Dream Machine: MV Agusta 750S America

MV Agusta 750S America history and a 40-year-old dream came true when Grand Touring Cars put it up for auction in Las Vegas.

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by Jeff Barger
  • Engine: 789cc DOHC 4-stroke, air-cooled inline 4-cylinder, 67mm x 65mm bore and stroke, 10.2:1 compression ratio, 75hp @ 8,500rpm
  • Top speed: 130mph (210 kmh)
  • Carburetion: 4 Dell’Orto VHB 26mm
  • Transmission: Primary drive by helical gears, 5-speed constant mesh, shaft final drive
  • Electrics: 12v, dynamo/generator system, 12v-32 amp hour battery, coil and single contact breaker ignition w/Bosch distributor
  • Frame/wheelbase: Steel duplex tube frame, 54.7in (1,389mm)
  • Suspension: Ceriani telescopic front forks with hydraulic dampening, twin Ceriani hydraulic rear shock
  • Brakes: Scarab hydraulic 11in (280mm) dual discs front, single 11in (280mm) disc rear
  • Tires: 3.50 x 18in front, 4 x 18in rear
  • Weight: 562lb (252kg)
  • Seat height: 30in (762mm)
  • Fuel capacity: 5gal (19ltr)

Captivated by the MV Agusta 750S America in the late 1970s, Rick Fuhry wrote a letter to Hatboro, Philadelphia-based distributor Cosmopolitan Motors Ltd. Rick admits he was simply dreaming about the motorcycle but was curious about price and availability. On November 20, 1978, Lawrence (Larry) Wise of Cosmopolitan sent Rick a reply.

“All the MV’s have been sold,” Larry wrote. “However, one customer who purchased several was unable to pay for one MV and we can now offer it for sale.”

For $5,000, Rick could have the last MV Agusta 750S America in its crate that Cosmopolitan had in stock. In the letter, Larry said the motorcycle would be sold to the first person to either wire the money or place a 10 percent deposit.

“At the time, I knew it was more than I could afford,” Rick says. “I hadn’t seen one in person, though, and if I had I might have been more motivated to somehow get together the money. I could have bought the very last MV Agusta 750S America offered for sale in the U.S.A., but I let it slip through my fingers.”

The beginnings of Cosmopolitan

Cosmopolitan Motors was founded by Larry’s father, Ernest, in 1949 when he bought the U.S.-based Jawa/CZ distributorship in partnership with his cousin, Joe Berliner. Later, the firm added Zundapp motorcycles to the range. Larry himself began working at Cosmopolitan in 1952 when the company was still based in New York.

In 1957, Ernest and Joe Berliner separated the company, with Berliner keeping Jawa, Victoria and Zundapp. At that time, Cosmopolitan Motors moved to Philadelphia and began importing Moto Parilla motorcycles to the U.S. Soon, Cosmopolitan began bringing over other Italian machines, and also became the North American distributor of Pirelli tires.

Larry is now 90, and we spoke about Cosmopolitan’s role with MV. “Back when we were importing the Benelli, that company stopped making the 250cc model and we needed a machine in that size range,” Larry said. “MV was selling their 500cc machines to the U.S., but not their 250s. In the late 1960s we approached MV about their 250, and established contact with them that way.”

The 250cc MV didn’t sell well in America, however. Larry says it was a heavy motorcycle and Cosmopolitan did not continue to import the machines.

A bigger MV

Here, we need to introduce two other men in the MV Agusta story, Chris Garville of Commerce Overseas Corporation in New York and dealer Jim Cotherman of Freeport, Illinois. Both had been working with MV Agusta when together, in 1974, they approached the MV factory with an idea about producing an exotic 750cc sporting motorcycle that would suit the tastes of the U.S. market.

For more MV Agusta history, read A Glorious Noise in the May/June 2018 issue of Motorcycle Classics. However, for some brief background, after producing 4-
cylinder race-only motorcycles for a number of years, by the mid-1960s, Count Domenico Agusta decided to offer the public a 600cc 4-cylinder streetbike. Powered by an all-alloy, 4-cylinder, double overhead cam engine with 58mm x 56mm bore and stroke and dual carburetors, overall capacity was rated at 592cc. Officially launched in 1965, only 127 examples of the MV 600 were built.

However, in 1969, that 600 provided the groundwork for a larger 4-cylinder engine when MV increased capacity to 743cc and fitted a bank of four 24mm Dell’Orto carburetors to create the 750GT with shaft final drive. Alongside the GT, MV also offered the sportier 750S, a motorcycle that was claimed by Bike magazine to have the most powerful 750cc motor ever made.

