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 
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.

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