Hugo Gallina // Vintage Italian Restoration
If all Ducati’s go to heaven, it’s not before Hugo Gallina restores them first.
I had an opportunity to visit Hugo and as I oohed and aaahed over his handiwork I also got a short lesson on vintage Italian motorcycle history.
Hugo, an Italian born in Argentina, practically grew up in the machine shop. It was second nature to him. He’s been interested in motorcycles since he was young.
“I remember the first bike I put together. I couldn’t have been more that 12 years old. I will never forget it.” The story goes that a friend of Hugo’s brought him a bike in a box, all completely disassembled. “He asked me if I knew how to put it back together. I said, sure! Bring the box over. The truth was that I had no idea what was what. It was all a jumbled mess in that box.” Hugo sat there and started looking at the pieces under a magnifying glass. “I started matching parts by the wear marks I found on them. We got it running in two weeks!” The bike from that box turned out to be an ISO 125 parallel twin.
Revered by many as a master at restoring vintage Italian motorcycles, Hugo has clients from all over the world. He has had a bike shipped to him from Italy just so that he could restore it and ship it back.
We walked around the shop and there under a cover was his newest restoration candidate. I was floored with amazement. There low and behold was a vintage Italian GP bike. A 1966 Ducati 350 wide case GP racer, to be more specific. All original, just as it was raced in Italy back in the late sixties.
“We are doing more research on it now.” He said. “I have the full race history so I would like to return it back, in every detail, to how it was raced.” I can’t wait to see the transformation but something in me still just loves the way it sat there, patina and all.
“Are you into small bikes?” he asked. Sure!
Hugo pulled out a bike that had been tucked away in a corner. Nothing short of amazing. “I built this bike frame up. It’s 1962 Minarelli 50cc 4 speed.” The bike was light as a feather and built for nothing but speed. When he announced the numbers I had to ask him again because I wasn’t sure if I had heard it right. It gets 11bhp at 15000rpm and max speed is around 55mph. That, in case you are not impressed, is the power to weight ratio competitive to a factory GP race bike.
He said that he wanted to build a bike from scratch and win the Moto Giro De California three times. This was the machine that gave him all three consecutive titles. He was very proud of the Minarelli and so he should be. I was just happy he showed me this amazing bike.
Do you remember the first time you were on a bike, Hugo? “Yes. The memory is from when I was 3 years old. My mother was carrying me as my father was just about to leave for work. He was on his 1957 Gilera 175. He lifted me and placed me on the tank. I still remember the smell and the heat coming from the motor. It was then when I burned my right foot. I will never forget that moment.”
The next bike he called a nostalgia bike. Similar to the one his father had during his childhood but in race form. “I just had to have it.” The bike is a 1956 Gilera 175 Milano Taranto.
The bike is in every way a work of art. From the cases to the way the motor is tucked in slightly under the gas tank, it is just simply beautiful. To me it is these small things that make each bike beautiful in its own way. I can see why he has such affection towards to Gilera. It’s an easy bike to admire. As it sits now it is exactly how the Gilera was raced in the Taranto races. Still in the tuning phase. Hugo is prepping the bike for the Moto Giro De California this year.
We wish him luck! Knowing Hugo, competitors are in for a real run for their money.
Thank you Hugo and Jose Gallina for making this possible and Hugo personally for the amazing stories and education. I will definitely be back for more!
Please check them both out.
Hugo Gallina at Vintage Italian Restoration.
Jose Gallina at jgallina.com