Saturday, October 5, 2013

MV Agusta

MV Agusta, originally Meccanica Verghera Agusta, is a motorcycle manufacturer founded on 12 February 1945 near Milan in Cascina Costa, Italy. The company began as 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. Count Vincenzo Agusta together with his brother Domenico formed MV Agusta 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. The acronym MV stands for Meccanica (mechanics) Verghera, the hamlet where the first MVs were made. The company manufactured small-displacement, CafĂ© racer style motorcycles (mostly 125 to 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 350 cc twin were produced, and a 600 cc four-cylinder evolved into a 750 cc.

Count Vincenzo and Domenico Agusta had a passion for mechanical workings and for motorcycle racing. Much like Enzo Ferrari, they produced and sold motorcycles almost exclusively to fund their racing efforts. They were determined to have the best Grand Prix motorcycle racing team in the world and spared no expense on their passion. MV Agusta produced their first prototype, 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”. 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 the 1949 season, 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, Netherlands 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. The 1950 season and 1951 season 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.

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, 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 27 mm SS1 carburetor and remote float chamber. The bike was nicknamed “The Boy Racer”. In 1953 the race engineers adopted the Earles-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.

1953 saw the introduction of a new 175 cc overhead cam model. MV Agusta produced the 175 CST and CSTL (Turismo Lusso) for street use and soon developed a sportier 175 cc version with larger carburetor, a larger cylinder head with bigger fins, aluminum wheel rims and plenty of glossy red paint. The first year version (1954) of the 175 Sport featured a beautifully sculpted fuel tank that quickly earned it the unofficial nickname "Disco Volante" ("flying saucer") as, viewed from the front, the tank shape was reminiscent of a flying saucer. Soon after, MV began offering a very limited-availability racing version 175 cc "Super Sport" for MSDS racing (production club racing) 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 5-speed gearbox. Its design earned it the nickname "Squalo" (Shark). This 175 cc racing machine was very popular in Britain in the mid 1950s, where tuners learned to bore it out to over 200 cc capacity. Racers including 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 adhered to, and it worked. MV street motorcycles enjoyed immense popularity throughout Europe. In 1958 American rider Dave Schuler, riding a borrowed and barely modified MV 175 Sport street bike, won the 175 class at the famed Catalina Island GP off-road race, in California.

After the 1957 season, the Italian motorcycle manufacturers Gilera, Moto Guzzi and Mondial jointly agreed to withdraw from Grand Prix competition due to escalating costs and diminishing sales. Count Agusta originally agreed to withdraw, but then had second thoughts. MV Agusta went on to dominate Grand Prix racing, winning 17 consecutive 500 cc world championships, 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, among 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.

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. Shortly thereafter, they ceased motorcycle production. Between 1948 and 1976 MV Agusta motorcycles had won over 3000 races and 63 World Championships overall. After MV Agusta left the racing scene in 1980, Magni began producing his own custom-framed MV motorcycles.[