From the early 1950s to the late 1960s, MV Agusta won every race that was worth winning.
Machines raced by the legendary Italian factory team are among the rarest and most desirable racing motorcycles ever made. All surviving examples are held either in museums or private collections and only extremely rarely is one ever offered for public sale.
But this machine — frame number 1104, engine number 4 — is up for grabs to anyone with a big enough bank balance at The International Classic MotorCycle Show in Stafford, England, on April 29, 2007.
When the contents of the MV race shop were sold off some years ago following a lengthy period in storage, only two machines of the pre-1965 period were assembled and complete, the remainder being dismantled. The main purchasers of MV’s heritage were Robert Iannucci in the United States, Ubaldo Elli in Italy and John Surtees in England.
This genuine factory race machine, purchased directly from Surtees by the current owner, accords with the specification employed by the MV Agusta factory team between 1957 and 1960, while the short-stroke four-cylinder engine is of the type used between 1954 and 1961.
MV Agusta’s 500s were raced by stars such as John Surtees, Umberto Massetti, Carlo Bandirola, John Hartle, Gary Hocking and Remo Venturi between 1957 and 1960, during which time Surtees won the Isle of Man Senior TT three times and the 500cc World Championship three years consecutively from 1958 to 1960.
While the race record of its principal components is unknown, it is to this heroic period that this machine belongs. Since 1996 when it was acquired by the vendor, 1104 has been fastidiously maintained and enthusiastically exercised on a regular basis at the Isle of Man TT Parade, Brooklands, Scarborough, Vallelunga, Goodwood Festival of Speed and Revival Meetings, Ulster Grand Prix, Beezumph Rally, Donington Park, Mallory Park and Dijon.
Riders have included Giacomo Agostini, Phil Read and Mick Grant. The machine was last ridden in June 2006 and is presented in “ready-to-use” condition. Auctioneers Bonhams estimate this MV to fetch £160,000 - £180,000 (approx. $300,000-$350,000).
This comes just a few months after the auction of Jim Redman’s 1964 250cc, four-cylinder Honda RC164 race bike, which, after buyers premium and taxes, failed to sell last October at £369,184 (about $670,000!), the highest bid ever made for a motorcycle.