Moto Guzzi is the oldest European motorcycle manufacturer that has been in continuous motorcycle production since it was first established. First founded in 1921 in Mandello del Lario in Italy, Moto Guzzi has had a long a colorful history, standing on the forefront of motorcycle innovation, enjoying incredible success on the racing circuit and emerging as a global brand, whilst simultaneously battling against economic hardships and numerous ownership changes. Easily identified by their signature transverse v-twin engines, Moto Guzzi’s products have helped shape the history of modern motorcycling and continue to do so today.
The secret to Moto Guzzi’s success is their commitment to tradition and the company’s willingness to adapt that tradition into new and exciting models for new generations of riders. Today, Moto Guzzi is one of seven subsidies owned by the Piaggio Group, which has evolved into Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in terms of unit sales, and is enjoying renewed success in the 21st century thanks to the new partnership with Piaggio.
The History Of Moto Guzzi
Parodi, Ravelli, And Guzzi
Moto Guzzi was originally founded in Genoa, Italy on the 15th of March 1921. The original idea to form a motorcycle mechanic was conceived by three friends serving in the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (the Italian Air Corps) during World War I. Two pilots, Giorgio Parodi and Giovanni Ravelli, and their mechanic Carlo Guzzi, dreamed of creating a motorcycle company after the war, with Guzzi engineering the motorcycles, Parodi financing the venture, and Ravelli marketing the motorcycles using his fame as an emerging motorcycle racer. Unfortunately, Ravelli died in an aircraft crash days before the end of the way, but Guzzi and Parodi continued with their endeavour, founding the “Società Anonima Moto Guzzi” in 1921, with a set of eagle’s wings as the company’s logo in commemoration of Giovanni Ravelli.
Giorgio’s brother, Angelo Parodi, joined the company and using money from the Parodi’s father, and together the trio began the manufacture and the sale of motor cycles and any other activity in relation to or connected to metallurgical and mechanical industry. With financial backing, the company built there first motorcycles. These early models were marketed under the G.P tradename (Guzzi-Parodi), however, the name was formerly changed to Moto Guzzi to avoid confusion with the Parodi family’s already well-established shipping business.
Carlo Guzzi’s original engine platform was a horizontal single configuration that became a prominent feature of the company’s line up for the first 45 years of the firm’s existence, in one form or another. These early engines helped Moto Guzzi rise to prominence, and in the 1930s the Moto Guzzi company became a well-known name on the racing circuit. At the 1935 Isle of Man TT, Moto Guzzi managed to achieve two incredible victories in the Lightweight TT and Senior TT events. Moto Guzzi’s success at the TT races would be the start of something special, with Moto Guzzi continuing to flex their racing muscles by entering into the world of Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Unfortunately, World War II unraveled and post-war Italy found itself in dire need of simple, efficient, and cost-effective transport solutions. To help get Italy back on the move, Moto Guzzi began producing a series of small-capacity motorcycle options, such as the 1946 Motoleggera, a compact 65cc motorcycle, or the 175cc Galletto motor scooter. Despite the war and the economic hardships that followed, Moto Guzzi managed to survive, and could once again focus on building larger-capacity performance motorcycles and return to the international racing scene.
Throughout the 1950s, Italian motorcycle manufacturers dominated the motorcycle Grand Prix races. Alongside Gilera and Mondial, Moto Guzzi stamped their authority on the race track, particularly in the lightweight 250cc and 350cc divisions. Between 1953 and 1957, Moto Guzzi consecutively won in the 350cc class of the world championships. Despite the impressive success in the smaller divisions, Moto Guzzi’s bosses understood that more powerful engines would be required to help elevate the brand. To that end, engine designer Giulio Carcano built the V8 500cc racer, powered by a complex but powerful engine. Technically, the V8 500 was brilliant and it led many races on the track, however, it often failed to complete those races due to mechanical problems.
Moto Guzzi decided to retire from racing 1957 due to the rising cost of competing and developing racing motorcycles. When Moto Guzzi retired, the company had enjoyed winning ore that 3,329 official races, 8 world championships, 6 constructor’s championships, and 11 Isle of Man TT wins. Despite their racing legacy, Moto Guzzi was in full financial crisis by 1964, with death of Giorgio Parodi and Carlo Guzzi, and a time of financial upheaval. It looked like the end was near, but in 1967 the SEIMM – Società Esercizio Industrie Moto Meccaniche – a receiver controlled by the Italian state took over ownership.
