The Modern Four: 1967 MV Agusta 600

The very first example of the very first road-going MV Agusta 4-cylinder, the MV Agusta 600, original and unrestored.

| January/February 2018

1967 MV Agusta 600 Four
Engine: 592cc air-cooled DOHC inline four, 58mm x 56mm bore and stroke, 9.3:1 compression ratio, 50hp @ 8,200rpm
Top speed: 99.3mph (period test)
Carburetion: Two 24mm Dell’Orto MB24
Transmission: 5-speed, shaft final drive
Electrics: 12v, distributor ignition w/coil and breaker points
Frame/wheelbase: Dual downtube steel cradle/54.7in (1,390mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, twin shocks w/adjustable preload rear
Brakes: Dual 8.5in (216mm) mechanically actuated discs front, 7.9in (200mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3.5 x 18in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 486lb (221kg)
Seat height: 31.6in (802mm)
Fuel capacity: 5.3gal (20ltr)
Price then: $1,698 (1,060,000 lire)

When MV Agusta, one of the greatest names in motorcycle racing, decided to make a 4-cylinder road bike based on its success with Grand Prix racing, it did all it could to deter owners from racing it. That says a lot about what was fermenting in Count Domenico Agusta’s mind when he set his engineers to work preparing what would be the first modern Superbike, before the term was even coined.

The bike featured here is the actual, very first road-going 4-cylinder motorcycle to roll off the assembly lines at Meccanica Verghera Agusta’s facility not far from Milan, Italy. Although most of us know the brand more for its racing than its road bikes, if history had been kind, the marketplace of two-wheelers, and especially scooters, would have been very different.

MV early days

Costruzioni Aeronautiche Giovanni Agusta was founded by Count Giovanni Agusta in 1923 as an aircraft manufacturer. It was a natural choice, as Count Agusta was one of the earliest exponents of the aviation world after the Wright brothers, and in fact had taken to the skies before the likes of the French ace Louis Blériot. Count Agusta had seen action in World War I when he was part of the Malpensa Air Battalion and it was near there, in Varese, that he set up his aircraft construction business.

He died early though, in 1927, at age 48, but his widowed wife, the Countess Giuseppina, and eldest son Domenico took charge. In the closing years of World War II, the Agustas knew, as did many others, that they would have to set their factories working on things other than aircraft, especially for the fighting forces. Personal mobility was the overarching theme that dominated, so in 1943 and early 1944 Count Domenico Agusta and his team prepared a 98cc big-wheeled moped-like contraption they called the Vespa (Wasp) 98. It was advertised in a few Italian trade journals before it was realized that another Italian aviation firm, Piaggio, had registered that very name for a mass mobility two-wheeler that embraced aviation construction techniques, also with a small 98cc engine.

The first five years of MV’s motorcycle manufacturing activities were all about delivering mass mobility, offering small 2-stroke scooters and motorcycles in displacement sizes ranging from 98cc to 250cc. Although well received, they were also more expensive than the competition so sales were always lower than the established giants like Moto Guzzi and Gilera. However, Count Agusta was never shy of going that extra mile when it came to technological innovation or flair, and his avowed zeal to always build in the coup de théâtre meant that MVs were forever seen at the cutting edge of motorcycle technology.

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