100 years of Moto Guzzi – Dossier


Italians are known for a lot of things, one of them being the creators of ridiculously pretty and powerful motorcycles. Moto Guzzi has been involved, in a significant way, for a little over 100 years now. It’s no simple task, but Moto Guzzi is no ordinary business either. The story of its formation alone will give you an idea of ​​the passion and effort that went into creating the legendary brand.

Three friends, flight engineer Carlo Guzzi, decorated aviator Giorgio Parodi and experienced pilot Giovanni Ravelli, were fascinated by engines and motorcycle racing. All three had served together in the Aviation Corps of the Italian Royal Navy and the story goes that Guzzi proposed to Parodi and Ravelli, who enthusiastically agreed, that they should enter the motorcycle space after World War I. world over. Ravelli died in 1919 during a test flight and his two friends wanted to honor his memory with the symbol of military aviation. Since then, the Italian Naval Aviation eagle has been the emblem of Moto Guzzi.


In the same year of his death, the GP prototype (of the initials Guzzi-Parodi) debuted, but it was not produced due to high production costs, as it featured a series of aeronautical technologies of the time. , especially ignition. However, the prototype had potential, and on March 15, 1921, the “Società Anonima Moto Guzzi” was formed. The founders of the company were Emanuele Vittorio Parodi, who was a well-known Genoese shipowner, his aviator son Giorgio Pardio and their flight engineer friend Carlo Guzzi.

Soon after, Moto Guzzi launched a more basic version of the GP, called Normal (see what they did there?). The Normal was the first motorcycle to carry the eagle logo as well as the Moto Guzzi brand. It was powered by an 8hp, 500cc horizontally mounted single cylinder engine, mated to a 3-speed gearbox. The Italian company made only 17 in the first year and sold it from 1921 to 1924.

In 1928, the brother of founder Carlo Guzzi, Guiseppe Guzzi, embarked on a 6000 km round trip to the Arctic Circle on the GT 500 Norge..

Another important motorcycle for Moto Guzzi was the GT 500, nicknamed “Norge” to commemorate the Italian airship expedition that made the first verified trip of any kind to the North Pole. While the 1928 GT 500 used the same powertrain as the Normal, it featured improved brakes and suspension. In particular, the rear suspension was now a swivel system.

Rival companies and journalists wrote off this bike because the technology was unproven at the time. What Moto Guzzi did to tackle this was genius. The brother of founder Carlo Guzzi, Guiseppe Guzzi, embarked on a 6000 km round trip to the Arctic Circle in the GT 500 Norge. He crossed Germany and Denmark to arrive safe and sound in the Northern Cape of Norway. Not only did this ride prove all opponents wrong, it also demonstrated the reliability of the bike.

Eleven years later, in 1939, Moto Guzzi entered the lightweight segment with the Airone 250. This continued to use the same horizontally mounted engine configuration, but was reduced to 250cc. This motorcycle gained a reputation for being sporty and light, and remained the best-selling mid-size motorcycle in Italy for over 15 years. It was quite impressive, considering that after WWII it was the smaller capacity, more economical bikes that sold like hot cakes.


Moto Guzzi was the first motorcycle company to start using a wind tunnel.

Speaking of smaller and more economical machines, Moto Guzzi also wanted to participate in this action. As light motorcycles and scooters became more popular after the war, the Italian company launched a mid-size offering called Galleto. It was a very successful model for the company, with 70,000 units sold over its 16-year lifespan.

After World War II, the 1950s also saw Moto Guzzi take a revolutionary step forward in the motorcycle industry. The Italian company was the first to use a wind tunnel. The engine room, spanning an additional 32 feet, is said to house a 900 hp Fiat V-12 military surplus. Both the bike and the rider were able to take full advantage of it against winds of around 190 km / h. The wind tunnel was the first of its kind in this industry, but it is said to have worked. During this period, the company introduced several racing machines with large “trash” fairings, including the 500 GP V8 racing at 285 km / h.


The “Otto” attracts attention and rightly so, it is a V8 motorbike after all..

Nicknamed Otto (eight in Italian), the 499cc V8-powered racing machine produced 78bhp in 1955. This engine could be paired with a 4, 5, or 6-speed gearbox, depending on the circuit. While this motorcycle beast led races and posted the best lap times quite often, its unreliable and complicated engine never got it to win a race.


The Otto may not have won many accolades for Moto Guzzi, but his other bikes certainly have. The Italian company claims to have 3,332 victories in official competitions! Moto Guzzi started racing the same year it started making motorcycles, with its first victory at Targa Florio in 1921. Stanley Woods, aboard a Moto Guzzi, also won the lightweight (250cc) and senior (500cc) Isle of Man 1935 TT. One of Moto Guzzi’s most successful racing machines, the 250 Compressore notched up 11 wins in its first year of racing alone. He is said to have broken a total of 34 records in 21 years. Yes, you read that right, it was used as a racing machine for 21 years.


Bruno Ruffo won the first 250cc World Championship on a Moto Guzzi Gambalunghino in 1949.

Bruno Ruffo also won the first 250cc world championship from the Italian Moto Guzzi factory in 1949. In 1951 he became the 250cc world champion for the second time, with four wins on his Moto Guzzi. Moto Guzzis riders also took second, fourth, fifth and sixth places in the same year. When Moto Guzzi retired from racing in 1957, his record included 14 world speed titles and 11 Tourist Trophy titles.

In the 1960s, Moto Guzzi released the 700cc V-twin engine which was used on well-known models like the V7 Special, V7 Sport, California and Le Mans. The company’s current lineup consists of the V7, V9 and V85 TT and they all use the same unique transverse V-twin engine configuration, albeit with much more modern technology.

In December 2004, Moto Guzzi became part of the Piaggio Group, which is a giant in the two-wheeler space. Sadly, it doesn’t look like Moto Guzzi will return to its exciting racing roots anytime soon, but the good thing is that the company remains fully aware of its remarkable legacy. Even today, his motorcycles are original in their uniqueness and ride like no other. It’s gone for another 100 years.

Also see:

20/20: 20 years of the Honda Activa

Buon Compleanno, Vespa: Celebrating 75 years of the icon


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