Under SEIMM’s control, Moto Guzzi was forced to diversify and develop other products. For example, SEIMM wanted to push Moto Guzzi into the development of automobiles, small three-wheeled trucks, and mopeds. While Moto Guzzi’s engineers were working hard on these new models, the company continued to develop motorcycles such as the 125cc Stornello, and develop new engines, such as the now legendary 90-degree V-twin that would go on to define the brand. Designed by Giulio Carcano, the “classic” Moto Guzzi engine was an air-cooled lump with a longitudinal crankshaft, with transverse cylinder heads that extended out and away from the motorcycle, projecting on either side of the frame. The first incarnation of the signature Moto Guzzi engine was a 700cc unit that produced an impressive 45 horsepower, and it came about as an entrant to a competition held by the Italian government, who were looking for a new style of police bike.
Thanks to the tough shaft-drive, and potent engine output, Moto Guzzi won the police contract and breathed new life into the ailing marque. From then on, the Moto Guzzi V7 became the star of the brand, being evolved and developed into the current 1,200cc, 80 horsepower unit that we have today. Over the years, the engine has seen some updates and redesigns, but it has always had the same fundamental design.
The De Tomaso Era
In 1973, SEIMM was bought by De Tomaso Industries, the manufacturer of luxury cars headed up by Argentinian industrialist Alejandro de Tomaso. The purchase of SEIMM brought the Moto Guzzi, Benelli, and Maserati trade names into the De Tomaso fold, and thanks to the excellent leadership of Tomaso, Moto Guzzi managed to recover from their financial troubles, develop new models, and become a strong motorcycle manufacturer again. Of the new models created by Moto Guzzi, two of them went on to become iconic and classic models: the 1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, and the 1978 Moto Guzzi V35.
The 850 Le Mans is considered to be an absolute masterpiece and the finest Moto Guzzi motorcycle ever made. The 850 Le Mans, named after the 24 hours endurance race, was powered a longitudinally mounted 844cc air-cooled v-twin engine, that could produce an impressive 71 horsepower, 18 more than the models predecessor, the V7 Sport. The increase in power pushed the top speed of the 850 Le Mans to a fearsome 130 mph, putting in direct competition with models from the likes of Ducati and Laverda. The model became such a resounding success that it spawned four successor models until it was discontinued in the early 90s.
While not as iconic, the V35 is regarded as one of the most notable achievements of Moto Guzzi. In essence, the V35 is a smaller version of the popular Guzzi V-twins. The small-block version of the iconic engine was introduced in 1979, and featured some radical technology, such as horizontally split crankcases, and Heron cylinder heads more commonly found on automobile engines. The ability to scale-down their engines for mass-production was an incredible feat, and these new, smaller 346cc engines produced an incredible 35 horsepower, and could propel riders to top speeds of up to 92 mph. The small-block Guzzi’s were easy to ride, easy to maintain, and perfect beginner motorcycles.
Towards the end of the 80s, De Tomaso merged Benelli, SEIMM, and Moto Guzzi to form the Guzzi Benelli Moto S.p.A, turning Moto Guzzi effectively into a subsidiary of a subsidiary. However, eight years later, and in celebration of Moto Guzzi’s 75th birthday, De Tomasa restored Moto Guzzi as a company in its own right, still under the De Tomaso umbrella, renaming it Moto Guzzi S.p.A. 1996 was a year for name changes, because the De Tomaso Group was renamed the Trident Rowan Group, or TRG for short.
Aprilia Takes Over
In 2000, Ivano Beggio of Aprilia S.p.A purchased the Moto Guzzi brand from the Trident Rowan Group for $65 million. It was Beggio’s intention to keep Moto Guzzi as a separate entity, and allow Moto Guzzi to maintain its original headquarters and factory in Mandello del Lario, near Genoa, whilst sharing Aprilia R&D labs and financial structures. To that end, Aprilia spent vast amounts of money renovating the Moto Guzzi factory. Unfortunately, Aprilia faced a period of financial upheaval, made worse by the rise of higher insurance rates for Italian teenage motorcyclists, and a new law that required helmets for motorcyclists in Italy. Fortunately, Aprilia managed to complete the renovation of the Moto Guzzi factory, but at a tremendous cost. Ducati offered to purchase the Moto Guzzi brand to help alleviate some of the financial strain, and Aprilia also received offers from Kymco and Rotax to buy the marque. Unfortunately, Aprilia was forced to stop production on Moto Guzzi models in 2004. But it was already the beginning of the end for Aprilia.
