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 is key in racing. If you’ve got something that works you need to bring it along, not keep starting all over again.”
Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi tried to replace the Bicilindrica with a triple, a four, a single and finally the mighty V8. They were worried about losing star rider Ken Kavanagh and the likelihood of dustbin fairings being banned, negating Guzzi’s biggest advantage, the factory’s wind tunnel. So the race team set to thrashing out ideas for a 500 that could beat all comers, as well as showing off Moto Guzzi’s engineering expertise to the buying public. Giulio Cesare Carcano reasoned a water-cooled V8 would fit the bill perfectly, being narrower yet more of a tour-de-force than the air-cooled fours the opposition were using. He also believed a transverse four was too wide for a dustbin fairing, both in terms of aerodynamics and ground clearance. Carlo Guzzi still held out for development of his beloved 500 single but Giorgio Parodi, having branded the Bicilindrica project an “antique”, was unlikely to consider such a project prestigious enough. His brother and fellow director Enrico also supported Carcano. The V8 was coming.
Unfortunately when it first raced in 1955 the handling in high speed sweepers proved unsettling to say the least. Partly this was down to Carcano’s obsession with weight saving which meant that the chassis was pretty much the same as the 350 single’s. Reliability was also an issue and finally Moto Guzzi, along with most other Italian factories, agreed to withdraw from Grand Prix racing in 1957. Still, what a magnificent piece of engineering to behold.
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