All photos: Moto Guzzi (unless otherwise noted)
Moto Guzzi was founded on March 15, 1921, and has been making sweet motorcycles ever since, which officially makes them the longest continually-running European bike manufacturer. You probably know they've made some incredible cafe racers over the years, but they've also made a sweet V8 race bike and powered a couple of cars to land speed records. We did our homework and found 18 things you probably didn't know about Moto Guzzi.
1. Moto Guzzi was started by two WWI pilots and their mechanic who spent their time on the ground daydreaming about motorcycles.
Soldiers stereotypically talk about what they’ll do "after the war,” and in this case it was two pilots and a mechanic daydreaming of starting their own motorcycle company, wherein one would design the bikes, one would race them, and one would pay for everything.
2. The eagle on the logo represents one of the founding trio.
Giovanni Ravelli was the racer of the trio, and he died in a plane crash just after the war before they could form their company. Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi then paid tribute to their fallen friend, making the logo from the Italian Air Corp’s eagle in his memory.
3. It wasn’t originally called Moto Guzzi.
The original name was GP, for Guzzi-Parodi, but the Parodi family had a very big (and very public) financial stake in the shipping industry, and wanted to distance themselves just in case.
4. They used the first engine they ever developed for 45 years.
It was a single cylinder unit, and they used it, albeit with various modifications, for nearly five decades.
5. Carlo Guzzi’s brother rode a bike to the Arctic Circle, proving that their new chassis was worthy.
In 1928, he rode from the factory in Italy to the top of Norway in four weeks, solidifying the success of their new “elastic” frame setup.
6. The Isle of Man Time Trial is one of the most grueling, legendary, and prestigious races in the world. They won both classes they entered in 1935.
Moto Guzzi won both the Senior Class and the Lightweight Class with Stanley Woods
7. That senior class race almost led to the original “Dewey Defeats Truman” moment.
Woods was 26 seconds away from the lead heading into the final lap, and breezed past the pit area even though his team was waiting for him. He somehow not only finished, but set a new lap record and won by four seconds. By the time he crossed the line, photos of the other guy (prewar legend Jimmie Guthrie
) were already en route to London to hit the newspapers.
8. Moto Guzzi was basically the Ferrari of motorcycle racing.
Making bikes that were so much lighter and more agile than the competition, no one else could keep up in the twisty bits and they wound up with eight World Championship riders, six constructor’s championships, and eleven wins at the Isle of Man.
9. They built the world’s first motorcycle-specific wind tunnel in 1950.
Since it was a full-scale tunnel, riders could go inside and optimize their high-speed riding positions. It was a revolutionary step in motorcycle racing.
10. Oh, and that wind tunnel? It was a modified version of a design by Gustave Eiffel. That Eiffel.
It also had an instrument called an alcohol-filled micromanometer, which apparently was not for detecting when Wee Man from Jackass
11. They made a blindingly fast V8 racing bike in the mid 1950s that was decades ahead of its time.
The Otto Cilindri was fast enough to top 171 mph on road courses in testing. That number wasn’t seen again until the 1970s. Unfortunately, it didn’t have too much success in racing; it was too fast for its own good, and even the best riders in the world were afraid of it, lest they crash.
12. And that V8 was the most beautiful V8 ever made for a bike.
Like most Italian performance engines, there’s no denying it’s raw sex appeal. It’s gorgeous, but the sound is even better
13. They built the Batmobile before Batman was even a thing.
This is the Nibbio 2. It was built for the sole purpose of setting speed records around Italy’s legendary Monza race track
. It succeeded, and led to something even wilder.
14. Guzzi also powered this car to land speed records.
It’s called a Stanguellini Colibri. It had 29 hp but only weighed just over 600 pounds, and was so aerodynamically slick it topped 200 kph and set all sorts of European land speed records.
15. They built a MotoTruck.
You’ve probably seen the Ercole before. It’s basically a bike with a truck bed, for agricultural purposes.
16. The Italian motorcycle and scooter industries were extremely sensitive to turf wars, as Moto Guzzi found out.
The Italian motorcycle and scooter industry was somewhat political, and Guzzi was all set to produce their own traditional small-wheeled scooter, until one of the scooter companies threatened to make a motorcycle to rival Guzzi. Both companies agreed to back down, and neither went through with their plans.
17. Moto Guzzi did, however, make a large wheeled scooter as a workaround.
Basically, the traditional scooter makers didn’t think it was a threat, and the larger wheels meant it was easier to ride over potholes and cobblestones.
18. It was once owned by the same company that made the iconic DeTomaso Pantera.
In 1973, DeTomaso purchased the parent company of Moto Guzzi and continued to own the group for the next 27 years.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor. He thinks Italian bikes are the epitome of style. Follow him on Twitter to tell him how right he is.