered economical transportation. Despite this, FB Mondial opted to pursue exotic and advanced high-performance bikes. They wanted to deliver the best possible motorcycle regardless of costs, operating more like a race shop than a major manufacturer. This no-compromise philosophy enabled FB to remain at the forefront of the industry, setting a standard that pretty much every other company followed, with Mondial’s bikes becoming something of a blueprint for competition machinery of the era. FB’s bikes were built to win races, and that’s exactly what they did. In 1949 it took the 125cc Constructor’s Championship (and driver’s title), before repeating the feats in ’50, ’51 (when it also won the Ultra-Lightweight TT), and ’57, when it also won first, second, and third in the 250cc class as well as nabbing titles in the 125 and 250 classes at the TT.
Despite having a wonderfully successful year in 1957, Mondial announced the following year it would end its factory race program. Though the factory-backed effort had ended, many privateers continued to campaign Mondials as they were still very competent and competitive machines. So much so in fact, that Soichiro Honda asked if he could buy one of FB’s old DOHC 125cc GP racers in an effort to kickstart Honda’s own race program. FB obliged and sold Honda a 1956 Bialbero, which was crated up and shipped to Japan where Honda’s crack team began reverse-engineering the four-stroke single. Honda proceeded to develop a series of engines based on the Mondial mill under the direction of Kiyoshi Kawashima, leading to the bevel-driven DOHC parallel twin-powered Honda RC141 and then the RC142. By 1959, Honda was competing at the TT, and the rest is history.
Today, Big Red still has a 1956 Mondial 125 on display at the Honda Collection Hall in Motegi, representing the pivotal role the now-defunct boutique Italian marque played in the history of the history of the Japanese powerhouse. Management and personnel came and went at Honda over the years, though the company never forgot about the help its race department received from Mondial.
By the dawn of the 1960s, Mondial stopped producing engines, though they continued producing motorcycles with other engines stuffed into their frames. In ’79 the company attempted to ramp production back up, but things didn’t really pan out. Another attempt was made to revive the name in the late 1980s, though ultimately to no avail. Just before the turn of the millennium, Pierluigi Boselli, son of Count Giuseppe Boselli, was approached by one Roberto Ziletti, who headed up the Lastra Group (a massive printing plate manufacturer) with the idea for once again reviving FB Mondial, this time with a cutting-edge sport bike that would compete in the World Superbike Championship. Boselli signed on, and the two began work on a new machine.
Though the operation was well-funded, developing a new engine from scratch was out of the question. Boselli and Ziletti eventually landed on using a liter-sized V-Twin, as that particular configuration had been dominating in WSBK around this time. The two worked out an informal deal with Suzuki for the Japanese brand to provide 250 of its 996cc TL1000 engines, which was the number of machines the new Mondial planned on initially building. Ex-Aprilia engineer Nicolo Bragagnolo was brought on to design the new model, while Sandro Mor was tasked with penning the bodywork.
The project began with the development of a new chassis. The V-Twin would be wrapped in a tubular chrome-moly vanadium structure comprised of a pair of spars made of two beams joined via trellis-style cross-sections. The unique shape allowed the chassis to utilize thinner framework to deliver a lightweight yet rigid unit. TIG-welded entirely by hand, the trick frame was complimented by a carbon-fiber subframe that was integrated into the (also carbon fiber) tail section, and a trellis swing-arm wrapped and reinforced in carbon fiber.
Mondial also worked with several companies to co-develop the running gear on the new model — which was dubbed the “Piega”, Italian for “bend” or “fold”, a name that Ziletti’s then four-year-old son came up with. Mondial marketed the new model under the slogan; “la corsa della vostra vita” (Italian for “the race of your life”). The lighting on the Mondial was also of the top-shelf variety. Out front there was a pair of stacked projector beam LED headlights laid in carbon fiber housing. The front turn signals are LED units tucked into the back of the mirrors.
Just as Mondial was getting ready to debut the new bike at Intermot 2000, Suzuki pulled out of the deal, leaving Mondial with a fully-developed motorcycle without a powertrain. Unsure how to proceed, Ziletti placed a call to his buddy Oscar Rumi, head honcho of the Rumi Honda World Superbike team. With Rumi’s team having won the ’88 and ’89 WSBK championships (with Fred Merkel at the helm), Ziletti hoped his pal might have some pull over at Big Red, so he asked his buddy if he could get his hands on an RC51 engine to use in the prototype display bike. Rumi made some phone calls and the request was run up the chain. Someone important at Honda happened to have a good memory, and recalled half-a-century prior when Mondial had helped out a little Japanese company in a time of need. Amazingly, Honda not only gave Mondial permission to use an RC51 engine in its prototype, but it also agreed to supply all of the Mondial Piega’s with the SP-1’s liquid-cooled, 999cc, DOHC, 8V, four-stroke, 90-degree V-Twin and six-speed gearbox with wet multi-plate clutch.
Mondial wanted to do what it could to squeeze a little extra oomph out of the SP-1’s engine without it negatively impacting the V-Twin’s reliability. So the team cooked up their own proprietary injection system, a new carbon fiber airbox, and a revised ECU to accommodate the bike’s bespoke exhaust system; titanium headers winding into a set of stainless steel underseat GP-style silencers manufactured by Arrow and developed in collaboration with Mondial. The changes afforded the mill an additional four horsepower, bringing the figure up to 140 at the crank (and nearly 85 ft-lbs of torque!).
While that wasn’t a huge bump in power, the Mondial had less weight to carry, tipping the scales at just 390 lbs dry. That not only makes it 42 lbs lighter than the RC51 (and 20 lbs less than the 999), but also the lightest sport bike in the liter-sized V-Twin class. This class-leading number was possible thanks to every ounce on the two-wheeler being thoroughly scrutinized. Adorned in Mondial’s classic silver and blue race livery, the bodywork was entirely made from carbon fiber and built by Carbon Dream, and there was a wide array of CNC’d components scattered about.
Not long after the Piega made its public debut, it entered limited production. Unfortunately, Mondial just couldn’t make ends meet, and despite a solid effort the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in the summer of 2004, by which point only 35 Piegas had been built. Eventually other parties entered the picture, stepping in to buy out assets and IP and relaunch production of the Piega. The second time around, the new owners succeeded in churning out another 120 units before their operation also went under. The very few examples that were produced were quickly snapped up, with most specimens ending up in private collections. Supposedly, some of the employees who worked for Mondial prior to it declaring bankruptcy claimed they were never compensated for their work, and around a dozen Piega examples were reportedly stolen…and remain at large! While Zilletti and Boselli had good intentions and were able to deliver an excellent motorcycle, luck just wasn’t on their side.
It originally arrived to us last year as part of a crated collection of 0 mile bikes. It had 1 kilometer on the odometer when we sold it to a client, and he asked us to prep it as a runner with a new battery, oil change, Pirelli Rosso Corsa II tires, fork oil and fork seals, and new radiators, We also fixed leaking front brake and clutch master cylinders and checked over the injectors, spark plugs, and air filter.
After we finished up the work, the seller had Adam take it for a Sunday ride up to the Rock Store and back as a shakedown run. However, he has since found something he wants more and is asking for us to sell it as a runner.
Currently located at our facility in Santa Monica, California (please make an appointment for an inspection), this Mondial is offered on the MSO, which we note is curiously branded as a Bimota with “MONDIAL PIEGA” under “SERIES OR MODEL”.