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The ingenious eagle, one hundred years of Moto Guzzi

On 15 March 1921, two aviator friends found a way to reinvent themselves after the Great War and a legend of speed and innovation was born

Home road The ingenious eagle, one hundred years of Moto Guzzi
The ingenious eagle, one hundred years of Moto Guzzi

The emblem on the tank was reminiscent of the insignia of the Italian Royal Navy aircraft that flew in the skies during World War I. Under the banner of the soaring eagle, Emanuele Vittorio Parodi and his son Giorgio, together with Carlo Guzzi, reinvented themselves on the ground and on two wheels after the end of the conflict. Società Anonima Moto Guzzi was founded on 15 March 1921. The first model was called the G.P. 500, standing for Guzzi Parodi. It was the first and the last model with these initials before the official name on the tank became Moto Guzzi. The first races of the “Eagle from Mandello” date back to the gruelling almost 900-kilometre-long Milan-Naples rally that two “Normal” versions of the bike completed without breaking down in 1921.

Meanwhile, the factory on Lake Como grew and in the early 1930s, Moto Guzzi was the first Italian motorcycle manufacturer. Passion and several ingenious technical solutions made Guzzi bikes desirable and reliable, as well as very fast. Moto Guzzi won the incredible Isle of Man Tourist Trophy in 1935 with Stanley Woods and then again in 1937 with Omobono Tenni, nicknamed “The Black Devil”. The rider’s connections with Moto Guzzi stretched back to the days when as a young lad he did his paper rounds in a sidecar rig. He would enter the legend as one of the fastest and most daring champions ever. “I’m glad I came first. Next time I hope to do better”, he once said after one of the earliest victories on a Guzzi Bicilindrica 500.

The Airone 250 that became the motorcycle of the Italian Army during the Second World War, the agile Guzzino and the legendary Falcone are wonderful vehicles that you can still see on the road on Sundays in spring, cared for and pampered by their proud owners. Races and victories returned after the war, like Bruno Ruffo’s at the début of the new-born World Motorcycle Championship on a Moto Guzzi 250. The company’s technological development continued alongside racing and the science-fiction-like wind tunnel that is still used today to fine-tune the aerodynamics of Moto Guzzi bikes was built next to the factory in 1950.

Giorgio Parodi died in 1955. Coincidentally, that was the year in which an unparalleled masterpiece of motorcycle engineering – the Moto Guzzi 8 Cilindri – was born. Never before had a racing bike had so many cylinders and never since has a racing chassis housed such an engine. It was born to fight the successes of Gilera and MV Agusta and engineer Giulio Cesare Carcano came up with the idea of a 90° V8. This cylinder arrangement would become the trademark of Guzzi. The engine was so powerful that it put the entire chassis in jeopardy perhaps because it was simply too far ahead of the technical concepts of its day. Nor was it very reliable but it did make the 8-cylinder Eagle fly up to speeds of 275 km/h. The bike broke all the records, including the 10-kilometre from a standing start and the one mile from a standing start. However, race regulations clipped its wings but did not prevent the 8-cylinder from taking its place in history books.

Carlo Guzzi died in 1964 but the straight V-twin 90° transverse engine, also the brainchild of engineer Carcano, that characterises the identity of the motorcycles from Mandello to this day, was born that same year. Since then, through crises and shaky managements, model after model, the world has changed around the “Eagle of Mandello”. Despite it all, it continues to soar and a century later it counts legions of loyal fans worldwide powered by the trademark 90° V2 jutting out from under the tank and sporting the iconic badge that takes us back 100 years to relive a story of passion, technology, innovation and people.

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