MV Agusta museum

MV Agusta Museum

Bikes Culture

We went to the MV Agusta museum and found motorcycling heaven

One of the first names that would come to mind when you think of sports bikes would be MV Agusta, and visiting the museum, a few kilometres from Milan Malpensa airport, where MV Agusta was born, I’ve learned why it is said that “with an MV Agusta you can fly”. A story made of victories and failures, with a happy ending.

MV Agusta’s birth dates back to 1945, but already in 1907, Count Giovanni Agusta had entered the world of engines. Still two wheels, but those of an aeroplane prototype pulled by a car to take off. From that moment a company dedicated to the revision of planes involved in the First World War began.

With the end of the conflict, however, the aeronautics sector was in decline and the situation for Agusta got worse with the premature death of Giovanni Agusta, who left the company to his wife and his eldest son, Domenico.

What to do? The idea was to use the superior mechanical and technical knowledge developed in the aeronautical sector, to enter in the motorisation movement of the Italian people, more and more interested in motorcycles. It produced its first motorcycle engine with low production and maintenance costs, a two-stroke 98cc. But The Second World War started and aeronautical activity came back again, with the occupation of MV factories by the German troops.

At the end of the WWII, however, the company experienced a deadlock caused by the embargo of military aircraft production imposed by the Allies. Here then motorcycles activities returned and in 1945 the “Meccanica Verghera Agusta”, known all over the world as MV Agusta, was founded.

The plan was to call the first bike Vespa 98 but the name was already registered and therefore it was called simply “98”. It didn’t even have 5hp but it was a success. More than 30 different, very successful, even more powerful set-ups and new engines were released in just a few years: 125 cc two-stroke two-cylinder and 250cc single-cylinder four-stroke.

MV agusta scooter

At the same time MV Agusta started taking part in regularity races, which boostes its image, turning Cascina Costa (the company headquarters in the countryside where the museum in based) bikes, the most desired sports bikes of the time.

From 1952-1976 the MV Agusta engaged in competitions, obtained more than 3,000 victories and 270 World Grand Prix victories, thanks to greats such as Leslie Graham, Gary Hocking, Phil Read, John Surtees and Giacomo Agostini.

Unfortunately, in the 1960s, the arrival of automobiles reduced the interest in motorcycles, but MV Agusta’s response was the launch of very sporty models, such as the 600 with four cylinders capable of reaching 140mph, and large technological innovations, such as a new lubrication system that allowed the warranty to be increased to 60,000 miles.

The car boom as well as competition from Japanese motorcycles caused MV Agusta end of competition activities in 1976, while in 1982 the motorcycle department shut down. The company continued just the helicopter activity, both of production, with Bell license, both planning innovative helicopters for military and VIP transport, like the A109, an elegant twin-engine “quadripala”, displayed at the museum.

In 1992 the Castiglioni family, owner of Cagiva Motor, who had already saved Ducati and brought Husqvarna production to Italy, a few miles from MV Agusta, bought the brand and decided a re-launch from a blank sheet. The engine had to be four or three cylinders in line. It came from a Ferrari project called F4, with radial valves and removable gearbox.

The first prototype MV Agusta F4, with the classic red and silver livery, was shown in 1997, with the organ pipe exhaust that brought back the lost symphony of MV! It immediately became an object of desire, produced in a limited run of 300, with details in gold and carbon, at a price of £30,000. Stars as Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and Michael Schumacher wanted it, enchanted by the performance of the F4 which could exceeded 170mph.

Since then, the MV Agusta motorcycle image began flying again, with new models as the Brutale, the F4 and F3, the one I rode to visit the museum, allowing me to verify the truth in the motto “with MV Agusta you can fly”, both on earth and in the air.