The Piaggio Years
Aprilia was unable to save the Moto Guzzi brand, or itself for that matter, and Ivano Beggio was forced to sell Aprilia and its Moto Guzzi and Laverda subsidiaries to the Piaggio Group. The deal was finalized on December 30 2004. Luckily for both Aprilia and Moto Guzzi, Piaggio had big plans for the newly acquired marques and saved them from ruin. Laverda, however, remains inactive to this day. Moto Guzzi has enjoyed a new lease of life under the Piaggio umbrella, and thanks to a huge injection of investment capital and some clever restructuring, the Moto Guzzi brand is back and stronger than ever.
In 2007, Moto Guzzi pulled the covers off of a new line of retro-themed motorcycles called the V7 Classic, which has subsequently spawned a range of magnificent V-twin powered Moto Guzzi motorcycles in a variety of different styles and flavors, from the retro V7 and V9 roadsters, to the powerful and muscular El Dorado and California cruisers. Today, there is a Moto Guzzi model to fit almost any style of rider, and the only way is up for one of the motorcycle industries oldest and most iconic manufacturers.
Are Moto Guzzis Reliable?
Since modern Moto Guzzi motorcycles are based around the same engine plans as their models from decades ago, many riders are curious about how reliable modern Moto Guzzi machines are. While it’s hard to effectively gauge a motorcycle’s reliability, there have been some interesting studies into the matter. Unfortunately, the most recent survey from Consumer Reports (a comprehensive study that collected data from 11,000 motorcyclists who rode over 12,000 motorcycle models during a 12 month period) failed to include Moto Guzzi. Instead, we can only look at historical and anecdotal evidence, and manufacturing faults and recalls.
Any Moto Guzzi owner will wax lyrical about the reliability of their Moto Guzzi motorcycle. They are reliable motorcycles, providing you keep up with maintenance. Essentially, modern Moto Guzzi motorcycles are modernized versions of their 1970s counterparts. The engine configuration and components have remained largely unchanged over the years, and that’s a testament to the design, which is a good indicator of the marque’s reliability. Modern Guzzis still need maintenance, but they’re easy to access, and they are constructed with sturdy components that are built to last. Even in the event of an accident, some owners insist that the road surface would come off worse than the Moto Guzzi would!
The anecdotal evidence above is supported by the brands incredibly low number of recalls over the last few years. Since 2003, Moto Guzzi has only issued a total of recalls in the United States. As a comparison, BMW Motorrad issued 60 recalls, Ducati issued 49, and Triumph issued 39, within the same time period. Since Moto Guzzi’s are technically simple, this makes a lot of sense. The biggest recall from the company was in 2017 and affected 1,139 of Moto Guzzi’s V7 and V9 models thanks to an ABS brake hose that was mounted slightly too close to engine for comfort. The second largest recall was in 2007 and concerned an incorrectly manufactured lower fork yoke on 1,044 models. Generally, it’s considered that modern Moto Guzzi motorcycles are very reliable, providing that you perform regular maintenance and take care of them.
Moto Guzzi Innovations
While Moto Guzzi’s motorcycles haven’t really changed that much in the last five decades, there has been no shortage of innovation from the Italian manufacturer. In fact, some of the motorcycle industry’s biggest advances in design and technology have come from the Moto Guzzi Mandello del Lario factory. There’s plenty more to this Italian company than longitudinally mounted V-twin engines.
Rear Swingarm Suspension
Effective rear suspension was a rarity in early motorcycling. In the years before 1928, most rear suspension designs that increased riding comfort greatly suffered from poor handling. In a bid to overcome this problem, Carlo Guzzi and his brother Giuseppe invented what they called an elastic frame that featured a box made from sheet metal that enclosed a series of small springs that fused with a tubular steel swingarm. The Moto Guzzi Gran Turismo was the company’s first model to wear the new suspension arrangement, and to prove how much better their suspension was compared to their competitors, the company proposed to send Giuseppe Guzzi on a long-distance ride from Mandello de Lario to Capo Nord in Norway. Giuseppe completed his journey to the Arctic Circle in four weeks, and subsequently revolutionized motorcycle rear suspension.
