Great Bikes: MV Agusta 750S – four times the glamour, four times the price
Story: Harry Fisher
There is something about Italian machinery; something indefinable but definitely there and it turns even the most mundane machinery into a sculpture; a living definition of the Italian lifestyle; from the humblest Vespa or Fiat 500 to the mighty Ducati and Ferrari.
Of course, some Italian icons are a cut above the rest and, at the top of that pile is MV Agusta, in particular the 1970’s four-cylinder bikes. Always frighteningly expensive, monstrously complex and ultimately exclusive – a product as aloof as Count Domenico Agusta himself – they have nevertheless gained a reputation as the motorcycle. No arguments.
Agusta was started as an aviation company in 1923 by Count Giovanni Agusta. He died in 1927 and the running of the company was handed over to his sons, Vincenzo, Domenico, Corrado and Mario.
Mecchanica Verghera Agusta was formed in 1945 as a means to save the workforce from redundancy in the slump years after the Second World War and to fill the need for cheap, efficient transport. The name derives from the hamlet – Verghera – where the first machines were made.
As with Enzo Ferrari, the brothers Agusta made road machines to fund their racing activities, at which they were devastatingly successful; they won more than 3000 races and 63 World Championships between 1948 and 1967.
Their road bikes started as small capacity singles but in the early 1960’s, sales declined as customers moved to larger capacity machines. To meet this demand, a four-cylinder touring bike was designed – the 600 – but it was as ugly as the racing machines had been stunning. Customers craved a replica of the 500cc racing machines but the Count was having none of it and the capacity of the new engine was designed to discourage attempts to create such home-built replicas. Just 135 examples of the bike were made between 1967 and 1972.
In 1969, however, MV scored a hit at the Milan Motorcycle Show when it launched the new 750S. It went into production in 1971 and used 1960’s Grand Prix technology, which meant expensive gears to drive the camshafts with roller bearings and shims throughout. It sold for four times the price of the Honda CB750, which ensured exclusivity and, unlike its 600cc stablemate, it was super-stylish and utterly desirable. It was the Ferrari of the two-wheeled world.
Its sole role in life was to generate publicity and glamour on the Agusta concern, which still made helicopters (naturally, some of the best money could buy). Follow-up models included the America and Monza – no less glamorous or more successful – and production ceased in 1977.
Trust the Italians to conceive something so improbably exclusive, mechanically complex and utterly desirable that virtually no-one could buy it but that everyone wanted. Production was always limited and in ten years, MV sold fewer than 2,000 four-cylinder machines. By comparison, Honda sold 61,000 CB750’s during the first three years in America alone!
But I know which one I would rather have.