|Moto-Guzzi the oldest
European manufacturer in continuous motorcycle productionis
in Italy. It is one of seven
brand names owned by Piaggio.
Moto Guzzi was established in 1921 in Madello Del Lario and has led Italy's
motorcycling manufacture since, Moto Guzzi, has become a
household name in worldwide
bike racing and led all its competitors in ground breaking
motorcycle innovation for the
most of its history.
The company was began by two military aircraft pilots and a
mechanic who served in the Corpo Aeronautico Militare during
World War 1. The trio, Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli and
Giorgi Parodi started Moto Guzzi after
the war. Carlo Guzzi and Giorgi Parodi formed the Moto Guzzi
company in 1921, Giovanni Ravelli
unfortunately died just days after the war had ended in an
aircraft crash. Mr. Ravelli is commemorated by the eagles wings
in the Moto Guzzi logo.
The first Moto Guzzi engine was a horizontal single.
It was caught on and wrote the first 45 years of the company's history.
Up to 1934, each engine bore the signature of the mechanic
that built it. In the 1935 Isle of Man TT,
Stanley Woods, a Moto Guzzi rider, had an impressive double victory with wins in
the Lightweight TT and Senior TT.
Until the mid 40s, the horizontal four stroke 500cc single
cylinder engines outfitted with one overhead and one side
valve were the highest performance engines that the company
sold to the general public.
During the period following World War 2 time became
difficultwas difficult. The Moto Guzzi solution
to their difficult times was to begin production of
less expensive, lighter bikes. The 1946 Motoleggera, a 65cc bike became very popular in Italy. A
four stroke 175cc scooter known as the Galletto also sold
In the 50s, the company along with other Italian factories
led the world of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing. With durable
and lightweight 250cc and 350cc bikes. Moto Guzzi dominated
the middleweight classes. The factory won five consecutive
350cc championships between 1953 and 1957. In realising that
low weight alone might not continue to win races, the V8
500cc GP race bike was designed. This engine was to become
one of the most complex engines of its time and despite the
bike having led many races and frequently posted the fastest
lap time, it often failed to complete races due to
mechanical problems. Ultimately, the V8 was not further
developed. By the time Moto Guzzi pulled out of racing
following the 1957 season, it had won 3329 official races, 8
world championships, 6 constructors championships and 11
Isle of Man TT victories.
In1964, the Moto Guzzi company was in financial crisis. Parodi and his son Giorgio had died, Carlo Guzzi had retired
and direction passed to Enrico Parodi.
In 1967, SEIMM a state controlled receiver, took control of
the company and saw the adaptation towards cars. The company
focused on popular mopeds including the Dingo and Trotter.
They also developed the 90 degree V twin engine which would
become iconic of Moto Guzzi.
Although the company had employed engines of myriad
configurations, none symbolised the company more than the
air cooled 90 degree V twin with a longitudinal crankshaft
orientation and the transverse cylinder heads projecting
prominently on either side of the bike. This V twin began
life as a 700cc. It was continuously developed and later
became 1200cc. The design is currently used as 750cc, 1100cc
and 1200cc engines.
After experiencing financial difficulties in the late 1960s,
De Tomaso Industries Inc. purchased SEIMM (Moto Guzzi) along with Benelli and Maserati in 1973. Under
Tomaso's stewardship, Moto Guzzi returned to profitability,
though other reports suggest a period of limited investment
in Moto Guzzi followed attributed to DTI using Moto Guzzi
financially prioritizing their automotive ventures.
In 1976 Guzzi released the 850 Le Mans, a cafe racer that
was a stylistic masterpiece and still considered one of the
most iconic and sought after of all Guzzis. A marketing
success that would compete with other Italian superbikes, it
spawned four later models from Mark II to its culmination in
the 1990s, the Mark V. The initial model is known widely but
incorrectly as the Mark I. Technically, it is simply the 850
Le Mans. It was named in homage to the 24-Hour endurance
race and circuit in France. The Mark I had two production
runs with slight modifications. The first run, known as
Series 1, used the roundish CEV stop/taillight used on many
Italian bikes of the decade. Less than 2,000 of the round
taillight bikes were made and they are the most desirable
Guzzi of the era. The second production run, known as the
Series 2 and totaling around 4,000 bikes, used a De Tomaso
designed rectangular taillight/reflector and modified rear
guard. This was also used on the Mark II and SP models.
In 1979 a small block version of the air-cooled V-twin
designed by engineer Lino Tonti was introduced as the V35.
Radical when introduced, the design featured horizontally
split crankcases and heron heads. The former was a common
feature of contemporary Japanese motorcycle design, whilst
the latter was widely used in car engines.
As Guzzi continued to develop the V-twin, power was
increased in the mid 1980s when Guzzi created 4 valve
versions of the "small block" series. Of these, the 650 and
the 750 were rated at 60 bhp (45 kW) and 65 bhp (48 kW)
respectively. The production of the 4-valve "small block"
engines ended in the later 1980s.
Moto Guzzis have used a hydraulic integrated brake system,
where the right front disc works off the handlebar lever,
while the left front and the rear disc work off the foot
The cartridge front fork used in Guzzi's motorcycles of the
later 1970s and 1980s is a Guzzi invention. Instead of
containing the damping oil in the fork it is in a cartridge.
Oil in the fork is purely for lubrication.
Still under the De Tomaso umbrella, in 1988, Benelli and
SEIMM merged to create Guzzi Benelli Moto (G.B.M. S.p.A.).
During this period, Moto Guzzi existed as an entity within
the De Tomaso owned G.B.M., but in 1996 celebrated its 75th
birthday and the return of its name to Moto Guzzi S.p.A. In
1996, De Tomaso became Trident Rowan Group, also known as
The Moto Guzzi assembly line closed for a short period in
March 2004, due to financial difficulties.
On 30 December 2004, Piaggio & Co. S.p.A acquired Aprilia
and thereby Moto Guzzi, forming Europe's largest motorcycle
manufacturer. Moto Guzzi S.p.A officially becomes a Unico
Azionista of Piaggio, part of Immsi S.p.A. Investments have
allowed introduction of a series of competitive new models
in rapid succession.
In November 2007, Moto Guzzi unveiled the retro-themed 2008
V7 Classic at the Motorcycle and Bicycle Manufacturers show
in Milan, Italy. It was available in Europe in mid-2008, and
Moto Guzzi announced plans in late-2008 to make it available
to U.S. buyers.