The First DOHC V8 Motorcycle Engine
When Moto Guzzi pulled the covers off of their 500cc Grand Prix V8 racer in 1955, motorcycle enthusiasts were stunned. It was the first V8 motorcycle engine that used dual overhead camshafts, and came with an impressive bore and stroke of were 44.0 mm × 40.5 mm (1.73 in × 1.59 in) and two valves per cylinder. The power was reported to be north of 80 horsepower, which put it roughly around 10 to 15 horsepower more powerful than its closest four-cylinder rivals from MV Agusta or Gilera. The amazing engine was designed by Moto Guzzi’s famed engine developer Giulio Carcano, after a discussion with Enrico Cantoni, Umberto Todero, Ken Kavanagh, and Fergus Anderson after the 1954 Grand Prix at Monza. Boasting phenomenal power and an achievable top speed of 172 mph, the Moto Guzzi Grand Prix V8 set speeds that wouldn’t be beaten for three more decades. Unfortunately, the Otto Cilindri was expensive to manufacture, difficult to maintain, and notoriously hard to ride, and the bike was withdrawn from competition racing.
The First Motorcycle Wind Tunnel
Today, aerodynamics and motorcycles go hand in hand but it wasn’t always the way. Streamlined motorcycle bodies and aerodynamic fairings are a relatively new invention for production motorcycles, and the industry has Moto Guzzi to thank for their initial development. In 1950, the company built a testing chamber that could recreate real life riding conditions, allowing test riders to find the optimum body positioning and avoid unnecessary wind resistance. The reasoning was simple: less drag and air resistance increases speed and cuts fuel costs, making a streamlined motorcycle fast on the track for racers and more economical for everyday riders.
The actual wind tunnel was based on the open-circuit Eiffel type wind tunnel, originally developed by Gustave Eiffel, and consisted of three sections: an air duct, a test chamber, and a discharge duct. The air duct draws in air and increases it speed by passing it through smaller apertures, with the smallest diameter being the test chamber section. The final section discharged the air via a three-bladed propeller. Today, wind tunnel testing is a fundamental part of motorcycle design, and it all originated at the Moto Guzzi factory. The wind tunnel and factory featured in the 2007 moto-documentary Long Way Down starring Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.
Current Moto Guzzi Motorcycles
The current Moto Guzzi line-up is one of the strongest that the company has ever produced and offers a wide range of models to suit a large cross section of riders, from entry level roadsters to low slung power cruisers, with enough variations to please even the most particular of riders. The heart of the modern range is the V7 engine, which comes with all of Moto Guzzi’s classic hallmarks, such as a powerful but manageable longitudinally-mounted v-twin. For those looking for more displacement, Moto Guzzi also offers the larger V9 models, the Audace, the El Dorado and California cruisers, the Stelvio and Griso adventure machines, and the almighty MGX-21 “Flying Fortress.” All of these models are currently available in North America.
The Moto Guzzi V7 III
Moto Guzzi’s V7 is currently in its third generation and comes based of a design that has stood the test of time and been a core part of Moto Guzzi’s image for the last 50 years. Powered by Moto Guzzi’s classic 744cc v-twin engine that produces a modest 54 horsepower, 44.2 lb-ft of peak torque. As it’s such a key player in the Moto Guzzi line-up, the V7 comes in an impressive eight variations: Stone, Special, Racer, Anniversario, Carbon Dark, Carbon Shine, Rough, and Milano. All come with Brembo brakes and ABS as standard.
The Moto Guzzi V9
Moto Guzzi’s new range of slightly larger factory-custom roadsters offer riders the chance to ride slightly more powerful machines that are still inherently related to the standard V7, but with entirely different souls wrapped up in their new packages. Coming in two distinct flavors, the more relaxed and casual Roamer, and the feistier Bobber, each bike as a different theme that will appeal to different riders. Both, however, come powered by an 850cc v-twin engine that makes 55 horsepower and 45.7 lb-ft of peak torque. That doesn’t sound like much of an increase on the V7, but what the V9 lacks in extra power it makes up for in extra bonuses, such as aluminum parts, two-setting traction control, a USB charging port, and immobilizer, and full compatibility with Moto Guzzi’s own MG-MP virtual dashboard, with GPS and a datalogging system. ABS comes as standard.
The Moto Guzzi Audace
Moto Guzzi’s Audace is an exotic cruiser with plenty of personality that offers the perfect combination of power and comfort. It’s a no-nonsense cruiser, with muscular lines, an extended riding position and aggressive drag-bar handlebars, powered by a beefy 1380cc v-twin engine that produces a hearty 96 horsepower and 88 lb-ft of peak torque. The audacious Audace comes equipped with ride-by-wire and sophisticated fuel-injection from Magneti-Marelli, top shelf Brembo brakes, three levels of adjustable traction control, and cruise control as standard.
