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
You can’t talk about motorcycle aerodynamics without mentioning Moto Guzzi’s wind tunnel. Contrary to popular belief Guzzi weren’t the first motorcycle factory to have a wind tunnel, but given that Aermacchi’s was built when they we still making aeroplanes we’ll let it pass. Moto Guzzi started work on the tunnel in 1950, and were using it by 1952. From then on development of the factory racers focused on aerodynamics, streamlining initially an enlarged rear mudguard, but soon
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
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
Issue 10 of Benzina features a Guzzi Dondolino, the Moriniday in the Po valley and the new Rebello, Lino Tonti's Linto 500, Ducati's 500GP plus Sports Motorcycles entry in the 1982 Suzuka 8 hour - featuring Steve Wynne in very short shorts. Then there's a 1960s replica MV Agusta racer with a 750F4 engine, riding in Puglia and the Dolomites, plus much more including regulars like Ian Gowanloch's Happy Farm, Mark William's Running Out of Road, and a buyers' guide to Ducati wid
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
Almost my favourite V-twin – an early Ducati 916 Strada. Hard to believe the impact it had at launch. My brother and I went to the annual UK motorcycle show at the NEC, partly because we were keen to see the first 916 in the country. Both our wives were pregnant so we’d promised to be home by 6pm, which meant leaving the show by 4. But by then the crowd around the 916 was still six deep. We were eventually asked to leave by security at 6pm – closing time – by which time
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