The MV Agusta single cylinder gems

Italian beauty and simplicity



The superb proportions of the 1954 MV Agusta CSTL 175 Turismo Lusso
Image: Wikipedia

The superb red and silver MV Agusta three and four cylinder machines, ridden to prominence primarily by the great Giocomo Agostini, are what usually comes to mind when enthusiasts think of the MV Agusta name. However, it was the single cylinder race and road bikes that established MV as a motorcycle manufacturer. It was an MV 125 single that won them their first of many World Championships, in the hands of Cecil Stanford. These beautifully lean machines are highly desirable and are eagerly sought after by collectors of historical machinery.

MV Agusta, originally Meccanica Verghera Agusta, began on the 12th of February 1945 near Milan. It was an offshoot of the Agusta aviation company formed by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923. The Count died in 1927, leaving the company in the hands of his wife and sons, Domenico, Vincenzo, Mario and Corrado. Verghera was the name of the viliage where they were produced. Domenico and his brothers had a passion for motorcycles and in particular, racing. In 1948, the company built a 125 cc two-stroke single and entered Franco Bertoni in the Italian Grand Prix. Bertoni won the event held in Monza and instantly put the new motorcycle manufacturer on the map.
In 1950, Arturo Magni and Piero Remor joined the company after working with Gilera. Magni was the chief mechanic and Remor was chief designer. They were responsible for developing the road bikes as well as the racers. Aruturo Magni eventually founded his own company producing highly desirable chassis kits for roadbikes. His family carries on the tradition today.



The first MV road bike, the 1945 MV98
Image: Flickr

The production of the road bikes was always seen as a means of funding their racing passion, much like Enzo Ferrari's cars, and like Enzo's cars, they were never treated as an afterthought. The same passion that drove the racing was also evident in their gem like road bikes. The first road bike was a 98cc two-stroke with three port timing, a primary gear transmission, an oil bath clutch and a two speed transmission. It was called the Vespa, Italian for wasp. It was available in "Touring" and "Economical" versions. The name was later changed to the MV98 when they realized that Piaggio had already registered it and were threatening legal action.



A 1948 MV98 Sports

In 1947 they went to the Milan Trade Fair with a number of new developments. In addition to a "Luxury" version of the MV98 and eager to capitalize on their racing success, MV introduced four-stroke road bikes in addition to the two-strokes, although they didn't get the more costly to produce overhead cams. They were pushrod engines. The sports theme was pursued with two-strokes as well and the 98 "Sport" was built. It had a telescopic fork, friction rear damping adjustment, a 5cm shorter chassis for sportier handling and the power was increased to almost 5hp, a record at the time for an engine of this size.



A 1949 125cc two-stroke racer
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


Drilling holes to save weight wherever possible
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


Rear damping adjustment on the 1949 MV Agusta 125 Racer
Image: Moto Talbot Museum

Racing had ceased during the war but resumed in the early fifties. The 1952 season saw the introduction of telescopic forks, full width alloy brake hubs and a sleek fuel tank on the 125 race bike. Power was 15 bhp (11 kW) @ 10800 rpm. Britain's Cecil Sandford piloted the new MV 125 to a 1952 Isle of Man TT victory and went on to win MV Agusta's first world championship.
With the success of the 1952 season, privateer riders could now purchase a "catalog" version of the 125 S.O.H.C. factory racer. The Sport Competizione racer had many of the same features as the factory bike. These included a multi-plate clutch, gear-driven oil pump, Dell'Orto 27 mm SS1 carburetor and remote float chamber.



The 1953 125 MV Sport Competitione
Image: Deejay51.com


The MV Sport Competitione
Image: Moto Talbot Museum

The sporty Motore Lungo four-stroke road bike was hugely popular and in 1953 the unique 125 Pullman model was also introduced. The Pullman was the last of the two-strokes and combined elements of both the scooter and motorcycle. One of the Pullman's most unusual features was its frame, which was pressed steel and had no front downtubes. In 1955 it was joined by the Super Pullman, which had larger 18 inch wheels and leading-link front forks. The Super Pullman was produced from 1955 to 1958. These two helped MV set a milestone of 20,000 sales for the year.



