MV Agusta Since 1945 Book Review: Birth, Death and Resurrection

Though the book’s title—MV Agusta Since 1945—indicates Ian Falloon tells the MV Agusta story only from 1945 onward, the author also provides background on the company’s deeper origins as an aircraft manufacturer before World War I. Falloon also provides insight into the Italian firm’s adaptations and survival during the Great Depression and immediately after World War II. Ancient history? Maybe, but it gives context for understanding the direction Count Domenico Agusta decided to follow from 1945.

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Falloon explains how the motorcycle operation was an adjunct to the company’s aviation operations in the run-up to WWII, only to become the company’s bread and butter after the war’s conclusion; like other defeated Axis powers, aircraft manufacture in Italy was prohibited.

Motorcycle manufacturing, on the other hand, was not barred. Starting with the two-stroke, single-cylinder Vespa 98 in 1945, the MV Agusta was able to stay in business. The Vespa part of the name was dropped in 1946, as Piaggio had already registered Vespa as a trademark name.

MV moved quickly to increase the displacement of its two-strokes to include a 125cc twin, adding a single-cylinder four-stroke 250cc model in 1946. Falloon recalls that things moved quickly as the 1940s ended. MV enjoyed success in road racing with its early two-stroke models, added scooter models, and, by 1949, the company was able to reenter aircraft manufacturing.

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Falloon delivers remarkable technical detail on the MV models, including competition motorcycles and the remarkable—and in some respects, technically odd—1950 500cc Grand Prix racer with a DOHC, four-cylinder motor. Falloon tells of the bike’s unique shaft final drive, front and rear torsion bar suspension, adjustable friction dampers, and a transversely mounted rocker shift arm that had upshifts done on the left and downshifts done on the right.

Prototype models, such as the 1950 Grand Turismo R19, are described with a similar level of technical detail. The bike was essentially the 500cc four-cylinder GP bike with lights and street gear. Sadly, despite being shown at the 1950 Milan Show, the bike was a one-off that never made it into production.

Those who thought Honda’s multi-cylinder bikes for GP road racing in the smaller-displacement classes set the standard for technical sophistication in the 1960s may be surprised to learn from Falloon’s book that MV fielded a DOHC inline-4 350cc motor as early as 1955. True, it wasn’t a six-cylinder, but Falloon reveals that MV did have a 500cc inline-6 by 1957. However, the inline-6 raced just once, DNFing in 1958. John Surtees rode the 500cc four to world championships in 1956, ’58, ’59, and ’60, as well as the 350 to world championships in 1958, ’59, and ’60.

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Indeed, one of the MV Agusta Since 1945’s most notable features is its extensive collection of black-and-white and color images. The photographic coverage of the production models, racing bikes, racing events, racers, personalities, and prototypes is in-depth and unlikely to be matched in any other book on the subject.

Falloon provides consistent, detailed coverage of the range of bikes up to the MV Agusta superbikes of today. Packed with a whopping 726 photos, modern and vintage, the book also contains a comprehensive Appendix of production model specifications from 1945 to 2022. MV Agusta Since 1945 is the definitive technical sourcebook and history of the storied Italian brand.

MV Agusta Since 1945 Fast Facts

  • Full title: MV Agusta Since 1945 — Birth, Death and Resurrection: The Story of One of the World’s Most Famous Marques
  • Author: Ian Falloon
  • Published: 2022; limited edition of 500 copies
  • Format: Hardcover; 288 pages, 726 color and black-and-white images
  • Publisher: Veloce Publishing
  • ISBN: 978-1-787113-59-6

MV Agusta Since 1945 Price: $130, USA; £90, UK; $170, Canada