THE NUOVO SATURNO
In fact this prototype was then flown to Japan and displayed by the Itoh
organization at the 'Mega-Show' which began in Tokyo on 20 December. The
Nuovo (New) Saturno project was very much the work of the two men, Gilera
engineer Sandro Colombo and the Japanese technician, N Hagiwara. The general
idea was to recreate the Saturno concept, but in a modern guise.
Using the 492cc Dakota engine, the Ital-Japanese pairing created a compact
Café racer (it was also built with the smaller engine). Weighing in at 2961b
(135kg) the Nuovo Saturno employed a one-off trellis steel-tube frame and an
arm with eccentric adjustment for the final drive chain. No expense had been
spared in selecting the best quality components; the footrests, rear brake and
gear change levers were all in aluminium, as., was the kick-starter.
The 300mm floating brake disc at the front was operated by a four-pot Brembo
'Gold-line' caliper, with a 240mm disc and dual piston caliper at the rear,
while the Marvic cast alloy wheels each had three hollow spokes. Both wheels
were 17in diameter with 110/70 front and 140/70 rear tyres of VR rating.
The 40mm front forks had 120mm of travel and were of conventional design. The
rear end was taken care of by a single shock with 130mm travel. The shock was of
the racing type with multi-adjustment. Other details of the machine included a
half-fairing, clip-on handlebars, indicators, twin mirrors (fairing mounted),
style bar-end weights, a single seat and racing-style tank, a plastic
chainguard and a rear hugger mudguard in the same material. The exhaust system,
finished overall in black, was a siamezed exhaust pipe exiting into a ,-single
silencer. This was mounted just below the line of the seat base on the offside
of the machine. In typical Café-racer fashion there were the bare minimum of
fitments to the bike, typified by no centre stand, simply a side (jiffy) one.
The finish of the whole machine was in Italian racing red.
As the engine literally hung in the frame it was readily accessible, unlike
the majority of modern sports bikes with their total enclosure.
FOR GENERAL SALE
Although everyone believed that the Saturno was a Japan-only bike, this
proved to be wrong and by the end of 1988 it went on general sale.
In the United Kingdom, Piaggio's representative at that time was the Heron
Group, based in Crawley, West Sussex. Its subsidiary, Vespa UK, spent over two
years deciding whether to actually import the Saturno (and other four-stroke
Gileras). Then, in December 1990, a small batch of machines was imported, priced
at £4,999. This, in the author's opinion, was too high a price (at that time a
CBR600 Honda was less than £4,000!), but, even so, all the machines brought in
were sold, leading the way to more Saturno imports and other models such as the
XRT and its successors.