This is one of the very first MV Agusta fours, a 1951 4C aka the 500 Bialbero Corsa. Although designed, like the original Rodine and Gilera Quattro, by Piero Remor there are some notable (and frankly odd) differences. The most obvious is shaft drive (to keep oil off the rear tyre and sod changing the gearing) and the need for two gearshift levers – on one side it would change up, on the other it would change down. MV Agusta, like so many other Italian aviation manufactu
This is Michael Dunlop at the 2017 Classic TT about to a the parade lap to mark 60 years since Bob McIntyre set the first 100mph lap of the Isle of Man’s TT course. The bike’s a replica of the Gilera Quattro McIntyre rode and Dunlop did actually manage a 100mph lap from a standing start to celebrate. Geoff Duke was initially credited with achieving the first 100mph lap of the mountain course in 1956 on a Gilera 500 four, but timekeepers subsequently downgraded it to 99.
This is Nello Pagani at the start of the 1949 Ulster Grand Prix, courtesy TT Race Pics and available as a poster and much else. The following is an extract from my book Classic TT Racers, available from most bookshops and of course Amazon. The 1949 Ulster Grand Prix was the penultimate (of 6) round of the inaugural world championship. In 1948 Pagani had taken the Gilera Quattro to its first race in Cesena, but withdrew claiming the machine was "unrideable". Although it
This is the original Gilera Quattro, the 1939 version developed from the 1936 OPRA four that Giuseppe Gilera bought from Count Bonmartini. The OPRA project had been placed into another of Bonmartini’s companies, CNA (Compagnia Nazionale Aeronautica), and he renamed the four cylinder motorcycle Rondine (swallow) which is why you might occasionally read of a CNA Rondine. He brought in another Roman engineer to work with Carlo Gianni and in reality the motorcycle they des
If V-twins are so wonderful, why is it that (mostly) inline fours rule the roost? This picture (courtesy A Herl Inc) is a 1928 OPRA 500 Quattro (four) that amounts to ground zero for every four cylinder motorcycle that followed. Although there were a few fours in motorcycling’s early days, those had a longitudinal layout that made for an overlong wheelbase and a tendency to overheat. The transverse layout was considered too wide and needing to be too high in the frame (
I photographed this Britten at a Ducati club meeting at Assen a few years ago. Rino Caracchi – the C in NCR – had come especially to see it. Despite Rino’s great love of and association with Ducatis, the Britten was not just his favourite V-twin, but his favourite motorcycle full stop. Having travelled to see it he even bought the T-shirt the proud owners were selling with a simple profile of the bike. I was fortunate to see the evolution of John Britten’s racers at Ba
This is Franco Malenotti, the man who penned both the Morini Turbo and the Laverda RGS. Some suspected, some knew (congrats Paul) that the two were connected but Malenotti achieved so much more. Now almost 70, and calling himself a former Roman "gentleman rider", he graduated in economics and commercial sciences in 1967 and the following year in law. In 1969 Malenotti began importing Honda motorcycles into Italy and would also distribute Suzuki, Yamaha, Moto Guzzi and Yuasa b
While Franco Lambertini at Morini had a turbocharged V-twin ready to roll, a few miles across town at Ducati Fabio Taglioni was experimenting with both turbo and supercharging. This is a 350 Pantah motor fitted with a supercharger in 1980. The turbo version is rumoured to have spectacularly self-destructed during bench testing when the waste-gate stuck open. Another photo by Phil Aynsley taken in the experimental and race department, just off the main factory and these
This is the mythical Morini 500 Turbo, first shown at the 1981 Milan show. Turbomania started with the Renault RS01, the first Formula One car with a turbocharged engine, débuted at the 1977 British Grand Prix. What wasn’t to like? Free power from exhaust gasses to supercharge an engine, rather than use a power-sapping mechanical supercharger like those used on aircraft for decades. These days most cars run a turbo, but no motorcycles. Packaging and throttle response are the
This is an extract from the story of this image in Benzina 7:
“Sh*t, sh*t, sh*t, was all that was going through my mind” remembers Chris Mayhew when asked about this fantastic photograph by Alan Horner. Chris is part of family business North Leicester Motorcycles, recently relaunched as Lusso Veloce. Although they deal with all things Italian it’s clear that Morini V-twins hold a special place in their heart. So when they decided to enter the UK Earlystocks they simply
This is Fidel Castro’s 1976 Ducati 900SS. Yes, really. The story was in Benzina 13 told by Rene Waters who stumbled across it in a museum in Havana. It was in sad shape, the sea air not doing Bologna's finest any good, dulled by a layer of dust. There were just 1837 kilometres (113.9 miles) on the odometer, and fewer than 40 on the trip, but it looked in sorry condition for having been ridden so few miles. The museum guides claimed it had been Castro’s but, since the t
Mototrans was the Spanish Ducati factory, by the 1970s fiercely independent. They had continued to develop the singles long after Ducati had given up on them, even producing a new frame and marketing the 350 as the Vento. Leading light among the Mototrans people was one-time racer Ricardo Fargas, who guided a Mototrans team to victory in the 1980 24 hour race at Montjuic Park with a Ducati 900SS road bike, against a slew of factory Japanese four-cylinder racers.
