Thursday, April 24, 2014

Moto Guzzi Motorcycles


Moto Guzzi MotorcyclesMoto Guzzi, also known as Guzzi, is an Italian motorcycle manufacturer that has endured from the industry’s infancy to its place today as the oldest European manufacturer in continuous motorcycle production. Moto Guzzi is now one of seven brands owned by Piaggio & Co. SpA, Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer and the world’s fourth largest motorcycle manufacturer by unit sales.

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Moto Guzzi was conceived by two aircraft pilots and their mechanic serving in the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (the Italian Air Corp, CAM) during World War I: Carlo Guzzi, Giovanni Ravelli and Giorgi Parodi. By happenstance assigned to the same Miraglia Squadron based outside Venice,[5] the three became close, despite starkly different socio-economic backgrounds. The trio envisioned creating a motorcycle company after the war. Guzzi would engineer the motor bikes, Parodi (scion of wealthy Genovese ship-owners) would finance the venture, and Ravelli (already a famous pilot and motocycle racer) would promote the bikes with his racing prowess. Guzzi and Parodi (along with Parodi’s brother) formed Moto Guzzi in 1921. Ravelli, ironically, had died just days after the war’s end in an aircraft crash and is commemorated by the eagle’s wings that form the Moto Guzzi logo.

Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi,along with Giorgio’s brother Angelo, created a privately held silent partnership “Società Anonima Moto Guzzi” on 15 March 1921, for the purpose of (according to the original articles of incorporation) “the manufacture and the sale of motor cycles and any other activity in relation to or connected to metallurgical and mechanical industry”.

The company was legally based in Genoa, Italy, with its headquarters in Mandello. The very earliest motorcycles bore the name G.P. (Guzzi-Parodi), though the marque quickly changed to Moto Guzzi. As the only actual shareholders, the Parodi’s wanted to shield their shipping fortunes by avoiding confusion of name G.P. with Giorgio Parodi’s initials. Carlo Guzzi initially received royalties for each motorcycle produced, holding no ownership in the company that bore his name. In 1946 Moto Guzzi formally incorporated as Moto Guzzi S.p.A. with Giorgio Parodi as chairman.

Carlo Guzzi’s first engine design was a horizontal single that dominated the first 45 years of the company’s history in various configurations. Through 1934, each engine bore the signature of the mechanic who built it. As originally envisioned, the company used racing to promote the brand. In the 1935 Isle of Man TT, Moto Guzzi factory rider Stanley Woods performed an impressive double victory with wins in the Lightweight TT as well as the Senior TT.

Until the mid 1940s, the traditional horizontal four-stroke single cylinder 500 cc engines outfitted with one overhead and one side valve (also known as: IOE, inlet over exhaust or F-head) were the highest performance engines Moto Guzzi sold to the general public. By contrast, the company supplied the official racing team and private racers with higher performance racing machines with varying overhead cam, multi-valve configurations and cylinder designs.

In the 1950s, Moto Guzzi, along with the Italian factories of Gilera and Mondial, led the world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing. With durable and lightweight 250 cc and 350 cc bikes designed by Giulio Carcano, the firm dominated the middleweight classes. The factory won five consecutive 350 cc world championships between 1953 and 1957. In realizing that low weight alone might not continue to win races for the company, Carcano designed the V8 500 cc GP race bike—whose engine was to become one of the most complex engines of its time. Despite the bike’s having led many races and frequently posted the fastest lap time, it often failed to complete races because of mechanical problems. Ultimately, the V8 was not developed further as Moto Guzzi withdrew (together with the main competitors Gilera and Mondial) from racing after the 1957 season citing escalating costs and diminishing motorcycle sales. By the time of its pull out from Grand Prix racing, Moto Guzzi had won 3,329 official races, 8 World Championships, 6 Constructor’s Championships and 11 Isle of Man TT victories.

The period after World War II was as difficult in Mandello del Lario as it was elsewhere in post-war Europe. The solution was production of inexpensive, lighter cycles. The 1946 “Motoleggera”, a 65 cc lightweight motorcycle became very popular in post-war Italy. A four-stroke 175 cc scooter known as the “Galletto” also sold well. Though modest cycles for the company, the lighter cycles continue to feature Guzzi’s innovation and commitment to quality. The step-through Galletto initially featured a manual, foot-shifted three-speed (160 cc) configuration then later a four-speed (175 cc) set-up by the end of 1952. The displacement was increased to 192 cc in 1954 and electric start was added in 1961.

Moto Guzzi was limited in its endeavors to penetrate the important scooter market as motorcycle popularity waned after WWII. Italian scooter competitors would not tolerate an incursion from Moto Guzzi. By innovating the first large-wheeled scooter, Guzzi competed less directly with manufacturers of small-wheeled scooters such as Piaggio (Vespa) and Lambretta. To illustrate the delicate balance within the Italian post-war motorcycle and scooter markets, when Guzzi developed their own prototype for a small-wheeled scooter, Lambretta retaliated with a prototype for a small V-twin motorcycle threatening to directly compete on Moto Guzzi’s turf. The two companies compromised: Guzzi never produced their small-wheeled scooter and Lambretta never manufactured the motorcycle. Notably, the drive train that Lambretta made in their 1953 motorcycle prototype remarkably resembles the V-twin + drive shaft arrangement that Guzzi developed more than ten years later, ultimately to become iconic of the company.

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