The Moto Guzzi Stelvio
With the rising popularity of dual sport and adventure touring motorcycles, Moto Guzzi unveiled their own adventure touring motorcycle to grab a slice of the action. The Stelvio 1200 NTX isn’t a hastily cobbled motorcycle for the purpose of making quick sales – it’s a top class dual sport machine that competes with the best of them. Powered by a tough 1,151cc v-twin engine that produces more than 103 horsepower and more than 83 lb-ft of peak torque, the Stelvio is a potent beast on the road that can also handle unsealed tracks with the same relative ease. To make things better, the Stelvio comes equipped with adjustable suspension, electronic engine management systems, ABS, and traction control. What’s more, it comes with aluminum hard cases as standard, making it a versatile and practical from the get-go.
The Moto Guzzi Griso
Moto Guzzi’s bigger naked roadster is a motorcycling purists dream: it’s bold, powerful, and technically as minimalist as possible. This bare bones machine ticks all of the usual Moto Guzzi boxes: it comes with a powerful transversely mounted v-twin engine, it doesn’t go over the top in terms of extras, and it has a sleek and refined profile. The engine displaces 1,151cc, and produces a peak power figure of 104 horsepower and 79 lb-ft of peak power, all wrapped in a minimalist chassis that only boasts disc brakes and adjustable USD suspension as advanced riding aids. The Moto Guzzi Griso is beautiful, raw, riding simplicity.
The Moto Guzzi El Dorado
For those looking for more traditional cruisers than the Audace, Moto Guzzi have three very impressive models to choose from. The first, the El Dorado, is essentially a modern successor to the once famed 850 of the 1970s. Moto Guzzi have seen fit to resurrect their venerable El Dorado and outfit it with modern accoutrements and a design update, and the results are excellent. The modern El Dorado boasts a potent 1,380cc engine with an impressive output of 96 horsepower and approximately 88 lb-ft of peak torque, which is nice and accessible in the low down rpms. If you’re looking for a modern cruiser built on top of exotic heritage, the El Dorado is a worthy consideration.
The Moto Guzzi California
For those looking for a bigger cruiser experience, then Moto Guzzi offers the California. The California first rolled onto the scene in 2012 and instantly redefined what a luxury touring cruiser could be. It’s traditional in design, but thanks to its brawny engine and equipment selection it’s now in a class of its own. Built on top of the largest v-twin engine to come out of Europe, the California’s 1,380cc engine produces a wild 96 horsepower and 89.2 lb-ft of peak torque, with smooth power delivery thanks to the bike’s intelligent ride-by-wire system, advanced traction control, ABS, and more. Couple that with Brembo brakes and other top-shelf accessories, and you’ve got an award winning power cruiser.
The Moto Guzzi MGX-21
And then there was the Moto Guzzi MGX-21: Guzzi’s take on the classic American bagger that derives its name from Moto Guzzi eXperimental, with the “21” referencing 1921, the year of Guzzi’s first motorcycle. It’s worth mentioning that “21” could also refer to the MGX-21’s vast 21 inch carbon fiber front wheel too. Also affectionately known as the “Flying Fortress,” the Batman-esque model features more than a powerful 1400cc v-twin engine with 96 horsepower and 89.2 lb-ft of torque – it comes with a dedicated infotainment, cruise control, multiple engine maps, cruise control, and ABS as standard. It’s big, brash, and brutish – which was exactly Moto Guzzi’s intention.
Moto Guzzi: Company Overview
Moto Guzzi’s global headquarters is exactly where it has always been: the Mandello del Lario factory on the banks of Lake Como, Italy. Over the years, the factory has expanded from a 300 square meter (3,200 sq ft) workshop, to a much bigger 24,000 square meter (260,000 sq ft) facility in the 1950s, enlarged to keep up with production demand and to house their 1,500 strong workforce. Today, the Mandello del Lario factory has grown to a huge 54,000 square meters (580,000 sq ft), split over a number of buildings with varying levels, supporting a smaller workforce than before, between 250 and 300 employees. This is largely down to the slow down of demand for Moto Guzzi’s products, with the factory only operating at 50% production capacity, producing around 10,000 models a year.
Today, the Moto Guzzi factory still serves as the company’s global headquarters, but it also operates as a library, tourist attraction, and museum at the same time. Despite the Piaggio takeover in 2004, Moto Guzzi has remained fairly autonomous and maintains an independent brand identity. All of its motorcycles are still manufacturer in Italy, and at the original Moto Guzzi factory.