A 1957 MV Augusta Super Pullman
Image: Bonhams

The 175cc overhead cam CS series was also released in 1953. It was offered in standard (CST) and "Turismo Lusso" (CSTL) versions. A sport model followed a year later. The 175cc CSS had a bigger carburetor, a larger cylinder head with bigger fins, aluminum wheel rims and a voluptuous saucer shaped tank. The shapely tank of the Disco Volante would influence some future designs, notably, the 750/900ss Ducatis. This beautiful model is prized by collectors. A small batch of 175 cc "Super Sport" racing versions were also offered equipped with unusual Earles-design front forks. In 1955, it was superseded by a new and improved Super Sport model with radical new styling and a five-speed gearbox. This model became known as the "Squalo" or shark.



The much loved 1956 Disco Volante
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


The beautifully sculpted tank on the Disco Volante
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


Disco Volante tank
Image: World of Motorcycles.com


1956 MV Agusta Disco Volante
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1956 MV Agusta Motogiro Squalo
Image: Moto Talbot Museum
Holes everywhere
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1956 MV Agusta Motogiro Squalo
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1957 MV Agusta Motogiro Gran Sport

In 1956, MV released the 250cc Turismo Raid, designed to be something of a long distance tourer. In Italy in the 1950's, a 150cc to 175 was considered a mid sized bike, so the 250cc Raid attracted considerable attention when it debuted at the 1956 Milan Trade show. It was later increased to 300cc and had new fenders, a four-speed gearbox and a bigger tank. They weighed 160 kg and it's 14hp at 5,600 rpm pushed it to a top speed of 115 kmh. An olive green military version was also offered.



1959 MV Agusta Raid
Image: Wikimedia


1959 MV Agusta Raid
Image: Moto Talbot Museum

In the mid-1950s, the Motogiro d'Italia, a 1,000-mile race around Italy, was extremely popular with over 50 manufacturers entering. The Motogiro d'Italia was cancelled in 1957 when Fon de Portago's fatal crash in the Mille Miglia car event led to a ban on road racing altogether. The event was resurrected in 2001, with a "non-racing" format and is restricted to bikes of 175cc or less. It is very popular today, attracting international participation. The largest class for the event is for bikes that could have participated in the original race. MV Agusta and other Italian singles are prominent. Several MV models were designated "Motogiro", indicating the prestige of the race.



1959 MV Agusta Raid
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


The 1954 MV 175 CST has rear suspension and a sprung seat
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1954 MV 175 CST
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1954 MV 175 CST
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


MV Moto Rapido

The long production run of the singles enabled continual refinements in durability, performance and finish and MV was not short of salubrious names for its models. With it's advanced lubrication system, MV was confident enough to also name its TREL (Turismo Rapido Extra Lusso), the Centimilia (One hundred thousand) for the expected longevity of the engine. 14,105 units of this model were sold before production ceased in 1963.



1963 MV Agusta 125 Centomila
Image: Sothebys


1972 MV Agusta GTL. A production cafe racer
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1972 MV Agusta GTL
Image: Moto Talbot Museum


1972 MV Agusta GTL
Image: Moto Talbot Museum

The last of the MV Agusta singles was the 1972 GTL 125. It was the end of more than two decades of MV four-stroke singles and came in the unfaired GTL version and the fully faired and more powerful GTLS model. The bikes were exquisitely finished and expensive, few were sold outside of Italy. The singles received a five speed gearbox from 1965 onwards and the 17.5 hp motor gave a top speed of 120kmh. The GTLS was one of the first production bikes to be offered with a full fairing. It was the end of an era of jewel-like single cylinder road bikes from MV. The beauty, ease of riding and balanced proportions of these bikes continue to win the hearts of enthusiasts worldwide.

Written by Paul Harmon, 22-12-18


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