The Moto Guzzi motorcycle company of Mandello del Lario, situated in the picturesque northern region of Lombardy, Italy, was conceived by Carlo Guzzi (1889–1963), Giovanni Ravelli (d. 1918), and Giorgio Parodi (1897–1955) in 1918. The three soon-to-be partners were all pilots in the Corpo Aeronautico Militare (Italian Air Corp) during the first World War, but Giovanni Ravelli was killed in a plane crash in late 1918, leaving Guzzi and Parodi to start the company without him.
In early 1921, Guzzi and Parodi began producing their first motorcycles under the new name 'GP' for Guzzi-Parodi, but the 'GP' company name was soon changed to Societą Anonima Moto Guzzi of Genoa, Italy. Giorgi Parodi's brother Angelo was brought on as a new partner, and the Parodi brothers' family wealth was used to finance operations.
Zoom: 1952 Moto Guzzi Airone Sport 250
During the first year of operations Carlo Guzzi began to establish the marque within the Italian racing circuit. Over the next decade, Moto Guzzi went on to achieve hundreds of racing victories, as well as winning several Isle of Man TT races, and fourteen World Championships.
Zoom: 1953 Moto Guzzi Motoleggera 65 Guzzino
Although the company bore his name, Carlo Guzzi, Giorgio Parodi legally owned the business, with Guzzi receiving royalties. Moto Guzzi built its motorcycle business on small, single-cylinder two-stroke and four-stroke 'horizontal' motorcycle engines, with each unit being signed by the assembly mechanic. It was rumored that the eagle wings used in the Moto Guzzi logo were to honor Giovanni Ravelli.
The First Moto Guzzi V-Twin
Moto Guzzi began producing their first v-twin engine, an inline v-twin, in 1934, initially offered in a 500cc displacement. In 1935, the 120-degree Moto Guzzi 500 v-twin went on to win the Isle of Man's Tourist Trophy, which was historic for being the first time a country other than Britain had won the prestigious prize. Dr. Giulio Cesare Carcano joined Moto Guzzi as one of its chief engineers in 1936.
Throughout the first three decades, Moto Guzzi enjoyed rapid growth, based on the popularity of models such as the Adrella, Airone 250, Egretta, P250, P175, PE, and PL. In 1946 Moto Guzzi formally incorporated as Moto Guzzi S.p.A., with Giorgio Parodi as its chairman.
At the close of WWII, Moto Guzzi redirected its efforts toward meeting the basic transportation needs of the citizens, building inexpensive scooters such as the 65cc Motoleggera, and 175cc Galletto.
The Moto Guzzi 'Otto' V8
By the early 1950s the company was back to its racing roots. Guzzi led the middleweight 250 and 350 Grand Prix racing scene with motorcycles designed by Giulio Cesare Carcano, who went on to pen their ill-fated Moto Guzzi V8 racing engine — one of the most complex GP racing engines of the time — for use in their "otto" Grand Prix motorcycle in 1955.
The otto cilindri Moto Guzzi V8, which was co-designed with Enrico Cantoni, Umberto Todero, racer Ken Kavanagh and racing team manager Fergus Anderson, was a water-cooled, DOHC 500cc V-8 which produced over 78 hp (58 kW) at 12,000 rpm. The Otto became a milestone in motorcycle racing history, even though it was only used for two racing seasons with little success.
Zoom: 1959 Moto Guzzi Falcone 500
Giorgio Parodi passed away in 1955, and nearly a decade later, Carlo Guzzi passed away in 1964. In 1967, Moto Guzzi was purchased by Societą Esercizio Industrie Moto Meccaniche (SEIMM), shifting the company's emphasis to moped production.
The Moto Guzzi V7, Transverse V-Twin
Moto Guzzi began producing their iconic 90-degree v-twin engines in 1967, designed by Giulio Carcano. The new 703cc v-twin engine was named the V7, and its unique transverse-cylinder configuration went on the become a signature design for the company.
Zoom: 1993 Moto Guzzi 1000S V-Twin
The Moto Guzzi V7 employed a longitudinal crankshaft similar to BMW, with the air-cooled pushrod cylinders projecting outward at 45-degree angles. The V7 produced 45 hp, delivered to the rear wheel via a shaft-drive. Its durability made it a popular choice for police departments.
Later iterations were produced in 750cc and 850cc models, and the Moto Guzzi 'Ambassador' and 'California Special' were produced for the American market.
Moto Guzzi & De Tomaso
By the early 1970s, competition was heating up from the multi-cylinder offerings coming out of Japan, so Moto Guzzi, along with its Italian counterpart Benelli, was acquired by Alejandro de Tomaso of De Tomaso Inc., resulting in a short run of 4-cylinder Guzzi engines.
Soon the company refocused on its iconic v-twin design, building the V35 and V50, which would become the mainstay of Moto Guzzi over the next two decades. In 1988, SEIMM merged with Benelli to form the De Tomaso owned Guzzi Benelli Moto S.p.A (GBM). On the company's 75th anniversary in 1996, the name reverted to Moto Guzzi S.p.A, and De Tomaso became the Trident Rowan Group.
Moto Guzzi Today
In 2000, Moto Guzzi S.p.A was aquired by Aprilia S.p.A, only to have Aprilia be acquired by Piaggio & Co. S.p.A in 2004, forming Immsi S.p.A.
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