The Moto Guzzi V50 Monza

Under the Radar

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    The Laverda 500 Zeta is a 500 twin rival to the Moto Guzzi V50 Monza.
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    Moto Guzzi V50 Monza.
  • newducati
    The Ducati 500 Sport Desmo is another 500 twin rival to the Moto Guzzi V50 Monza.

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  • newducati

Moto Guzzi V50 Monza
Years produced:
Claimed power: 48hp @ 7,500rpm
Top speed: 109mph (est.)
Engine type: 490cc OHV, air-cooled V-twin
Transmission: 5-speed
Weight: 353lb (dry)
MPG: 45-55
Price then: $3,249 (1981)
Price now: $2,500-$4,500

“If you were ready to buy a 500cc bike and you happened to stroll into a Moto Guzzi dealership while making the rounds through the local motorcycle shops, chances are you wouldn’t ride out on a Moto Guzzi V50 Monza. The Monza, you must understand, is simply not a mass-market machine for the casual or average buyer.” So wrote the editors at Cycle in their November 1981 issue. Ironically, the V50 Monza was supposed to be Moto Guzzi’s shot at mass marketing to the motorcycle enthusiast — a fact Cycle’s editors either didn’t appreciate or simply rejected.

As one of the top moto mags, however, it’s doubtful Cycle’s editors were unaware of Moto Guzzi boss Alejandro De Tomaso’s strong yen to drive the Japanese back to the sea. Or that he hoped his company’s little 490cc Moto Guzzi V50 Monza — and its even smaller brother, the 346cc V35 — would be the motorcycle to stem the tide of the Japanese invasion. More likely, they recognized his desire for what it was: wishful thinking.

The new Guzzi
When De Tomaso took control of Moto Guzzi in 1973 — with financial backing from the Italian government — it was a company in deep financial trouble. Although enthusiasts praised the Italian manufacturer for its fine line of big V-twins like the El Dorado and V7, Moto Guzzi was losing money steadily. To turn the tide, De Tomaso decided to take advantage of Guzzi’s expertise with air-cooled V-twins, expanding the theme and hence Guzzi’s market by moving into small-displacement bikes affordable to a larger population. Enter the V35 and V50.

Prototypes of the new small-bore V-twins, which featured horizontally split crankcases for easier machining (the big twin crankcases were one-piece affairs) and an oil filter that could be replaced without removing the oil pan, appeared in 1976. The first bikes started rolling off the assembly line at Guzzi’s Mandello del Lario factory in 1977, but production bottlenecks kept the new models from being exported until 1979, when production was moved to an old Innocenti car factory in Milan. Finally, volume production was possible, and Moto Guzzi started promoting its new little bikes.

Although the V50 was lauded by the European motorcycling press, it was basically ignored in the U.S., where the market was becoming saturated with increasingly sophisticated and technically proficient bikes from Japan. To help shine the spotlight on its little twin, Moto Guzzi introduced the upmarket Moto Guzzi V50 Monza. Larger carbs (28mm instead of 24mm), plus bigger valves and revised intake and exhaust manifolds, netted a few extra ponies over the earlier V50 (48hp versus 45hp), while new bodywork in the style of Guzzi’s much-lauded 850cc Le Mans positioned the Monza as a European pocket rocket, a term that would come into vogue in a few years with introduction of the Kawasaki GPz550.

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