MV Agusta Motorcycles

Count Giovanni Agusta, a young aristocrat with a passion for flying like so many in the era just after the Wright Brothers, founded the Agusta aeronautics company in 1907 in northern Italy, near today's Malpensa Airport. Business boomed during World War I. By 1927, the Count had died, the airplane biz had grown less profitable, and Count Domenico – son of Giovanni – decided to diversify into motorcycles.
The airplane business took off again during the Second World War, but when the war ended, airplane production was banned in Italy. Motorcycles thus became the primary focus, and Meccanica Verghera was established in 1945, in the village of Verghera. In fact, Count Domenico had seen the writing on the wall as early as 1943, and by that year an engine was already set to power the kind of inexpensive, simple machine an impoverished postwar Italy would need – a 98 cc two-stroke. They wanted to call the new motorcycle that would carry it "Vespa," but that name was already taken, and so the first bike was simply called MV 98.
In late October, 1945, the press was shown a preproduction model of the 98. It had a steel-tube rigid frame, a girder fork, 19-inch wheels and big letters on the gas tank: MV. The Turismo version – with three-speed gearbox and rear suspension – was so popular the Economica version was shortly dropped.

By 1947, racing was on, and Franco Bertoni won MV Agusta its first race at Carate Brianza, near Milan. In 1952, MV won its first world championship in the 125 cc class, and in September of that year, Leslie Graham won MV its first 500 cc Grand Prix, on the hallowed Monza circuit.

In 1955, the Count acquired the license to begin production of Bell Helicopters, which re-injected the latest technology into the motorcycle department as well; MV's racers from then on were constructed using the same high-tech casting, forging and machining techniques used in the manufacture of helicopters. MV continued to sell small numbers of exotic road bikes, but it was helicopters that made Count Domenico a wealthy man, and from then on racing became more of a hobby. In 1956, the Count hired the already legendary John Surtees, and was rewarded with MV's first 500 cc world championship.

Yes MV Agusta made scooters, plenty of them – including the 1960 Chicco, with 155 cc two-stroke power.

Beginning in 1966, the great Giacomo Agostini won seven 500 cc world championships for MV in a row, as well as six consecutive 350 cc titles (the seventh came on a Yamaha, in 1974) – and ten Isle of Man TTs as well.

In 1965, the MV Agusta 600 appeared at the Milan Trade Fair – the world's first production motorcycle with a transverse inline four-cylinder engine, beating the CB750 to the punch by four years.

By 1970, the four-cylinder had expanded to 743 cc, and was powering some of the most beautiful and exclusive motorcycles in the world.

Wiki says 583 750 S models were produced from 1970 to `75, and that, "When one of these rarities reaches the used vehicle market, very high prices are achieved." (John Burns photo)

During its heyday, MV Agusta recorded 75 World Championships and 270 GP wins, under most of the era's greatest riders also including Hocking, Hailwood, Read, Ubbiali and Provini. In 1971, though, with the death of Count Domenico, the factory lost its way, and sold its last motorcycle in 1980.

In 1991, the MV Agusta name was acquired by Claudio Castigliano and his Cagiva Group. The F4 750 Serie Oro was first revealed at the 1997 EICMA Show in Milan, and the first production models released to the public in May 1999.

The Ressurrection: Serie Oro F4.

Designed by Massimo Tamburini at CRC (Cagiva Research Center), as the follow-up to his other masterwork, the Ducati 916, the F4 was also hailed as the most beautiful motorcycle the world had seen, in its distinctive red and silver livery with gold wheels. The F4 engine featured hemispherical cylinder heads with a radial four-valve layout, as well as a level of sophisticated put-togetherness the world had not previously seen from Italian motorcycles.

The F4 later grew to become a series of F4 1000 models, and in 2013 MV began producing a range of F3 three-cylinder sport and naked models in 675 and 800 cc displacements.

In the last 20 years, MV Agusta has gone through a series of owners, including Harley-Davidson and Proton, and has been rescued from several near-death experiences by strategic partnerships with the likes of Mercedes-Benz AMG. Most recently, says Wiki, MV Agusta Motor CEO Timur Sardarov has entered into an agreement with the Chinese Loncin Motor Company in 2019, to jointly produce 350 and 500 cc motorcycles. Development work and production will be carried out by MV, using the existing 675/800 cc triple as a base for the engine. Sardarov was founder of Russian investment company, Black Ocean Group, and the son of oil tycoon Rashid Sardarov.

A couple of our favorite MV Agustas include:

Brutale 800

New for 2016, this heavily revised naked benefitted greatly from an all-new chassis with increased stability and better suspension. A backward-rotating crankshaft in the 798 cc, 116-horsepower triple helps keep it quick-steering and precise. In the ensuing years, this great engine has found its way into a whole family of diverse 800s.

Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS

MV’s first attempt at sport-touring entered the picture in 2016, and one of its latest iterations is this SCS, featuring a hands-free American-manufactured Rekluse Smart Clutch System (SCS) in the 798 triple, along with the typical sexy Italian styling that includes lockable/removable hard saddlebags. That's Lusso for luxury, which there's plenty of in addition to MV's storied performance.

More by