Best of VMOL 2015
Whoever said the clock spins quicker as you get older wasn’t lying. Still, some days do drag on no matter what your vintage but that’s what websites like Vintage Motorcycles Online are for. Giving enthusiasts who prefer the older bikes new bits every month, you can count on our effort but the timing sometimes jams. It’s February which means it’s late, but not too late to celebrate...(read more)
Finding information about Magni on the interwebs is not difficult; type his name into the search box and get comfortable. Those with a basic knowledge of GP history won’t need Google, reciting from memory Magni’s post-war travels from Gilera to MV Agusta where over three-hundred Grand Prix racing wins and seven-five world championships were earned. Those who worked with the legendary tuner tell of Magni’s great talent as a technician, his determination, and unflappable nature in chaotic situations. An understudy to Pietro Remor (Gilera 500) Magni followed his mentor to MV where Remor’s design was engineered to its full potential. Building champion racers for hall of fame riders like John Surtees, Mike Hailwood and Giacomo Agostini gave owner Count Domenico Agusta much to celebrate. But more than any team member, credit Magni as the person who knew more about motorcycling’s most exotic engine (^above left, Magni MV) than anyone.
I never met Arturo Magni, and neither has my pal Billy Ross in California, who, some fifteen-years ago (or so) traveled to Italy with Guzzi parts guru Paul Montgomery to see the Magni works in Samarate. “Arturo was at a doctor’s appointment the day we visited,” Ross remembers. “Even without him there it was an incredible experience, as Giovanni rolled out the red carpet for us. USA importer Chris Garville set it all up. Chris’s dad, who imported MVs into the US through Commerce Overseas Corporation was very close to Arturo. I always wanted a Magni, but after being there it became a need. I don’t think enough people give Giovanni the credit he deserves. Sure, Arturo was the figurehead but it was Giovanni who made a lot of it happen.”
As with others falling into my age group, I was too young to know about or appreciate MV’s track success. The company quit on motorcycling after 1977, the year I graduated from high school. My first exposure to Magni was his Guzzi-powered Le Mans 1000 (1985) featured in a special section of an old Mick Walker Guzzi book. From there I traced the history back through previous builds using BMW twins and Honda’s new for ’79 twin cam fours (^MH-2 w/CB1100R above^). Credit Bill and others for catching me up, with Ross’s own 8V Magni Australia displaying better than most Arturo’s passion for edge-specification superbikes. That is to say, more racer than street bike. I did meet son Giovanni at the world expo in Milan, and his work continues with new designs like the MV-3 Filo Rosso (bottom) Pure Magni Magic.
That first Magni Le Mans remains the person favorite, and there’s a review of it here for more info. The previous versions fascinate me; starting with the Magni-Honda for 1979 and just a couple years post MV duties. My sources say Arturo began aftermarket support for MV Agusta even before the bean counters who took control of the firm ceased production. This would evolve into his own chassis and other well-known items like Magni’s chain conversion kit and special exhaust. The Magni son’s EPM wheels drew Magni and his siblings closer together, and in time the Magni name streamlined the brand known for its class leading quality and performance. Honda engines in 900cc Bol d’Or tune fit into the first series, the MH-1 using many stock Honda parts and upscale MH-2 with a full complement of custom chassis and bodywork parts.
Given the cost it’s no surprise Magni used stock engines, the tuned versions still reserved for racers. But it’s impossible to resist wondering what kind of magic Arturo might have worked during one of his fabled midnight tuning sessions. The builder would modify stock machines with Magni aftermarket bits and promote them proudly. One example is the Parallelogrammo rear arm that Arturo engineered for his frame, then adapted to the stock Guzzi tubes. Liter-size BMW twins made another line and followed the MB-1/MB-2 (^above) pattern established for the Hondas. Many, or perhaps most of Magni motorcycles were made to order, but promotional bikes fit the Magni mold as finished motorcycles. As the industry changed and space frames became normal Magni responded with a version of its own, replete with a monoshock swingarm and premium suspension components. But from this writer’s viewpoint, nothing beats the traditional Tonti-type cradle with parallel swingarm. Even if the former is better, there’s more of the latter to see.
Joining Fritz Egli, Don and Derek Rickman, Dave Degens and the late Massimo Tamburini on the brightest and boldest list, Arturo made history before making what annually became the industry’s best handling sport motorcycles. It’s impossible to deny Arturo Magni’s uncanny knack of hitting the target on every pass. His sense of style is best described as functional art; drawn with an emphasis on performance. His friends say he was humble and knowledgeable. That approach seemed to work, proving Magni’s abilities as an engineer included great wisdom. Sorry to never have known you Arturo, but thanks for the bikes. Nolan Woodbury
Special thanks to Wout van Veldhuizen for the Magni Honda info!)