That’s when Garville and Cotherman suggested MV Agusta create the 750S America.

MV Agusta agreed to give the 750S a redesign and pushed overall capacity to 789cc while compression was increased from 10:1 to 10.2:1. The cylinder head was revised and four 26mm Dell’Orto VHB carburetors were installed. The four aluminum alloy cylinders with cast iron liners each attached to a “crankshaft block,” a device that held the pressed-together crank in four split-cage roller bearings and ball bearings at each end. Once built up with the crank inside, the entire sub-assembly bolted into a tub that was cast in the engine case.

For the 750S America model, a steel duplex tube frame used for the 750S was given a longer and stronger steering head, but overall geometry and wheelbase was unchanged. A beefier Ceriani fork with wider triple clamps and 38mm tubes was fitted to the America, complete with a pair of 280mm discs with a set of Scarab calipers.

Officially released in January 1975, the 750S America looked fast standing still. But at 562-pounds wet, the machine outweighed its shaft-driven contemporaries by 70 pounds, including the BMW R90S and Moto Guzzi Sport.

The end of MV Agusta

By 1977, MV Agusta had decided to curtail motorcycle production. That’s when they approached Cosmopolitan to help move stock. Here’s Larry with the rest of his MV story.

“They called up one day and asked to speak to my father,” Larry recalls. “They said they were ceasing production of MV motorcycles and offered us 100 of the 750S Americas.

“We said we’d buy them, but wanted to take 50 then, followed by another 50 later. In 1978, we wanted to turn them over fast so offered them to our dealers for $2,900 and soon had the money paid back to the bank.”

The retail price on the 750S America was close to $6,000, and Larry says Cosmopolitan never had the opportunity to purchase the other 50 as they went to the British importer. “We just wanted to get them sold, and I never did keep any back in their crates. That’s upsetting, because just a few years later they quickly gained in value and became $35,000-plus machines.”

Larry doesn’t recall writing that letter to Rick, and he has no idea who got their last 750S America.

Rick’s story

For Rick, motorcycles have been a part of his life from an early age. And, he comes by his interest honestly. His grandfather, Paul, had a 1917 Henderson and later a 1930 Henderson. In those days of mostly dirt roads, Paul rode the earlier Henderson between Dubuque, Iowa, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, so he could court his girlfriend, Madeline, who later became his wife — and Rick’s Grandma Madeline.

Rick’s dad, Jim, was a member of the Tripoli Shriner Motor Corp through the 1960s. He’d get a new Harley-Davidson Electra Glide every year to ride in parades. It was Jim who bought Rick his first machine, a Fox minibike, followed by a circa-1972 Honda XL250.

“I was 16 when I got the Honda, and I rode that enduro bike to school and on the trails around my hometown of Milwaukee,” Rick says. “That offroad experience led me to become a bit more serious about riding in the dirt.”

While attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, Rick rode motocross aboard a 1974 Husqvarna 250CR and then a Suzuki RM250. His motocross experiences encouraged him to ride more slowly in trials competition on a Bultaco Sherpa T, while his road bike was a Kawasaki 750 triple that had been modified with a Denco top end kit. He raced the Kawasaki — once — on a track and was simply satisfied with that single experience of going fast in a safe environment.

Moving on up

Always curious about what was new in the world of powered two-wheelers, Rick bought contemporary motorcycle magazines and that’s how he saw an article about the MV Agusta 750S America.

“I wasn’t familiar with it, and I certainly had never heard of it,” Rick explains. “That’s when I wrote to Cosmopolitan, but as we know, I didn’t pursue it and I always regretted that decision.”

Rick instead bought a 1979 BMW R100RS and put thousands of miles on the bike before hanging up his helmet in the mid-1980s to get into sports cars. In 2018, however, Rick started to think about motorcycles he regretted not buying, and the 750S America was at the top of his list.

“I never thought I could afford one because they kept going up in value,” Rick says. “But due to some recent circumstances I came into a little bit of money, and that allowed me to chase down a dream I’d always had of owning an MV Agusta motorcycle.” That’s when he sought the help of Brady Ingelse from Retrospeed.

Finding a 750S America

Based in Belgium, Wisconsin, Retrospeed specializes in concours-quality motorcycle restorations. In the last few years, however, Brady has been offering motorcycle collectors advice about machines being offered for sale at the annual Mecum auction in Las Vegas.

