The other 400/4

Alejandro De Tomaso’s attempt to take on Japan created an interesting alternative to Honda’s CB400F

WORDS AND PHOTOS BY Marion Thirsk

Most of us are familiar with Honda’s distinctively styled, iconic CB400F. But who knew that Moto Guzzi launched a rival 400/4 in 1975?

When Argentinian industrialist Alejandro De Tomaso bought Benelli in 1971 his team of designers immediately started work in earnest on multi-cylinder four-strokes. Benelli, in common with many manufacturers at the time, were losing sales to the wave of modern Japanese multis and needed to fight back.

It’s double-take time. Yes, this is an across the frame four. Yes, this is a Moto Guzzi

Two years later De Tomaso bought Moto Guzzi and began manufacturing at the Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario. The Moto Guzzi 350 GTS and Benelli-badged 500 Quattro were launched shortly after, followed by the impressive six-cylinder Benelli Sei.

The slightly inclined cylinders on De Tomaso’s engines could not hide the obvious influence of Honda’s CB500F. The Benelli 500 Quattro shared the same 56 x 50.6mm cylinder dimensions as the Honda, while the Moto Guzzi 350 GTS engine had a different bore and stroke to the rival 347cc Honda CB350/4 with 50 x 44mm giving 345.5cc.

These machines were a radical departure from Guzzi’s current V-twins and earlier singles but still benefited from Moto Guzzi’s typically robust construction and some quality components. They featured strong tubular cradle frames and Bosch electrics with Grimeca drum brakes and alloy wheel rims fitted to both models.

Read more in the May issue of CBG – on sale now!