Ultimate Ride: Moto Guzzi 500 V8 Racer

Alan Cathcart fulfills a dream, riding Sammy Miller’s Moto Guzzi V8 Racer at Goodwood.

Ultimate Ride: Moto Guzzi 500 V8 Racer

A ride aboard Moto Guzzi’s fabled mid-Fifties water-cooled, double overhead cam 500cc V8 race bike. It’s the dream of anyone remotely interested in the history of Grand Prix racing, and thanks to the generosity of Sammy Miller, my dream has come true!

Photo By Kyoichi Nakamura

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Sammy Miller, proprietor of England’s Sammy Miller Museum, has uncovered two examples of Moto Guzzi’s exotic 500cc Grand Prix hardware — a V8 of the type Moto Guzzi developed in 1955-1957 and the Bicilindrica V-twin that preceded it. Like the Bicilindrica, Sammy says the V8 was “assembled many years ago from a mixture of replica parts and original components spirited out of the Guzzi factory, after they pulled out of racing at the end of 1957. After 18 months of drawn-out negotiation with a collector not far from the Guzzi factory in Lecco, we were able to acquire these two for the Sammy Miller Museum, and like almost all our bikes, they’re ready to be ridden.”

Indeed, the Guzzi R&D engineer who played a part in creating the V8, the late Umberto Todero, once confirmed the existence of these bikes to me. “At Moto Guzzi we built a total of six complete water-cooled 500cc V8 motorcycles, plus another six engines, as well as enough spare parts to build five or six more bikes,” he told me. “But especially during the handover of control of the company to De Tomaso in 1973, a lot of the racing material stored in Mandello was ‘recycled,’ and that’s how the V8 recreations came about, like the bike my son Giuseppe has built — except that, unlike the others, he constructed his with the full knowledge and support of the Moto Guzzi factory!”

For more on the Moto Guzzi by Alan Cathcart read Counting to Eight: Moto Guzzi 500 V8 History.

Order the November/December 2013 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the Moto Guzzi 500cc V8 Racer. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.