“This Las Vegas auction has become a big deal,” Brady explains. “Often, more than 2,000 motorcycles go across the stage during the five-day event, and some incredible pieces cross through.

“But I know many collectors who can’t make it to the auction, and I was on the phone for the better part of a week leading up to a sale trying to give advice. You really have to be there, though, to see a bike in person and that’s what I’ve done in 2019 and 2020. I attend the auction, view the motorcycles, and inspect and advise potential bidders,” he says.

About a month before the Mecum auction Brady sends out an email to customers and acquaintances, often pointing out motorcycles of interest. In the January 2019 sale, there were five MV Agustas set to cross the block, and three of them were the America model. “I asked Brady if he could look at them for me,” Rick says, and Brady adds, “He simply wanted to know which one was best and planned to bid for himself via telephone.”

Brady encouraged Rick to bid on a 1978 MV Agusta 750S America with only 592 miles on the odometer. The machine came with full documentation, including the original bill of sale to the Grand Touring Cars company of Scottsdale, Arizona. GTC was founded by Harley Cluxton III in Chicago in 1972. At age 26, Harley was the youngest authorized Ferrari dealer in the U.S. In 1973, he moved his company to Arizona, where he also began importing Lamborghini cars.

According to the bill of sale, GTC bought three MV Agusta 750S America motorcycles on August 12, 1978 from Cosmopolitan Motors. Each machine was $3,750, for a total of $11,250 for all. (GTC did not get the wholesale $2,900 price as they were not a regular dealer.) What happened to the other two is unknown, but this one, owned since new by Harley and GTC, was for sale at Mecum.

“You could see the machine was unmolested and it had simply sat for many years,” Brady explains, and adds, “I encouraged Rick to bid on this one.”

Making a bid

Rick bid via telephone, and says, “I hoped to get it for $80,000 or $85,000. I went a bit overboard, though, and ended up paying $126,500 — but I was really happy to have it.” Rick’s new-to-him 750S America was shipped to Brady’s shop. That’s when Rick got a phone call.

“I’ve good news and bad news,” Brady recalls saying to Rick. “The good news is the bike is here. The bad news is it got damaged during shipping.” Somewhat crestfallen, Rick asked Brady what they should do.

“I told Rick this wasn’t a problem,” Brady says. “I said let’s simply take care of and fix the human flaws, but leave any flaws alone that were created by the passage of time. There is an overall hue to the entire bike that speaks to its age.”

To put the MV back in order, Retrospeed removed and repaired all of the damaged bodywork, including the fairing and side covers. There was a chip in the gas tank, too, and it had to be redone. Many years ago, the original tires had been replaced and in the process the rims had been scratched. Brady chose to fit new tires, and the rims were restored at the same time.

The exhaust system also required attention, but it was repairable damage that was topped off with a coating by Jet-Hot in North Carolina. For controls, the aluminum front brake lever was bent, and the Scarab master cylinder was leaking. To rectify this, Retrospeed bored out the Scarab cylinder and put in a stainless-steel sleeve to accept Suzuki internals. A replacement lever was sourced to replace the damaged control.

Much time was spent ensuring reproduction vinyl decals were exact matches to the originals before being applied to the bike. Once finished, Brady fired up the 750S America and has put it through its paces.

“With so few miles on it, Rick wasn’t sure he should ride it,” Brady says. “I think, after putting it in a few shows, that he should ride it because I don’t believe there’s going to be a large difference in value between the 600 miles it has now and say, 900 miles.”

To bring this story full circle, on Rick’s original letter from Larry Wise, there are penciled notes including names and numbers for Chris Garville (misspelled by Rick as Garbelle), Jim Cotherman and even Grand Touring Cars, Inc. Rick says around 1980, after finally seeing a 750S America in the flesh, he became more motivated to find one.

“I somehow learned of Chris Garville and phoned him,” Rick says. “He gave me a couple of leads, one being GTC in Phoenix, Arizona. I scribbled them on the letter, but I didn’t contact GTC since I still didn’t have the $5,000 to buy one, but it gave me a sense of security knowing who might have a 750S America, if and when I could afford one.”

Rick says he’d been lusting for a 750S America for over forty years and little did he know that when he could afford one, which was in January 2019 at the Mecum Las Vegas auction, the bike he’d buy would actually be from the GTC collection.

“It was one hell of a 750S America to find, and I expect the best one that had become available for sale in some time,” Rick says, and concludes, “It cost me a lot of money to finally fulfill my dream of owning one. And to think that I thought $5,000 was expensive back in 1978. That would be just $19,662 in today’s dollars.” MC

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