Moto Guzzi have earned a reputation for producing some of the most memorable motorbikes in the world. One of the most well-known is the V8, also known as the Otto, created in 1955. As well as having a distinctive shape, the V8 possessed a water-cooled 500 cc engine that was revolutionary for the time. However, it never won a World Champion GP and it only raced for a couple of years. Although the V8 was short-lived, it became an iconic vehicle, and we’re looking into how the V8 was created and why it didn’t catch on.
A promising start
In 1955, Moto Guzzi were known for creating a variety of motorcycles, including V-twins, 3-cylinders, 4-cylinders and parallel twins. Eager to try something new, the company pushed for a motorbike that had never been seen before. The engine was created by Giulio Carcano, Enrico Cantoni, Ken Kavanagh, Fergus Anderson and Umberto Todero.
As Moto Guzzi’s racing team manager, Anderson wanted to build publicity for the bike. He sent a letter to the international motorbike press and announced Moto Guzzi’s plans for the 1955 Grand Prix season. Along with the plan, he attached a drawing of the V8, challenging the press to guess the configuration. Very few guessed right and the V8 proved to be an exciting reveal when it debuted a few months later.
The V8’s water-cooled 500 cc engine was one of a kind. It had dual overhead cams and a separate carburetor for each of the eight cylinders. The engine produced 78 horsepower at 12000 rpm, which meant the bike could reach a top speed of 172 mph. The V8 looked set to take the racing world by storm.
Despite the promise of the engine, other V8 components weren’t up to standard. This included the tyre, brake and suspension technology. It made testing the motorcycle difficult, with accidents occurring on the race track. Anderson crashed the V8 on its debut at Modena, while Bill Lomas suffered a head injury at the 1956 Senigallia Grand Prix. Ken Kavanagh refused to ride the Otto after the 1956 race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The V8 was also expensive to build and maintain because it suffered from overheating. By 1957, Moto Guzzi stopped development. Yet if the model had been improved on, it could have been a successful Grand Prix race bike.
The V8 is an example of a motorcycle that was ahead of its time. It might not have taken off like Moto Guzzi planned, but it stands out as a unique vehicle that can be admired for its engine.
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