MV Agusta: Motorcycle History

Racing Legend

Picture a red and silver motorcycle, and one Italian manufacturer should immediately come to mind: MV Agusta. The brand has a rich heritage, opening during the post World War II reconstruction period, a time when work was limited.

This limited amount of work is exactly what ignited the interest to create MV Agusta in 1945 near Milan in Cascina Costa, Italy. The idea came from two brothers that owned the aviation company, Agusta.

In order to save jobs and build cheap transportation, Count Vincenzo Agusta and his brother Domenico created MV Agusta (MV stands for Meccanica Verghera, Mechanic and town of Verghera in Italy).

By 1946, the company had commercialized its first 50 units, originally titled the "Vespa 98." But when the MV Agusta realized Piaggio already named a scooter a Vespa, the bike became simply known as the "98."

In 1948, they began producing a 125cc two-stroke single, adopting a philosophy which soon became also a commercial slogan: "Racing experience at the service of mass production." Franco Bertoni won the Italian Grand Prix that year in Monza, and the MV Agusta name would become popular.

An era of domination started in the World Championship after Cecil Sandford won the 125cc title in 1952. The company would go on to win 270 Grand Prix motorcycle races, with legendary riders such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Phil Read, Carlo Ubbiali, Gary Hocking and John Surtess.

The manufacturer also conquered others in the premier group, the 500cc class. By 1980, MV Agusta would have 75 World Titles (38 riders championships and 37 constructors championships).

MV Agusta says: "Dressed in red and silver, these invincible ‘record machines’ took the hearts of all fans sensitive to the esoteric charm of the inline four cylinder. An engine endowed with an extraordinary force largely underlined by the four megaphone-like exhausts, responsible for an unforgettable and terrifying roar. Distinguishing features that could not remain an exclusive heritage of the fortunate witnesses of that unforgettable era, needed to testify also in the future."

But due to the death of Count Domenico in 1971, the company lost its guiding force, and ceased production in 1980. The Italian motorcycle company Cagiva bought the MV Agusta name in 1991, and by 1997 the new MV Agusta models were released, the legendary F4 Serie Oro, which featured a 750cc inline four.

The bikes, now produced in the Schiranna (VA) factory, "appeared as a sculpture modeled around an extraordinary inline four cylinder, precious in shape and equally as esoteric as its predecessor. The new creation appeared immediately like a synthesis of the sports motorcycle."

It’s been a rough ride financially, though. In 2004, the Malaysian car producer Proton bought MV Agusta, selling it to a Genoa-based finance company Givi SpA the following year, bringing the company back to Italy.

Then Harley-Davidson would buy MV Agusta in 2008 for $109 million. But after some restructuring in management, The Motor Company decided to divest its interest in the exotic company in October 2009. In March, MV Agusta reported its bike sales were up 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

The future ownership of the legendary company is uncertain at this time, but regardless, MV Agusta employees continue to devoutly develop their artful high-performance motorcycles, with their eyes-wide-opened for an appropriate passion-filled owner.