Thursday, July 9, 2009

MV Agusta, a Legend


"Impossible to forget this motorcycle legend,her name is extremely close to another legend ; Giacomo Agostini and almost 70 years later she's still synonymous of perfection and racing.
If you ask someone which is the biggest roadracing motorcycle of all the time he will tell you MV Agusta..."

MV Agusta is a motorcycle manufacturer founded in 1945 near Milan in Cascina Costa, Italy.
The company began as an offshoot of the Agusta aviation company which was 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. Count Vincenzo Agusta together with his brother Domenico formed MV Agusta (the MV stood for Meccanica Verghera) at the end of the Second World War as a means to save the jobs of employees of the Agusta firm and also to fill the post-war need for cheap, efficient transportation. They produced their first prototype, ironically called "Vespa 98", in 1945. After learning that the name had already been registered by Piaggio for its Vespa motorscooter, it was referred to simply by the number “98”.

The company successfully manufactured small-displacement, quintessential CafĂ© racer style motorcycles (mostly 125–150 cc) through the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1960s small motorcycle sales declined, and MV started producing larger displacement cycles in more limited quantities. A 250 cc, and later a smart 350 cc twin were produced, and a 600 cc four-cylinder evolved into a 750 cc which is still extremely valuable today.

Following the death of Count Domenico Agusta in 1971 the company declined and by 1980, it stopped producing motorcycles altogether.

Grand Prix racing

Count Vincenzo and Domenico Agusta had a passion for mechanical workings and for motorcycle racing. They were determined to have the best Grand Prix motorcycle racing team in the world and spared no expense on their passion. 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 1949, the 125 cc or Ultra light weight class gained new prestige. More motorcycle manufacturers were competing in the inaugural World Championships that were held in Switzerland, Holland and Italy. The Mondial 125 cc DOHC design dominated the 1949 season. The MV riders placed 9th and 10th in the final standings. In 1950, Arturo Magni and Piero Remor joined the company after working with Gilera. Magni was the chief mechanic and Remor was chief designer [5]. 1950 and 1951 were development years, as the company adopted the 125 Dohc four-stroke engine. Racing efforts only produced a fifth place finish at the Dutch TT in 1950. The 1951, results were only slightly better.
1952 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 Isle of Man TT victory and went on to win MV Agusta's first world championship. In 1953 the race engineers adopted the Earl-type forks to help with handling problems on the works racers. The 1953 season saw the introduction of the 350 Four. MV’s racing efforts now included the 500 cc, 350 cc and 125 cc class.

With the success of the 1952 season, independent or “privateer” riders could now purchase a “catalog” version of the 125 Dohc, now available through the company. 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 27mm SS1 carburetor and remote float chamber. The bike was nick-named “The Boy Racer”.

The mid 1950s saw the introduction of the 175 cc class. MV Agusta produced the 175 CSS for street use and also developed a 175 cc production racer for privateer racing. The 175 cc was very popular in Britain in the mid 1950s. Racers like, Micheal O’Rourke, Derek Minter and Bob Keeler raced the 175 and 125 Sport Competizione around Europe with a great deal of success. The marketing strategy of “race it on Sunday , sell it on Monday” was employed. For racing, early MV racing engines had the right side casting removed for instant access to the gear box.

Count Agusta's competitive nature usually saw him hire some of the best riders of the time, namely Carlo Ubbiali, John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read, and others, and having the best engineers, most notably Arturo Magni. The three and four cylinder race bikes were known for their excellent road handling. The fire-engine red racing machines became a hallmark of Grand Prix racing in the 1960s and early 1970s, winning 17 consecutive 500 cc World Championships, and 63 World Championships overall. With the death of Count Domenico Agusta in 1971, the company lost its guiding force. The company won their last Grand Prix in 1976, and by the 1980 Grand Prix motorcycle racing season, they were out of racing. Between 1948 and 1976 MV Agusta motorcycles had won over 3000 races.

On July 11, 2008, Harley-Davidson announced they had signed a definitive agreement to acquire the MV Agusta Group for US$109 million (€70M). The purchase has sparked much interest and hope for a new direction for the company. The acquisition was completed on August 8.

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