In the United States, Moto Guzzi’s operations are overseen by Piaggio, and Moto Guzzi’s US headquarters is located in the Piaggio Group Americas office at 257 Park Avenue South, on the fourth floor, in New York City. The office is in charge of the import, distribution, and sales of all of Moto Guzzi’s dealerships, models, parts, and merchandise in the USA.
US Moto Guzzi Dealerships
In the United States, Moto Guzzi operates and oversees a total of 70 amount of authorized dealers and licensed sellers. Moto Guzzi’s dealerships offer the sale and service of Moto Guzzi models, as well as sell a wide range of aftermarket parts, performance accessories, and merchandise. These dealers also provide excellent test ride services and a number of other useful amenities for motorcyclists. In a recent study, Moto Guzzi’s dealership network and staff scored particularly well, showing improvement over the last few years, which is an encouraging sign for the future.
Pied Piper Dealership Rankings
In the latest study from Pied Piper, a company that specializes in retail evaluation and mystery shopping schemes, Moto Guzzi’s dealerships displayed a marked improvement over their result from the previous study. The survey uses a team of mystery shoppers that analyze and assess the quality of sales and service staff and dealerships across the country. According to the study, Moto Guzzi ranked in seventh place out of seventeen manufacturers, with a score that came in just below the industry average. While just below average, Moto Guzzi shows strong improvement, and still outclasses the likes of Suzuki, Honda, Kawasaki, Yamaha, KTM, and Husqvarna. Moto Guzzi’s staff were ranked as fairly likely to organize a test ride for prospective customers, asked for contact information, and were also positive about making a sale and promoting their brand. The top honors were claimed by BMW Motorrad, followed by Harley-Davidson and Ducati, while Yamaha, KTM, and Husqvarna filled the bottom of the table.
Moto Guzzi Finance
As one of the world’s most famous motorcycle manufacturers, Moto Guzzi is in a position to offer excellent financing options and special offers to its customers. Currently, the company runs a number of seasonal offers for the USA, with different deals that depend on the time of the year. Some of Moto Guzzi’s most recent deals include a variety of options, such as low monthly payments, low APR financing, or customer in-store credit that can be redeemed against the purchase of a motorcycle or aftermarket parts and accessories. Naturally, these deals are only valid for selected models and recent model years. For example, current deals for a 2017 model year Moto Guzzi V9 Bobber include $1,000 off of the MSRP, or the offer of 0.00% APR on financing for 36 months, or 1.99% on financing for 60 months. Moto Guzzi offers very versatile offers for their entire model range, and there’s a deal out there for every situation.
Naturally, these offers are all subject to credit approval, with credit approval and the rates and terms offered all based on the customer’s credit worthiness. These rates and deals mentioned in the example were based on a minimum bureau risk score of 660. The minimum about that can be financed is $1,500 and the maximum is capped at $50,000. Other qualifications and restriction may apply, but for the most up to date information about the latest or forthcoming Moto Guzzi promotions and special offers, we recommend that you contact your nearest dealer, or call Moto Guzzi directly for more information about their financing schemes.
The Piaggio Group
When the Piaggio Group acquired the Aprilia brand name in 2004, it also acquired the rights to Laverda and Moto Guzzi. While being taken over usually means trouble for some brands, it worked out well for Moto Guzzi. Over the years, Moto Guzzi has endured a number of owners but it has always survived and persevered. Now, the brand is enjoying a renaissance thanks to Piaggio’s keen investment and brand awareness. The Moto Guzzi story isn’t a rare tale, since Piaggio has helped develop and save many failing marques, and has many brands to its name. Vespa is the obvious Piaggio product that springs to mind, but there’s more to Piaggio’s two-wheeled holdings than the iconic little scooter.
During the 20th century, Gilera was one of the most significant motorcycle manufacturers in the industry. It was originally founded in 1909 by Giuseppe Gilera, and though it started from humble beginnings, the brand turned into a racing power house during the aftermath of the Second World War, dominating races and winning championships. The brand was sold to Piaggio in 1969 and has remained an integral part of the Piaggio Group ever since. Gilera made a brief return to racing in the 2000s, but for the most part, Gilera manufactures small capacity, practical scooters for the masses and stays away from completion racing altogether.
Derbi was another famed European marque that enjoyed a long and colorful history on and off the race track since it was first founded in Spain in 1922. From day one, Derbi specialized in building small capacity race bikes that impressed on the track, winning numerous races and championships in the 50cc division at a wide range of competitions. Against all odds, Derbi adapted well to the post-Franco economic climate that rocked the Spanish manufacturing industry after Franco’s death. While Bultaco, Ossa, and Montesa crumbled in the new economic landscape, Derbi struggled on and continued to be profitable right up until Piaggio swooped in and bought the marque in 2001.
