The first Moto Guzzi: 1921 single-cylinder 500cc Normale.
Moto Guzzi, the famed Italian marque best known in our crowd for its V-twin touring bikes, the Eldorado and Ambassador, and the ground-breaking 1976 LeMans factory café racer, turned 90 on March 15. Of course the most significant Moto Guzzi was the very first one. The “G.P.” prototype (which stood for Guzzi and Parodi) appeared in 1920. Designed by Carlo Guzzi and funded by the Giorgio Parodi family, it featured a 500cc horizontal, single-cylinder engine, along with unit construction gearbox and exposed “bacon-slicer’ flywheel, now a hallmark of early Guzzis.
This architecture would soldier on for another 50 years, demonstrating its inherent design quality and engineering integrity. In fact, the final Falcone, a Nuovo model from 1976, was a direct descendant of this original design. A production version of the G.P. followed in 1921, called the “Normale.” Somewhat down-spec’d to make it more affordable, the prototype’s four-valve cylinder head made way for a more cost-effective two-valve configuration, and redundant, dual-ignition was dispensed with. Although only 17 were produced that first year, over 2,000 more would follow.
By 1957, Moto Guzzi had progressed to building the ultimate race bike; a 500cc V8.
It’s interesting to note that after these first machines were successfully constructed in Mandello del Lario, the Italian lakeside city became the spiritual home for the brand. Production continues there to this day. This is also when the familiar “Eagle” emblem was first applied to a Moto Guzzi, in honor of the Italian Air Corps in which Guzzi and Parodi (along with Ravelli, a third friend who was unfortunately killed) previously served. The “Eagle” is now indelibly linked to the Moto Guzzi marque. Another unique twist of fate is that from the very beginning, the Parodi family owned all the shares of the Moto Guzzi company. Despite his genius and incredible contribution, Carlo Guzzi only received a royalty for each bike built.
Starting today, Moto Guzzi riders and enthusiasts who live and breathe the legend of the great “Italian Eagle” are encouraged to visit www.MotoGuzziHeritage.com and join in on the celebration by submitting photos and sharing stories about their Moto Guzzi motorcycle and connection to the brand. Whether riders own a vintage or modern Moto Guzzi, Moto Guzzi would love to learn more about their motorcycle and what drew them to the brand. Authors of entries featured on the blog will receive a gift bag of Moto Guzzi merchandise.
Riders and enthusiasts are also encouraged to visit the blog every Monday for nine consecutive weeks, starting today, and view the “Nine Decades of Moto Guzzi” photo and caption collection highlighting the most significant bikes from each decade. Each Wednesday, Moto Guzzi will feature a user submitted story and on every Friday for nine consecutive weeks, a “Photo of the Day” will be posted from the Moto Guzzi family, highlighting a memorable moment in Moto Guzzi history.
For an inside look at Moto Guzzi's amazing museum, go here to read Neale Bayly's article, published in Motorcycle Classics.
(Compiled from Moto Guzzi press releases and the Moto Guzzi website)