MV Agusta celebrates 80 years of production of the first 98 engine, the small power unit that set the legend that is MV in motion.
The history of the first MV engine, the 98, is closely tied to the tumultuous but also inspiring events of the post-war period in Italy. The global conflict was long and devastating, and left a country in tatters, with cities razed to the ground, infrastructure compromised, and industrial production on its knees. It was in this scenario, enough to dishearten anybody, that Domenico Agusta set out on the adventure that was Meccanica Verghera, the embryo to the glorious MV Agusta.
Let’s first take a step back, to the war years. By 1943 it was clear that the war would be lost and that the production of airplanes for use during the conflict would soon come to an end. What would become of “Costruzioni Aeronautiche Giovanni Agusta”, the company that Domenico Agusta had taken over in 1927 after its founder, Count Giovanni Agusta, died at 48? Without planes to build, collapse appeared inevitable. What could they do? Producing cars was a first option, but millions of Italians were lacking even the basic resources to live a dignified life and so were clearly not able to purchase what was a luxury item at the time. And motorcycles? Much more affordable, they could represent an interesting emerging market for the aeronautical firm. This was the motivation that pushed Count Agusta to develop an engine that would allow him to explore this business opportunity.
In August 1943, the engine for motorcycle use was ready for mass production, designed and studied in its every detail so that the models needed for the fusion of the individual parts could be created. The decision was to concentrate on an engine that was simple, cheap, reliable and easy to maintain – a 98 cc single-cylinder two-stroke with three-port timing, primary gear transmission, and a single unit engine case integrating both the clutch and transmission assembly in an oil bath. A simple solution that would allow for inexpensive, large-scale production.
In September 1943, however, German troops occupied the Agusta factory, putting a stop to production. All the models and designs of the first 98 engine had fortunately been hidden in the homes and basements of the most trusted technicians and engineers just a few weeks prior to guard against theft by the army.
The designs and models of the 98 engine remained concealed for several months before being retrieved towards the middle of the following year, when production finally resumed. One year on, and the first MV (Meccanica Verghera) branded motorcycle, the MV 98, was born.
With a design that, like those of the first prototypes, was finalized just prior to the invasion, 80 years ago, the 98 engine was the point of departure for a glorious tale of passion, success, performance and style.
Just 98 cc: this was enough to ignite a passion that, over a period of 80 years, has carried the genuine Made in Italy to the top of the world more often than anybody else, has created masterpieces in the form of motorcycles, and has sparked the dreams of so many, across the generations, who share a passion for design, mechanics and beauty.
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