A few weeks ago I sat in my dining room watching snow fall onto the street below. I had just received the phone call canceling the road test we had scheduled for this issue. I wondered how many seasons it would take for me to realize that March is not a month to count on getting anything done for this newspaper. I had no choice but to farm this test ride out to an acquaintance living in a warmer part of the world.
Several telephone calls produced two thin possibilities, and then I connected with my old Roman pal, Virgil. Virgil was pretty excited to speak with me. He had a possible scoop on a new Italian Scooter that had been spotted on test runs in the countryside around Rome. Virgil is an ink-stained wretch like myself, and one of his sources had recently dropped a photo on his desk showing this “Super Scooter” arriving in the harbor. Other sources had called after seeing this machine filling up on 100 octane at the Roman equivalent of “E-Z Stop.” Virgil thought he would probably have more photographs shortly and asked if I would be interested in purchasing them.
“Virgil, that is amazing, because I called you looking for a story. What I really need is for you to get a ride on this thing.”
We quickly formulated a plan using the little bit of information we had, and I went down to Western Union, wired $9,000.00, a set of credentials and a roll of film to Rome and hoped for the best.
Here is Virgil’s story.
by Virgil Maro
I am a writer by vocation, a chronicler of the epic events which have and will shape history. I know many people, and through them see much of what happens or has happened in and around this city. When the Dante Inferno arrived, I knew of it within hours. Within hours of knowing of it, I knew where it was being garaged.
Coincidence often plays a starring roll in the making of history, and as I sat pondering this Dante Inferno, the editor of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly called me on the telephone. (I am a motorcyclist by avocation.) He had a need for a story, and I had a need for a little cash. Arrangements were made for me to pursue this Dante Inferno and learn something of its nature.
I walked over to the Western Union office to pick up a package and showed a photograph I had recently obtained to the clerk. The scooter had been by the office early that morning. The rider’s name was Beatrice Portinari, and she had picked up several encrypted cables from Ravenna, a town near Bologna. She had mentioned that it would be easier for her if these messages were sent to her place of lodging–the Hotel Vestibule.
At the Hotel Vestibule one of my sources revealed to me that this Beatrice Portinari spent her evenings in the hotel casino gambling and smoking cigars. I went down to the hotel gift shop, purchased a deck of monogrammed playing cards and sat down in the lobby. Several hours later a woman walked out of the elevators holding a copy of “Scooter World” in one hand and a small humidor in the other.
I met her at the door to the casino and said loudly, “I would like a ride on your Inferno.” She apparently misunderstood my intentions, but as I tried to staunch the flow of blood from my nose, I made it clear that I was after a ride on her scooter. We sat down at a card table, and she made it clear to me that my request was an impossibility. She also relieved my wallet of several thousand dollars. She was a very good card player. I suggested that she give me a sporting chance by cutting the deck for high card. She would double her winnings, or I would take the Dante Inferno home for 24 hours. She agreed. I cut first. As she drew I pulled a card I from my sleeve.
We rode the elevator down into the underground parking garage. The Inferno was kept in a secure area on the ninth and last level. This was the final preproduction example of the scooter. Beatrice had been running it around Rome for a final shakedown before the new factory started production. The principal figures behind the Inferno: publishing magnate Dante Aligheri who made his fortune from his popular “Commedia” line of travel guides, Gianni “John” Schicchi a retired American auto designer who had designed various cars for Detroit including the Fury and aircraft engineer Griffolino Arezzo who has engineered many high-powered small aircraft engines for kit airplanes. She gave me the keys and warned me of the Inferno’s 100 horsepower and its drum brakes. “Schicchi is old school,” she explained.
Blasting back up the nine level parking garage immediately revealed a few of the things that are going to make the Dante Inferno an immediate sensation. The immense power from the opposed-twin two-stroke will break traction on the rear wheel with the slightest movement of the throttle. Coupled with that power were the weak drum brakes of which Beatrice had warned me. I was forced to twist the scooter sideways in an effort to scrub off speed when I approached the pay booth. I have never had a more exhilarating ride out of a parking ramp.
Around town and on the track the Inferno continued to demand a high level of skill and concentration of this rider. When the ram-air system comes on-line the bike literally tries to lift itself off of the ground. Beatrice later told me that before the rear wing was added to the Inferno, she crashed two of them into trees…the tops of trees. Griffolino briefly considered installing a parachute system before settling on the stabilizing wing.
The production version of the Inferno will differ very little from the one pictured here. It will have paint and blinkers, possibly chrome bumpers. Dealers should be receiving shipments around the first of April. The combination of unbeatable power and nothing else will make the Dante Inferno an instant classic.