This was in Benzina issue 5, for a story on how MV Agusta fought long and hard to keep the two-strokes at bay, culminating in a 500cc flat four. The flat four was never raced, and neither were theses Aero 500s, although Phil Read did try one in practice at Spa for the 1974 Belgium Grand Prix. Ago never got that far, although he was happy enough to parade this one at Spa’s Bikers’Classics a few years back. There’s a video Phil at Spa in 1974 in my Instagram Reels #agost
My Instagram video reminded me how excited some were when the Yamaha RD350LC arrived: a “TZ or the road” they said. They were wrong and the work needed to convert the roadster to TZ spec was such that it wasn’t allowed to compete in the Formula 2 world championship. So here’s Ago on the real thing in 2011 on a celebration lap at Creg Ny Baa.
That the TZ was on the way was hinted at in 1971 when air cooled factory twins first appeared with four lugs welded on the front
The star of Bonhams summer sale: the AJS E90 Porcupine, just like the one that won the inaugural world motorcycle championship that is now MotoGP. This is the only twin cylinder machine to have captured the blue riband class, Les Graham beating off the Gilera Quattros to secure the title. No wonder the lucky buyer paid a remarkable £293,250 #britishmotorcycle #Britishbike #classicbike #classicmotorcycle
Can’t afford a Seventies Superbike like the previously featured MV 750S? Or even a nice Ducati bevel twin? The how about the Moto Guzzi T3, snapped here in front of the famous factory gates at Mandello del Lario. Bonhams sold one very like this at Stafford a few years back in lovely condition for under £7000. Yes they’re a bit plump (but not as plump as you might think) and yes the gear change is a bit slow but – and it’s a big but – they handle beautifully can be fixe
More than six decades ago, the Vincent Black Shadow delivered the most performance from a street-legal vehicle that money could buy — on two wheels or four. The ultimate Vincent was the Series C Black Lightning, a production version of the bike Rollie Free rode to break the AMA's land speed record in 1948 on the Bonneville Salt Flats; the swimming trunks were an optional extra. Available only by special order, the standard Black Lightning was supplied in racing trim with at l
The definitive British –perhaps all time - V-twin is arguably the Brough Superior SS100, seen here at speed by regular record breaker Eric Fernihough. What is it about Broughs? Some say that if any motorcycle was ever more than the sum of its parts, it was the Brough Superior. It's the cliché, and one hard to fully explain given that during the 1920s there were a number of other manufacturers, including Zenith, Montgomery, McEvoy and Coventry Eagle which used the same ingred
This is Gene Walker, who set the first officially sanctioned Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) record in 1920, when rode his Indian V-twin on Daytona Beach at 104.12 mph (167.56kph). While he to record the speed over a course of fixed length, averaged over two runs in opposite directions it was still a long way shy of Glenn Curtiss' 1907 speed record of 136mph as per an earlier post. Like rivals Harley-Davidson, Indian used such world records and their success i
Almost impossible to believe now, but Harley Davidson was once a sports bike marque. As well as board track racers such as this they entered the Italian road races including the Targa Florio and Milano-Taranto, with a racing department known as the Wrecking Crew. By 1920 Harley-Davidson was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world, with 28,189 machines produced, and dealers in 67 countries. From that year a team of pig farm boys, who became known as the “hog boys”, co
This is one of the first ever V-twin motorcycles, the Curtiss Hercules which went on sale in 1902, with deliveries commencing the following year. A 20 degree V-twin had been offered by Gottlieb Daimler in 1889, but that was used as a stationary engine, for boats and in the Daimler Stahlradwagen ("steel-wheeled car"), Daimler's second car. Then in November 1902 the UK’s Princeps AutoCar Company offered a V-twin motorcycle, quickly followed by fellow compatriots’ the Eclipse Mo
Before achieving fame with aircraft, Glenn Curtiss started with motorcycles, setting a world record with this 4 litre V8. The early aviation community began to seek out Curtiss because of his growing reputation for building powerful, lightweight V-twin motorcycles, so in 1906 he designed a V8, effectively four of his existing V-twin motors.
Of course Curtiss set to wondering how fast a motorcycle with the V8 could go, making some 30 to 40 horsepower at 1,800 rpm. Trans
The Morbidelli V8 is probably one of the most unfairly maligned motorcycles in history. When launched in 1994 the original Pininfarina styling (swipe left) was ridiculed, especially by smart Alec journalists who were all sports-replica-mad and unable to afford the asking price – almost three times what a 916 cost, although for a hand built, limited edition, V8 that seems almost cheap. And then the Cassandras continued to moan that it was “only” 847cc and “only” made 12
If the Moto Guzzi’s pre-war supercharged four cylinder racer seemed ambitious it was nothing compared to the magnificent V8, seen here in the factory museum. It was a final attempt to beat the fours of Gilera and MV, after the rather undignified chopping-and-changing in the Blue Riband class. When I interviewed Sammy Miller for my Moto Guzzi book – a man who was racing in the V8s era and owns both a V8 and Bicilindrica – he felt this was a serious issue. “Development i
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
Another supercharged motorcycle, this Carlo Guzzi’s 1931 Quattro Cilindri, photographed by Phil Aynsley. It was a case of something old, something new, something borrowed (but nothing blue). The Cozette rotary supercharger was positioned above the gearbox, which sat vertically behind the crankshaft as on modern sportsbikes. The very oversquare layout, at 56mmx50mm, was also something today’s engineers would recognise as good practice in an engine designed for outright
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
Ducati were once just another of the many motorcycle factories around Bologna, perhaps their most famous fellow bike builder being Moto Morini. This one’s probably my favourite – the 3½ with disc front brake but still with the Borranis and the original Sport look, especially that humped seat. This image is by Paul Hart (featured in a past post with a 400 Four photo) and as with that pic this was taken on 35mm film with an Olympus OM-2N. He’s a complete Vespa scooter nut
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.