Moto Guzzi, the name immediately conjures up visions of
push-rod, two valve, shaft-driven V-twin machines which pump
out far more power than their design should allow. Picture
the factory 65 years ago; 1923 to be exact, are the engineers
conjuring up dreams of pushrod power? Far from it, the factory
is hand building over-head cam, four valve singles. The 1924
Mote Guzzi racing motorcycle ieatured in this article is an
O.H.C. 500cc single cylinder, horizontal four-stroke with
very advanced technical features for it's day. The engine
generated around 22 BHP at 5,500 RPM which propelled it at
up to 100 MPH. The Guzzi story began only a few years before
the construction of this four-valve racer so it's advanced
specifications are even more remarkable.
Steve Hazelton probably still has this wonderful machine.
The Moto Guzzi factory was founded in 1921 by Giorgio
Parodi and Carlo Guzzi. The famous winged eagle badge was
derived from Parodi's wartime aviator's badge. The company
was established on the shores of Lake Mandello where it remains
to this day. The first motorcycles off the production line
were remarkable machines for their time. The initial design
was a horizontal 500cc single cylinder fourstroke, a design
they stuck to until the early seventies. The head and barrel
faced forwards thus ensuring good cooling for the motor and
was arranged in front of a three-speed gearbox which ensured
all the heavy components of the bike were as low as possible.
It was an over-square motor (88mm x 82mm) which produced 13
b.h.p. and reached a speed of 80 MPH with ease.
The first Moto Guzzi Grand Prix machine was based on this
design and it's solid construction, good handling and performance
allowed the bike to carry off the 500cc class in the 1921
Targa Florio in Sicily. The widely splayed twin front down-tubes
were braced just above the motor and the steering head was
rigidly supported giving the bike a strong frame for its time.
The bacon slicer design with the exposed flywheel on the left
hand side of the crankshaft was purposefully designed to keep
the engine's main bearings close together. The engine soon
proved to be as solid and reliable as the rest of the machine.
The Moto Guzzi firm decided to create something really
new and the company's racing department prepared a new 500cc
engine with a four-valve overhead camshaft head.
Riding the 1924 Moto Guzzi 500 racer is a singular pleasure,
especially with a motorcycle as rare as this one. The four-valve
racer featured is one of two apparently imported into Australia
in 1925. Boro and Franki, Fiat agents in Newcastle, imported
both machines. Although its early life is sketchy; around
Maroubra Speedway in 1926 it reputedly attained 100mph. It
passed through a few hands and was discovered in Northern
NSW. For many years it was on exhibition at Bronk's Museum
at Watson's Bay, Sydney. Upon closure of the museum the bike
was offered for sale.
The motor started easily and ran with a solid beat despite
a cloud of smoke from it's recent idleness. The controls are
easy to use and the seating position is natural even with
the rearward setting of the footpegs. The clutch was effective
and take up was smooth and progressive. The engine impressed
with its strong thumping power, proving very tractable and
able to propel the bike at a respectable rate. The low centre
of gravity was immediately noticeable allowing for stable
steering and control despite the spartan suspension. Unfortunately
the ride impression did not allow for a test of the machine's
high speed abilities but the lasting memory of the ride will
always be that beautiful motor. A very special Moto Guzzi
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