Is this a Harley Davidson? Well, yes; but not as you know it. Having seen the Brit bike business laid low by what management consultants called sector retreat – letting the Japanese take over the lightweight market and focussing on big bikes – Harley bought up Aermacchi and set about building a range of two-stroke lightweights to take on the Japanese in their most profitable markets. To give these post-Aermacchi air-cooled singles credibility HD used Aermacchi (and um, Yamaha
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
While it might be true that Yamaha killed 750cc production racing with the slightly terrifying TZ750, this is proof they did intend it to be related to something in the showroom. The GL750 was part of the shock and awe Tokyo Salon 1971 show, and at the Paris Salon the following autumn it created a sensation on the Sonauto Yamaha stand. This would be the only time that the GL750 would leave Japanese soil, although there were rumours that as many as 800 were delivered to France
Ron Haslam was my racing hero before I even knew who Barry Sheene was. World of Sport was a Saturday afternoon TV show that screened everything from darts to wrestling, and occasionally a bout of road racing. Watching him wrestle Mal Carter’s Yamaha TZ750 around some gnarly British track was to behold a supernatural talent. Yet when post-race interviewers asked him how he was so quick he’d reply with something typically modest, including “I just lean it reet over”. He
This is Ron Haslam at his winningest best aboard a 1981 Honda CB1100R, the first sod-the-expense homologation special Honda built. When Suzuki cleaned up in production racing with the Katana, Honda built a big bore, track focused, missile based on the CB900F. In New Zealand - where only 20 or so bikes had to been built to homologate them - Suzuki wheeled out a wire wheeled (lighter back then) smoothbore carburetted and Yoshi cam'd Katana to carry on winning. In the UK the nu
This is my brother on his Suzuki Katana 1100, based around the 16 valve four cylinder GSX1100. Before Target came up with the ED1 in the previous post and the Katana, motorcycle seats were long and pillion accommodation extended far behind the rear axle. The stance was parallel to the road and the visual mass was usually central, or around the fuel tank and cylinder heads. Fairings, if fitted, were separate from the fuel tank. Target changed all that. The rider, fuel tank and
Target Design is famous in the motorcycle world as the creator of Suzuki’s Katanas and, to some, for the bodywork on later Harris Magnums. But this MV Agusta is where they first went public with their vison of how a motorcycle should look, created just a few months after Target Design was born in 1979. The team were three ex-BMW motorcycle designers, Hans-Georg Kasten, Hans Muth and Brit Jan Fellstrom. They were already working on restyling Suzuki’s 550, 650 and 1100 when Ger
This is another masterpiece by Jamie Kinroy that opened a piece on the Target Design's MV Agusta based prototype that caught Suzuki's eye and led to the Katana - the story's in Benzina 15, available in the shop. Jamie also did illustrations for Benzina 14 and 16. The 750 Sport is revered as the most collectible MV roadster, and can make the thick end of a £100k - in August Bonhams sold one for a nice but unoriginal late model Sport for over £66,000 But to be honest by the m
This is the MV Agusta stand at the 1950 Milan show, promising imminent delivery of a road going 500 four. The Turismo R19 was priced at 950,000 lira, about three times the cost of a decent 250. Like its racing sibling there was an odd gearchange arrangement, a lever on one side of the gearbox to change up, an apparently identical lever on the other side for changing down. Of course the road bike never made it to any owners, although the odd gearbox and shaft drive were briefl
Pete ‘PK’ Davies with the trappings of success, including his Alfa GTV.
Tyres were a big deal in the Avon series but, rather embarrassingly, races were often won on ‘other brands’. One of the most memorable things about the races was PK’s entertainingly lurid riding style which had endeared him to race fans throughout the UK. Davies recalls his time aboard the Slater Jotas:
“In 1976 we competed in two championships, the Avon and the Motorcycle Mechanics. We were on the
The bike that should never have been built – the Moto Guzzi Le Mans. When Alejandro de Tomaso bought Moto Guzzi he arrived at the factory declaring “no more stupid twins”. He had seen the rise of the Japanese and intended to take them on – head on. 125 and 250cc two-strokes, with a range of four-stroke fours, were to be topped with the Sei (Six). All the four-strokes were built at the Moto Guzzi factory on Lake Como, and the strokers at the Benelli factory in Pesaro.
Talk of the Ducati 750SS brings us back to Colin Seeley, seen here with the Ducati 500GP. It was quick enough to occasionally best Ago and the MV, but Fabio Taglioni always insisted it was a development project for a road going 750 V-twin. He also recognised his limitations as a frame designer and brought Seeley on board, whose signature touches are all over the frame - and the swing arm, with Seeley’s usual obsession with a robust support for the back axle and chain a