First founded in 1945, Aprilia managed to evolve from a bicycle manufacturer into a global motorcycle manufacturer in a relatively short time. After years of success in the industry, Aprilia was sold to Piaggio at the end of 2004 after a brief but devastating period of financial upheaval thanks to the development and purchase of Moto Guzzi and Laverda. While Aprilia had enjoyed unsurpassed success on the race track, the victories weren’t translating into dealership sales, and Aprilia’s founder Ivano Beggio sold his company to Piaggio to keep it afloat. In 2010, Aprilia became the most successful motorcycle racing brand of all time, overtaking MV Agusta when it secured its 276th racing victory. Today, Aprilia is one of the highlights of the Piaggio Groups portfolio, and quite rightly so.
The success of Aprilia and Moto Guzzi hasn’t rubbed off on Laverda, unfortunately. The once great Italian marque is now nothing more than a brand name, and Piaggio has publicly stated that the rights to Laverda are up for sale to the highest bidding interested party. The Laverda brand dates all the way back to 1873, and over the 20th century the brand became known for its high-performance and incredibly exotic innovative motorcycles. Sadly, Laverda wasn’t able to compete with the recent arrival of quality motorcycles from Japan and the marque faded into obscurity. Many owners of the brand have tried to revive it, such as Aprilia, but a Laverda revival has never taken off. When Piaggo gained the rights to the name through the Aprilia purchase in 2004, many motorcycle enthusiasts hoped for a second coming of the famed Italian brand, but it wasn’t to be.
Piaggio’s most famous product, the Vespa is a brand in its own right that is directly overseen by Piaggio. First manufactured in 1946, the legendary Vespa motor scooter –and the subsequent models that followed – have evolved into an icon of the 20th century. Enrico Piaggio decided to move the Piaggio company away from aeronautical enterprises to focus on meeting post-war Italy’s demand for low-cost, practical transport, and the result was the now legendary Vespa scooter. The Vespa (which translates as “Wasp” in English) was a single-cylinder two-stroke scooter that helped define a country, an era, and a cultural revolution to some extent. Today, you can find Vespa scooters, both old and new, in almost every country of the world ridden by riders from all walks of life.
Moto Guzzi Racing
Moto Guzzi’s foray into the racing world was short but sharp. In a few short years, Moto Guzzi managed to dominate the European racing circuit, with a particularly good run in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the rising costs of competing and preparing racing machines didn’t reflect the company’s sales income. This was a popular story among European manufacturers and in 1957, Moto Guzzi, along with Gilera and Mondial, chose to withdraw and retire from professional road racing altogether. This event was a blow for the European racing scene, but many manufacturers benefitted from the withdrawal. In fact, MV Agusta had originally agreed to join the withdrawal, but changed their minds last minute, and continued competing – almost completely unchallenged – and became one of the most successful racing factories of all time. Rather than dwell on the “what ifs” Moto Guzzi hasn’t rejoined the international racing scene, and prefers to celebrate its short racing foray, which clocked up a total of 3,329 official race wins, 8 World Championship titles, 6 Constructor’s championships, and an incredible total of 11 Isle of Man TT wins.
Today, the only Moto Guzzi motorcycle that take part in races or in land-speed record attempts are operated by privateer teams with no company affiliation.
The Moto Guzzi Museum
Mandello del Lario
Dedicated Moto Guzzi fans can make a pilgrimage to the Mandello del Lario factory on the banks of Lake Como in Italy, and explore Moto Guzzi’s own comprehensive museum that boasts a collection of more than 150 exhibition pieces that showcase the company’s incredible legacy. From production motorcycles and sports models to fascinating prototypes and experimental engines, the museum is a testament to Italy’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer, and the European motorcycle industry as a whole. For those who really want to get to know the brand, Moto Guzzi also operates a dedicated library and book shop that has no shortage of learning resources for two-wheeled enthusiasts. Naturally, plenty of original Moto Guzzi merchandise and souvenir are also readily available.
The Museum is open between 3.00 pm and 4.00 pm Monday to Friday, and open from 2.30 pm to 4.30 pm throughout the month of July. Admission is free and guided tours are also available, however, Moto Guzzi would like to apologize because the museum isn’t equipped with sufficient disabled access at the time of writing. Check the company website before visiting to avoid disappointment.
