Montgomery Ward was founded in 1872 as a mail order retailer. Nearly 100 years later one of the things you could mail order from the company was an Italian bike like today’s Nice Price or Crack Pipe Riverside. We’ll have to see if this survivor is worth saying, the check is in the mail.
Today is Back to the Future day and one of the most famous lines from that beloved flick is when Doc Brown declares that where they are going they don’t need roads. You would’t need roads with yesterday’s 1987 Toyota 4Runner as while it won’t soar like the movie DeLorean, it still was pretty fly. That fact and a 7M-GTE under hood gave its eight-grand price tag a 63% Nice Price win. That’s pretty heavy, Doc.
Back when Marty was trying to mend his time-traveling monkey business there were, in real life, two major catalog retailers here in the U.S.. There was Sears and Roebuck which is still around today as Kmart/Sears, and Montgomery Ward, which went under in 2000 only to be reborn as some sort of online retailer that apparently nobody uses and is called simply “Wards.”
In my family we always called Sears “Sears and Sawbuck, and Wards was always “Monkey Wards.” Not only could you use the pages from their massive catalogs for toilet paper, but for pubescent boys of all stripes the lingerie section also served as a first inroad into the topography of the female body. And at one time, back in the day, both retailers sold motorcycles.
Sears’ bikes went under the name of Allstate - as did the company’s short-lived dip into the auto retailing pool - while Wards marketed their bikes as Riversides. Like Sears, Wards didn’t actually build the bikes, they just applied their brand to an existing manufacturer’s product and sold them through their catalog and offered service at their stores.
The bikes were typically delivered in big wooden crates and upon receipt some assembly was required. Some of the brands that Wards repurposed were Motobecane, Lambretta, Mitsubishi, and like today’s candidate, Moto Benelli.
This 1968 Wards Riverside 250 is in fact a Benelli and is a petite and lovely example of the Italian brand’s ‘60s styling, with a thin patina of American names. The engine is a 250-cc vertical single backed by a four-speed gearbox, and the shared case acts as a stressed member of the frame.
Mechanical drums front and rear make the limited top end a thankful proposition, and in fact one should consider that riding this classic bit of history will in no way resemble the strapping on of a modern bike.
The ad notes that the front sprocket has been changed from the standard 16 tooth to an 18-tooth one from a larger 360 Mojave. The bike rides on new rubber and breathes through a rebuilt Dellorto. Other tidbits are a new battery and other electrical parts.
These little Benellis have an interesting oiling system for the rockers, an H-shaped tube that delivers the lube to all the right places if aligned properly. That alignment can get out of whack if the valve adjustment is done by someone ham fisted. The ad notes that this one has been put in place properly. Way to go, somebody!
Other items to note are the dropped bars - not stock - and the Wards badging, which the ad notes are reproductions. Overall the bike looks fabulous and is small enough that when you’re done riding it you can use it as a Monopoly piece or attach it to a little girl’s charm bracelet.
Like most bikes from the ‘60s these are exceedingly rare and with the unique history, very desirable. This seems to be an excellent example albeit not quite a show bike. Offered here on the Internet - the paradigm that helped kill Wards - it comes with a price tag of $2,200.
What’s your take on this lovely little Italian-American and that $2,200 price? Is that cheap enough to have it shipped to your house? Or, for that much is this one Ward’s you wouldn’t monkey with?
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