This is the frontispiece in Benzina 11 for a lengthy exploration of Montjuïc Park is general and Benjamin Grau in particular:
The numbers go like this: Benjamin Grau entered 34 races at Montjuich Park, Barcelona's old street circuit, which in return blessed him with 17 podium finishes and nine wins: one of those victories was at a 125 world championship round, with Grau beating lightweight genius Angel Nieto. Two more wins came aboard big Ducati bevel-twins in 24 hour r
This is Benjamin – Min to friends and fans – Grau at the 1975 24 Horas race, showing why the competition called him the King of Montjuich Park. Ducati had a long history of successes racing singles at this street course on the outskirts of Barcelona and first entered the new V-twin in 1973 ridden by Grau and Salvador Canellas - who scored a debut victory. The '73 bike used the '73 750 Imola's 86mm bore cylinders together with the standard stroke for a capacity of 864cc. T
Growing up in rural Wiltshire not only makes Jack a dull boy, it also leads to a ready obsession for anything other than farming. Ironic, then, that my obsession with Italian motorcycles was sparked by farm machinery-turned-motorcycle-manufacturer Laverda, when a bright orange SFC appeared a few yards from our front garden. It turned out to be the replacement for a near-neighbour's Kawasaki Z1: the story was in Benzina 1. I was hooked. Where the village's handful of ca
While we’re on the lightweights, how about this beauty, an MV Agusta 125 Sport, freshly consigned to Bonhams Winter Sale on the 5 and 6th December. But this isn’t just any MV Agusta 125 Sport, it is the pre-production prototype used for the sales leaflets and differs in many ways to the production run. The frame is unique and the tank is a one-off in aluminium alloy made by Primo Filotti – who made all the factory racer’s alloy bodywork - with a Monza cap. The side pan
This is the actual Laverda 75 Sport ridden by factory rider Genunzio Silvagni to win the 75cc class in both the 1956 and 1957 Motogiro races. The 75 Sport was also very successful in the Milano-Taranto event - winning the 75cc category in 1952 & 1953, taking the top 14 positions in the later event! The bike was also used for short circuit racing, with the lights & number plate removed. In this configuration power was upped to 12hp compared to 9hp at 10,500rpm in long distance
If he were a less modest man, Giuliano Maoggi could have claimed that he saved Ducati, so this pop-art tribute by Andrew Peplow, aka Pep, is well deserved. In 1955 Maoggi won the 125 class of the Milano Taranto for Ducati at their first attempt, and the following year won the Giro outright, his 125 beating everyone else’s 175s. Ducati were back from the brink, a practice they’ve thrived on ever since.
By the mid fifties Ducati were facing closure, so in a final throw
‘L’utilitaria che vince le corse!’ was Laverda’s 1950s sales slogan which, loosely translated, means ‘the commuter which wins races’. Rather more bizarrely the caption at the top reads ‘the dreams of Giovani’… (oops - no, it's giovane; "the young").
The austerity of post war Italy provided an ideal environment in which to launch a low cost motorcycle. This opportunity was spotted by Francesco Laverda who, when taking time off from the family agricultural engineering bus
This is the postcard MV Agusta had printed when they finally won the Motogiro in 1957, winner Remo Venturi (right) and runner up Gilberto Milani armed with twin cam GP racers, a money-no-object attempt to undo the hurt of previous years. The Motogiro was the most popular and difficult race it Italy, racing a 175cc (at most) motorcycle over 3,000 km of 1950s backroads; no wonder they called it la sfida temeraria - the reckless challenge.
Post war Italy was a desperate p