Moto Guzzi V8, a technological jewel of the fifties
Moto Guzzi V8, a technological jewel of the fifties

In the early fifties of the 20th century, the Motorcycle World Championship was dominated by European brands like AJS, Norton, Gilera, MV Agusta, Moto Guzzi, and BMW. With all of them, the motorcycle racks were filled in the most varied configurations, vertical or horizontal single-cylinder, parallel twin, and four-cylinder in-line. All with four-stroke engines and displacements from 125 cc to 500 cc through 250 cc and 350 cc. Even in that decade, sidecars accompanied the world championships in their races, although then they were limited to 500cc engines exclusively. The two times had not yet arrived, which would land a decade later, much less the Japanese factories. Riders like Carlo Ubiali, Tarquinio Provini, Luigi Taveri, Libero Liberati, John Surtees, Geoff Duke dominated the world championship, almost making a Italian vs. British league in all races and categories.

In the midst of this panorama, Moto Guzzi, led by its main engineer, Giulio Cesare Carcano, put into practice the maxim that with more cylinders more revolutions were achieved and with more revolutions more power to design a machine ahead of its time that should take Mandello de Lario's maca back to the top of the World Cup podium. What no one expected is that Moto Guzzi and Carcano were capable of manufacturing what is still considered one of the mechanical jewels of the 20th century to this day. We are talking about 500cc V8 engine that Moto Guzzi presented to the press in 1955.

Although the press itself already knew part of the plans a few months before. Because Giulio Cesare Carcano had sent a copy of the side view of the engine he was working on to the media to start speculation about what they were designing in the Moto Guzzi racing department. Of course, the plan did not carry any indication or any text with which it could only be confirmed that the engine was "something" in vee at 90º. No one had the inspiration to imagine that they were eight cylinders in two banks of four at 90º between them. The displacement was 498.58cc so each cylinder was only 62.31cc, with a 44mm bore and 42mm stroke. With such small parts the engine was capable of running at 12,000 rpm and offering 65 hp in the first bench tests. This power reached the 80 hp at 14,000 rpm in 1957, when Moto Guzzi canceled the V8 racing project. Comparatively, the engine of a Norton Manx or a Gilera Saturno (500 single cylinder) gave its peak power at 7,000 rpm with piston speeds more critical than those of this V8.

Moto Guzzi V8, engine

With this configuration, liquid cooling was used, with a pump that was driven by the same gear train that powered the double camshaft located in the cylinder head. The valves were 21 mm for the exhaust and 23 mm for the intake. The ignition had two groups of four points and eight coils located at the front of the chassis. The feeding was in charge of eight Dell'Orto 20mm diffuser carburettors who shared Cuba in two groups of four. And the spark plugs had to be as small as possible to be able to install them in the assembly without problems. The pistons used two compression rings and a grease ring and had the valve housings carved. Lubrication was carried out by the dry sump system with 5 liters of lubricant located on the bike's chassis itself. As a good racing bike, the clutch was dry, and in order to get the most of its performance on any circuit, they had four, five and six-speed gearboxes, although it was the latter that was used the most. Because the V8 engine had so much torque that it was capable of moving well both at low and high revs.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about this design is that the engine weighed only 45 kg which helped the complete bike to only weigh 135 kg. With this combination, the Moto Guzzi V8 was able to run at 286.46 km / h at the 1957 Belgian GP after setting the fastest lap at 190, 86 km / h record that would take many years to reach again with a motorcycle of Big prize. Unfortunately after setting this record, the Moto Guzzi V8 had to withdraw from the race due to a broken battery terminal. And it is that so much technology in so little space has become a very complicated mechanical part to maintain. Crankshaft, carburetion, and spark plug problems plagued the life of this amazing bike. Although its designer in 1957 had managed to retouch and polish all these problems. Just in time when the brand decided to abandon the Motorcycle World Championship claiming that it was too expensive and the crisis forced them to focus their forces on the street motorcycle market.

Moto Guzzi V8

The most famous configuration of this motorcycle is the one that uses the “dustbin” type fairing, a fairing that provided good aerodynamic performance but that in crosswind made the bike dangerous to ride. In its last season it was even raced with a conventional fairing, but the two units that are preserved today in the Moto Guzzi museum mount the complete fairing. At present it can be seen in the Moto Guzzi museum of Mandello de Lario (Italy) and in the next Thundersprint Bike Show (May 12 and 13 in Norwich, UK) one of these motorcycles piloted by Sammy Miller can be seen in operation.

In the meantime, and if you can't make it to the UK next month, I recommend you take a look at this video in which they start and heat up one of the few existing examples of the Moto Guzzi V8, in this case in a concentration in the United Kingdom in 2011.

In the following video you can see in action the Moto Guzzi V8 taking a few passes through a circuit, attentive to the roar of the engine, which is only 500 cc.

And finally a video / documentary in which they interview Bill Lomas, that drove the Moto Guzzi V8 in 1956 and returned to the Isle of Man in 1996 with an original motorcycle and a replica to participate in the classic motorcycle parade. Lomas also has to his credit the world record of 10 km with a stopped start at a average speed of 243, 81 km / h. Speed ​​reached in Terracina in 1956 and which remained a record for more than three decades. Starting at approximately 7:50, we can enjoy an “on board” lap in the Moto Guzzi V8 around the Isle of Man mountain circuit. We can even see the fall of the second Moto Guzzi V8 repeated (three times) who participated in the exhibition. As is logical, the pilots no longer have the reflexes or the courage of when they were forty years younger.

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