The Museo Piaggio
For those wanting a little more Moto Guzzi heritage then the Museo Piaggio is definitely worth visiting. The Piaggio Museum is located in Pontedera, Italy, at the Piaggio factory, and the facility offers an incredible selection of exhibits from Piaggio’s long and illustrious history. The museum itself was opened in 2000 and has welcomed more than 600,000 visitors over the years, who have enjoyed exploring the museum’s 5000 square meter exhibition space and examining more than 250 pieces. Naturally, the Piaggio Museum offers more than Piaggio’s history, and showcases plenty of amazing models from its subsidiary brands, such as Vespa, Gilera, Ape, Aprilia, and Moto Guzzi.
The museum is located on the Viale Rinaldo Piaggio, in Pontedera, near Pisa. It’s open between 10.00 am and 6.00 pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and is open on the second and fourth Sunday of every month with the usual operating hours, though in July and August it’s open ever Sunday. It’s recommended that you check the website for up to date opening hours before planning your visit.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About Moto Guzzi
#01. Moto Guzzi wasn’t originally known as Moto Guzzi. The first models actually sold under the GP trade name, with GP standing for Guzzi-Parodi. The company dropped the name to distance itself from the Parodi family’s shipping company. If Guzzi failed, it could’ve reflected badly on the already well-established shipping firm, so the founders went with “Moto Guzzi” instead.
#02. Over the years, Moto Guzzi motorcycle have appeared in hundreds of movies and TV shows, from the likes of the James Bond movie Octopussy to the more recent drama comedy The Infidel, with stints in TV shows like Starsky and Hutch and Killer Instinct. Actor Ewan McGregor is a Moto Guzzi enthusiast and often acts as a brand ambassador for the company too.
#03. Amazingly, Moto Guzzi is actually the oldest motorcycle manufacturer from Italy that is still in operation, and also the oldest running motorcycle manufacturer in Europe. This is no mean feat considering that brands like Triumph and BMW Motorrad seem to have been around forever, too.
#04. Since Moto Guzzi is one of the oldest motorcycle manufacturers on the planet, it makes sense that they might have ventured away from two-wheels and into automobile territory at least once during their existence. One of the most successful cars built in partnership with Moto Guzzi was the Stanguellini Colibri, a car that produced a mere 29 horsepower but only weighed just over 600 lbs, wrapped in aerodynamic bodywork. It was fast enough to hit speeds over 124 mph and set many speed records in Europe.
#05. Funnily enough, it wasn’t only the automobile industry that Moto Guzzi tried its hands at. In the mid to late 50s, Moto Guzzi tried to launch a line of small capacity scooters to compete with the likes of Vespa and Lambretta…but Lambretta was not particularly welcoming. The competition became fierce, and if Moto Guzzi refused to stop selling scooters, Lambretta planned to launch a motorcycle of its own to compete against Moto Guzzi’s most popular machines. Luckily, tensions cooled and Moto Guzzi continued producing the motorcycles we know and love, and Lambretta continued producing its legendary scooters, and no toes were stepped on.
Moto Guzzi FAQ
#01. Are Moto Guzzis Good Bikes? Absolutely. While they’re not the most powerful motorcycles on the market, Moto Guzzi’s products are ideal for low-maintenance two-wheeled enjoyment, for riders looking for a fun, practical ride experience. With reasonable prices, high reliability, and an easy-to-ride appeal, Moto Guzzi motorcycle are perfect for a broad range of riders.
#02. Where Is The Moto Guzzi Factory? The Mandello del Lario Moto Guzzi Factory is located on the banks of Lake Como, in Northern Italy. Specifically, the factory and museum are located at this address: Via Emanuele Vittorio Parodi, 63/67, 23826 Mandello del Lario LC, Italy.
#03. Where Are Moto Guzzis Made? All of Moto Guzzi’s motorcycle are manufactured in Italy at the company’s factory in Mandello del Lario, in Northern Italy.
#04. Who Owns Moto Guzzi? Moto Guzzi is currently owned by the Piaggio Group. The company has had many owners over the years, including SEIMM, De Tomaso Industries, and Aprilia. When Aprilia was sold to Piaggio, Moto Guzzi was sold along with it.
#05. What Does Moto Guzzi Mean? The name “Moto Guzzi” comes from one of the company’s original founders. Carlo Guzzi, along with Giorgio Parodi and Giovanni Ravelli, dreamed of establishing a motorcycle manufacturing company when they served in the Italian Air Force in World War I. After the war, and after the unfortunate death of Ravelli, Guzzi and Parodi went on to fulfil that dream and Moto Guzzi was born.