Sunday, September 29, 2013

1967 Wards Riverside 125 (Benelli Cobra)

During the 50's through the early 70's Montgomery Wards and Sears department stores were heavy into rebranding primarily European bikes as their own brands. Montgomery Wards bikes were mostly Italian made Benellis and French made Motobecane mopeds that were rebranded as Wards Riverside. Sears imported Austrian made Puchs, Italian made Gileras and Vespas all rebranded as Sears Allstates. When you purchased one of these department store bikes either through their catalogs or in store, it came in a crate with the purchaser required to do some assembly. Typically that included installing the front fender and wheel. Installing the handle bars and controls. Installing the battery and seat, and making all the final adjustments such as chain tension, brakes and controls, tire pressure, and lubrication. None of that white glove set up that motorcycle dealers provide today. 

I picked up this 1967 Wards Riverside 125 which is actually a Benelli Cobra about a year ago. I hadn't posted anything about this bike previously because it was really ugly when I bought it. I decided to wait until I had finished it's restoration to post any pictures. The bike was low milage and sound mechanically, but cosmetically it really needed some attention. I tried to do a very correct restoration with a few exceptions. The original chromed steel rims which were badly rusted I replaced with Italian made alloy Radaelli rims with chrome spokes. And the biggest change I made was the color scheme. Originally these came in a choice of navy blue and silver or metallic red and white. I wasn't crazy about these color combos and chose to go with a chocolate brown and ivory with gold pin striping color scheme. While the bikes didn't ever come in this color combo, I think it has a really nice period look.

This is what I started with. Lot's of red spray paint all over the bike, 60's/70's flower stickers, bent handlebars, stripped oil drain plug, rusty rims, torn up seat, and a few missing and incorrect pieces. As ugly as it was, the bike was strong runner that needed very little mechanical attention.

Some photos of disassembling the bike.

Bead blasted and ready to go to the painter.

The engine I basically just cleaned up and decarbonized. I also repaired the stripped oil drain hole.

The original chromed steel rims were rusted pretty bad. I was able to find Italian made Radaelli alloy rims for less than what it would have cost me to have the original rims re-chromed. The original spokes were silver painted Alpina spokes that were rusted pretty bad, so I replaced those with new chrome spokes.

The paint and body shop I use, Creative Classics in Independence, MO did a beautiful job recreating the original paint scheme complete with pin striping in the colors I had selected.

Reassembling the bike. Next to riding, this is the fun part! 

And some photos from the inaugural ride after it's restoration.

And on a recent trip to Harry J. Epstein's, one of the coolest tool stores in existence.


  1. Every year there is a antique and collectible bike show in Lawrence KS it was Feb 2 this year and, this machine should be there to win. sponsoring org meets local. you should find lots of buds there. Jim.

  2. you should enter the contest held each year at the show in Lawrence, KS. and you should have plenty of guys to visit with concerning old bikes many of them have early Nortons or early American iron. Jim

  3. Thanks, I wimped out of this years show due to the weather :(

  4. Another KC area upcoming show - Vintage Iron Motorcycle Show and Swap, Sat. May 3rd. Gates open 7:00am, Platte County Fairgrounds. More info -

  5. Can you tell me which Radaelli rims you used? Were you able to re-use the spokes and hubs. If not, what did you use? I am 90% done with a full resto. Thanks in advance.

  6. I'll contact by email with the info you'll need for rims and spokes.

  7. Wow beautiful Job !!! I owned one in 1967 I was 16 years old.

  8. Where did you get the tank decals?

  9. Hello,
    I am in the process of restoring my Benelli Cobra 1962 and I need the wheels, could you give me the information from were you got yours?
    Thank you!