Last of the Breed: MV Agusta 850SS

The MV Agusta 850SS was the last of the bright red “fire engines” from Italy’s famed Meccanica Verghera Agusta.

| January/February 2013

  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS
    From 1958 to 1974, the “fire engines” of Meccanica Verghera Agusta dominated the premier GP 500cc class.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS Right Side
    Gilera’s parting shot in 500cc racing yielded a world championship for Libero Liberati in 1957; from then on, MV Agusta would rack up 17 consecutive world 500cc titles.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS Engine
    It’s said the imperious yet paranoid Count Agusta feared a competitor would obtain one of his race bikes, replicate or improve on it, and challenge Agusta on the track. For this reason, he ordered the destruction of all retired race bikes.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • sandcast engine cases
    Essentially a big-bore 750 America, the 837cc dual overhead cam four features sandcast engine cases and shaft drive.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • MV Agusta Glove Box
    The “glove box” in the tail is just big enough for a pair of rain pants.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • Aprilia Headlight
    The MV Agusta originally wore a black Aprilia headlight.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • MV Agusta Overhead
    Before 1950, only the big Italian bike makers — Gilera, Moto Guzzi and Benelli — had tackled international competition in the larger capacity classes.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • Agusta EPM Wheels
    This 850 wears cast EPM wheels, which were an option to spoked Borrani rims.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • Dale Baston Agusta
    Owner Dale Baston has made a few modifications to his 850 America to make it more rider-friendly. “Purists will see the things I’ve changed on it,” he says.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • Agusta Ing
    The road that led to the 850SS started with Ing. Piero Remor, who arrived at MV Agusta in late 1949 with an impressive resume.
    Photo By Robert Smith
  • Agusta Intake Cam
    With revised cams (using an America intake cam for the exhaust), 27mm Dell’Ortos and nominal 9.5:1 compression, the 850SS produced a very respectable 85 horsepower at 9,500rpm, with some reports claiming as much as 95 horsepower.
    Photo By Robert Smith

  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS
  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS Right Side
  • 1977 MV Agusta 850SS Engine
  • sandcast engine cases
  • MV Agusta Glove Box
  • Aprilia Headlight
  • MV Agusta Overhead
  • Agusta EPM Wheels
  • Dale Baston Agusta
  • Agusta Ing
  • Agusta Intake Cam

1977 MV Agusta 850SS 
Claimed power
: 85hp @ 9,500rpm 
Top speed: 140mph (est.) 
Engine: 837cc air-cooled DOHC inline four, 69mm x 56mm bore and stroke, 9.5:1 compression ratio 
Weight (dry): 517lb (235kg) 
Fuel capacity: 6.3gal (24ltr) 
Price then/now: $6,400 (approx.)/$40,000-$70,000  

It is unlikely that MV Agusta’s run of 17 consecutive Grand Prix world championships will ever be equaled, let alone beaten. From 1958 to 1974, the bright red “fire engines” of Meccanica Verghera Agusta dominated the premier 500cc class.

No other manufacturer came close. That is, until the Japanese factories extended their supremacy of the smaller capacity classes into the big leagues. Not to take anything away from Count Domenico Agusta’s magnificent machines, but they did make good at the right time.

At the end of the 1957 season, MV’s three most serious competitors — Gilera, Moto Guzzi and FB Mondial — all closed their race departments, and Norton had pulled out in 1956. That gave MV the pick of the best riders of the era: John Surtees, Mike Hailwood, Giacomo Agostini, Gary Hocking and Phil Read. With no factory-based competition, MV repeatedly swept the field in 350cc and 500cc racing right through the 1960s.



MV four beginnings 

The road that led to the 850SS started with Ing. Piero Remor, who arrived at MV Agusta in late 1949 with an impressive resume. In 1923, he and Carlo Gianini had designed a 4-cylinder, air-cooled single overhead camshaft motorcycle engine. Gilera acquired the rights, developing it into the famous “Rondine” double overhead cam, liquid-cooled, supercharged racer of the 1930s.

Following the post-war ban on superchargers in GP racing, Remor, now working at Gilera, redesigned the Rondine, creating the classic normally aspirated, air-cooled double overhead cam four that brought Gilera six 500cc World Championship titles between 1950-1957.

gerald estes III
3/11/2013 12:51:07 AM

thnx baston for keeping it real - the changes mentioned in the article aren't modifications at all. informative read ...a little history, the politics, not too much back stabbing and some hands on to do... black side down.




The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds