On April 22, 1922 the Italian company “Rudge Whitworth Milano” was established in Milan, with a share capital of one million and two hundred thousand lira. The owner was Carlo Borrani, born in 1887 in Napa City, CA as his family had emigrated to the US looking for better luck. Just after world war one he met Ettore Ambrosetti, his future partner.
Carlo had noticed that the automotive industry was rapidly expanding and proposed to Ettore a new and exciting business venture. This was the official beginning of the remarkable Borrani wire wheels story. Production started with a licence of Rudge Whitworth from Coventry, Great Britain, which had registered a patent for mounting a wheel on a hub by a unique splined drum, fixed by one central lock nut.
The Company was located in Via Ugo Bassi 9 – Milan, Italy and its activity was the production and commercialization of “wheels for cars, motorbikes, cycles and equivalent” as per the notary act at the Chamber of Commerce. The success was immediate, the lightness and fast mounting of the wheels aroused the interest from the most important racing car constructors. Just 12 months after the company founding, Alfa Romeo, Auto Union, Bianchi, Isotta Fraschini, Itala, Fiat and Lancia had all started to equip their racing and luxury road cars with Borrani wheels.
Carlo Borrani, curiously, was never interested in racing but was lucky to have a fine choice of cars ranging from Bianchi and Lancia to Alfa Romeo all driven by his loyal driver. In fact he never went to a race, personally drove a car or even applied for a driver licence as he was convinced he would be too distracted to be able of sit behind a steering wheel!
The association with Enzo Ferrari started from the beginning during the 1924 “Coppa Acerbo” when the young driver Enzo achieved one of the best results of his racing career with an Alfa Romeo equipped with “Rudge Whitworth-Milano” wheels. From that point, Ferrari always used Borrani wheels for his “Scuderia Ferrari” while racing Alfas, motorcycles and later with his own Ferrari production.
In the early 30’s Borrani started to experiment with light, rigid aluminium rims to replace the usual steel wheels, reducing the rotating mass and obtaining perfect rim roundness, these wheels were called “DD” and the basis of them remains to this day the main characteristic of a Borrani wheel.
During 1937, after a few weeks of illness, Carlo Borrani died, aged only fifty. His son Cesare, a young engineer, took over the company. At the beginning of 1939 he was forced, by the government laws, to modify its name from “Rudge Whitworth-Milano” S.I.R.S. (Società Italiana Ruote Smontabili) into Carlo Borrani S.A. (Società Anonima per la Costruzione di ruote ed autoavioaccesori), then again in 1942 during world war two to Carlo Borrani S.p.A. (Società per Azioni) with the new Civil code (Regio Decreto March 16, 1942 nbr. 262).
Like any other company with such a long activity in the automotive business, the fields in which Borrani have operated are many, certainly the automotive wire-wheel market is the most famous and exciting, but we have also worked in the aircraft industry (until 1943) designing brake and hydraulic control systems, shocks, fuel pumps and of course wheels. This was directed by a branch of the company based in Rome, Italy called “Sezione Avio” that carried the traditional Borrani hand logo with the addition of a pair of wings.
The Post war period was a roaring success for Borrani, serving such famous manufacturers as Ferrari, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, Aston Martin and later in the 60’s Lamborghini and Ford (for its famous GT40) plus many others in the racing field and for road cars.
By 1955 the premises in Milan at Via Ugo Bassi was struggling to cope with the rising production volumes. Over the course of the next 6 years production of car wheels increased from one thousand to one thousand five hundred wheels per month and motorcycle wheel production numbered five thousand wheels per month. So the Company was relocated in Baranzate on North-west edge of Milan and, later in 1961, merged into the CMR (Costruzioni Meccaniche Rho) owned by Ettore Ambrosetti’s nephew, since the Borrani family did not have any heirs. The name was changed to Ruote Borrani – Milano as a new branch of CMR, but still keeping its traditional hand logo.
Borrani wheels were standard equipment for Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Maserati racers winning 8 F1 Driver World Championships and 2 F1 Manufacturer World Championship (Vanwall and Ferrari) between 1950 and 1961. The last F1 World Championship title won by a car equipped with wire wheels (Borrani) was the 1961 one by Phil Hill, Ferrari 156.
The late 60’s and early 70’s for Borrani was a period of great change. The automotive manufacturers began to equip their cars with the new style of cast alloy wheels, a change that had occurred in racing circles about 10 years earlier. This new “fashion” indicated the fading popularity of wire wheels for cars, motorcycle wheel production however was running at over fifteen thousand pieces per month. All the main motorcycle brands used the Borrani “RM Record” wheels such as BSA, MV Agusta, Guzzi, Harley Davidson, Gilera etc.
The 80’s and 90’s found production at its minimum, the company was mainly serving its clientele that were in need of replacements or refurbishment of original wheels.
From 2004, Ruote Borrani – Milano have been operating from the south side of Milan, Italy where it has been relocated and separated from CMR. Its historical archive and production are still fully operative keeping alive its long and rich tradition.
(From the official company book: “Ruote Borrani- Classic Wheels History and Evaluation Guide”by Matteo Bosisio – Head of Classic Wheels)
– BORRANI MOTORCYCLE HISTORY –
April 22, 1922 is an historic date for motorcycle industry. Carlo Borrani brings the Rudge-Witworh International Patent to the historic site at Ugo Bassi Street in Milan, and begins to build the aluminium rims that will equip the wire wheels of the most prestigious road and racing motorcycles, for over fifty years.
With the Serie Record/14, better known as the “H profile”, Borrani provides an incomparable product for strength, lightness and precision. This is the result of a tidy build in every details, from the proper choice of the light-alloy aluminum to the precision of the welding, from the hand finishing of every rim to the specific drilling dedicated to every types of wheel hub, for many years it makes Borrani’s rim the unavoidable choice for the great motorcycles factories, for prestigious models and for their racing motorcycles as well.
Borrani Motorcycles Wheels – 2The invincible Moto Guzzi of Stanley Woods and Omobono Tenni, the first non-English winner at the 1937 Tourist Trophy, the mighty Gilera of Libero Liberati and Bob Mc Intyre, undisputed rulers of the 1957 500cc class World Championship, the whole thirty-seven World Championships won by MV Agusta with Giacomo Agostini and other unforgettable champions. From Moto Morini Settebello to the Aermacchi Ala d’Oro, from Ducati 750SS to Laverda 750SFC, from Moto Guzzi Falcone Sport to the Gilera Saturno Piuma.
What all these motorcycles would have been without a pair of Borrani’s Record rims?
– BORRANI’S LOGO: THE RED HAND HISTORY –
The origins of the famous Borrani hand logo are Irish Gaelic and earned from Rudge Whitworth in Coventry when the patent was bought by Carlo Borrani in 1922. The Rudge Withworth system on centre-locking was already established in the car business, so Borrani decide to just change the original logo at bottom part swapping Milano with Coventry.
But who brought the “Red hand of Ulster” was Daniel Rudge, this was a mythic symbol used in the north side of Ireland, the Ulster were he came from. He used this logo since the beginning when he was building bicycles in the late 1800’s adding to it as back ground a wire wheel.
The reason why the hand is red goes back to pagan times when a mythical tales says that a Viking king could not decide who to choose between his 2 sons for the crown, so a boat race was called in and who will touch first with his hand the shore of Ulster, shall be the king. One of the Brothers loosing the race decide to cut his right hand and threw it to the shore, this is the reason of the color of the hand: red as blood. There are several variants of this story but the “Red Hand” is indeed an Irish Symbol.
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