Ducati may be Italy’s most hallowed motorcycle brand but the Bologna manufacturer is a Giovanni come-lately compared to more venerable Italian marques like Benelli, Gilera and Moto Guzzi. While Ducati marks its 75th anniversary as a motorcycle manufacturer this year, Moto Guzzi celebrates its centenary.
These days Guzzi is a European Harley- Davidson, selling big, lusty air-cooled V-twins that hark back to simpler times. But from the 1930s to the 1950s the company led the world with some fabulous feats of engineering, most famously its V8 500cc grand prix bike.
The idea of Moto Guzzi was conceived on a First World War airfield by Corpo Aeronautico Militare pilot Carlo Guzzi and mechanic Giorgio Parodi. Guzzi would be chief engineer, while Parodi and brother Angelo – sons of Genoese shipowners – would bankroll the venture.