The secret history of Italy’s most famous motorcycle brand

Get to know Moto Guzzi, who have been building some of the world’s most badass motorcycles for nearly a century.

mgx21_34dx_acc-scaled-1 MGX-21 (all photos courtesy of Moro Guzzi)

Few things become as haunting for motorcyclists as seeing a mint Moto Guzzi on the street. Although Guzzi’s have not always resonated with the market, Italy’s oldest motorcycles have always been distinctive, full of character and utterly unique. For superfans like Ewan MacGregor, who calls himself a “Guzzisti”, it’s a wonder that a brand with such a rich and dynamic narrative, studded with a lifetime of accolades, stays out of the public eye.

normale-500-scaled-1 normal

Moto Guzzi was born on March 15, 1921 in Mandello del Lario, a small town on the shores of Lake Como where the company still has its headquarters. Owner and founder Emanuele Vittorio Parodi and his son, Giorgio, along with family friend Carlo Guzzi, helped create the brand’s first mass-produced motorcycle, the Moto Guzzi Normale, which had a single-cylinder engine producing a huge 8 horsepower. 2,065 examples of the Normale came out – not bad for a first try – followed by a slow but steady stream of bikes that included the 1928 GT 500 Norge, one of the first production motorcycles with rear suspension. Moto Guzzi also enjoyed success on the racetrack, with its lightweight grand prix motorcycles winning several world championships.

gt-norge-500-scaled-1 GT 500 Norway

World War II strangled motorcycle development, but at the end of the war Moto Guzzi made its way into the limelight by launching the Guzzino 65, also known as the Cardellino, which became the most popular bike. best-selling brand. But motorcycles were losing ground to scooters, like the venerable Vepsa, so Moto Guzzi tried to score with the scooter-looking Galletto in the early ’50s. It didn’t quite take off. With the decline in popularity of motorcycles in the 1950s, Moto Guzzi found itself in dire financial straits. The company withdrew from motorsport in 1957 and by 1964 Moto Guzzi was in serious money trouble.

guzzino-65-scaled-1 Guzzino

In 1967, Società Esercizio Industrie Moto Meccaniche (SEIMM) took over the reins of Moto Guzzi, knowing that it would be difficult to make the company profitable again. At the same time, Moto Guzzi engineers were installing a V-8 engine, designed by employee Giulio Cesare Carcano for Moto Guzzi’s former racing program, in a production bike, the ’67 V7 700. The transverse V the air-cooled 90-degree-twin engine almost immediately became a hallmark and design hallmark of Moto Guzzi. In 1973, a company called De Tomaso bought SEIMM and, in turn, Moto Guzzi. Moto Guzzi started making money again and brought the iconic 850 Le Mans café racer to life, produced from 1975 to 1988.

Moto Guzzi evolved and grew, developing a stronger design language, implementing new mechanical systems and perfecting its distinctive longitudinal V-twin engines. But Moto Guzzi remained fully fledged under De Tomaso, and that didn’t change when Aprilia, another Italian motorcycle manufacturer, bought Moto Guzzi in 2000. It wasn’t until Piaggio Group bought Moto Guzzi in 2004. , 83 years after the release of Normal, let the brand have a chance to become a household name.

v7-sport-scaled-1 V7 Sports

New Moto Guzzi models began rolling out, each engaging and quirky in a way that appealed to some and repelled others. Riders were thrilled when the V7 returned in 2008, still powered by a 90-degree transverse V-twin engine, though it didn’t quite capture the appeal of its predecessor.

Yet it remains the best-selling model in Moto Guzzi’s nine-bike lineup. We are now seeing the fruits of a promise made by Piaggio in 2009 to invest more in Moto Guzzi, revamp its outdated Mandello del Lario factory and develop a more diverse product portfolio, which includes the recently released MGX-21, a big, black bagger who hopes to steal Harley-Davidson’s sales. But Moto Guzzi still hasn’t caught the attention of a new generation of bikers. Why ?

mgx21_34dx_acc-scaled-1 MGX-21

“With Moto Guzzi, we are now faced with what we call the ‘heritage brand dilemma,’” says Davide Zanolini, executive vice president of marketing and communications for the Piaggio Group. “Preserving decades of history and tradition, or changing to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market? Because relevance comes with change, heritage should not tell you where you are, but where to go next.

He continues: “Our biggest challenge is to make Moto Guzzi accessible and desired among younger generations of riders. The secret is a perfect combination of innovation and emotion, technology and soul, material and feeling. The means to that end are murky, but what is important here is that Piaggio clearly understands the predicament Moto Guzzi finds itself in and will work to bring the brand the attention it deserves, by feeding on a new school of Guzzisti.

“Over the next decade we want to see more young people riding Moto Guzzi,” says Zanolini. “More women and more enthusiastic riders are riding innovative and environmentally sustainable motorcycles that carry the authentic Moto Guzzi DNA.” Does that mean we’ll soon see an all-electric Moto Guzzi whizzing through the streets? “The Piaggio Group is extremely attentive to alternative motorizations, but at present, electric vehicle technologies are not yet at a stage of maturity that foresees a short-term application for the Moto Guzzi brand,” says Zanolini.

“The real solutions of the future are linked to the personalization of a motorcycle”, he says. “All Moto Guzzi are designed to be personalized according to the tastes and personality of the owner – a greater number of accessories, a flexible platform ready to be transformed on demand, the possibility of creating your own unique accessories.” Zanolini says Moto Guzzi will “look to the future without forgetting history and its past”, which is good since the future seems to be as fascinating as the brand’s tumultuous but intriguing past. Moto Guzzi could very well shake up the motorcycle world when it enters its second century of life, but it won’t be if the name Moto Guzzi means nothing to you. But I hope now it is.

Tags: Italy luxury motorcycles Moto Guzzi Rides