MV125 rac­ers

To­day ex­am­ples of MV Agusta rac­ing mo­tor­cy­cles are spo­ken of in revered tones, and gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with three and four cylin­der “fire en­gines” of 350 or 500cc. But there was a time when the or­di­nary rider (pro­vided one was suf­fi­ciently well heeled) c

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Pe­ter Laverty Pho­tos Keith Bryen, Charles Rice, Keith Ward, Dick Darby, Tom Perry, Bill Tricker.

MV it­self had con­tested the class for some years with its own two stroke, which be­gan life as a 98cc and was the brain­child of Domenico Agusta, son of the com­pany founder Count Gio­vanni Agusta. The Agusta em­pire had be­gun in 1923 as an air­craft com­pany – Con­struzioni Aero­nau­tiche Gio­vanni Agusta – in the north­ern Ital­ian town of Verghera, but the Count passed away in 1927 leav­ing his wife Giusep­pina to run the com­pany, which she did very well. The com­pany pros­pered but the war put a stop to that, and post-war Giusep­pina and her sons Domenico and Vin­cenzo were faced with find­ing work for the com­pany’s many em­ploy­ees. Domenico knew there would be a need for cheap trans­port, and the re­sult was the 98cc light­weight mo­tor­cy­cle, which was to be called the Vespa (Wasp) un­til the Pi­ag­gio con­cern pointed out that they had reg­is­tered this name for their scoot­ers. So a new com­pany was formed – Mec­ca­nica Verghera – or MV for short.

The lit­tle 98 sold well and a ‘sports’ ver­sion was soon in­tro­duced – and was pounced upon by am­a­teur rac­ers in the newly-in­tro­duced Ital­ian 125cc class. As a means to pro­mote the fac­tory’s prod­ucts, Domenico de­cided to pro­duce a proper rac­ing model with a ca­pac­ity of 123cc, which made its de­but in 1948 and scored its first ma­jor vic­tory in the same year. With the ad­vent of the World Cham­pi­onships in 1949,

Agusta en­tered the 125cc class but the bikes were no match for the DOHC FB Mon­di­als. Un­de­terred, Count Domenico lured Ar­turo Magni and later Piero Re­mor from Gil­era and be­gan a se­ri­ous as­sault on the cham­pi­onships, in both the 125 and 500cc classes. MV Agusta’s first World Cham­pi­onship was won by English­man Ce­cil Sand­ford in 1952, rid­ing the ‚

Bial­bero (twin cam) 125 sin­gle, with wins in the Isle of Man TT, the Dutch TT, and the Ul­ster GP. This suc­cess con­vinced MV to pro­duce a cus­tomer ver­sion of their 125 racer for the fol­low­ing year. To keep costs down, the pro­duc­tion ma­chine was a sin­gle-over­head camshaft de­sign known as the Sport Com­pe­tizione, which used the same ba­sic de­sign as the works rac­ers, in­clud­ing the 53mm x 56mm bore and stroke with the camshaft driven by a train of gears in a case on the right side of the engine. The engine fea­tured a gear-driven oil pump, and a 27mm Dell’Orto SS1 car­bu­ret­tor. The pri­mary drive was by gears, but with a four-speed trans­mis­sion in­stead of the works 5speeder. Power out­put was listed as 10hp. For use in the pop­u­lar Ital­ian events such as the Giro d’Italia where light­ing was re­quired, the new 125 was sup­plied with a crankshaft-mounted gen­er­a­tor. The chas­sis was prac­ti­cally iden­ti­cal to the 1952 cham­pi­onship win­ner, with tele­scopic forks with a sin­gle shock ab­sorber mounted in front of the steer­ing head, swing­ing arm rear sus­pen­sion and a full dou­ble cra­dle tubu­lar steel frame. Both wheels were 19 inch, with a sub­stan­tial (for a 125) 180mm front brake. A 15-litre al­loy fuel tank and a 3-litre oil tank were both finely sculpted in true Ital­ian style, and the neat lit­tle racer scaled it at a svelte 75kg dry. De­spite a hefty price that would have paid for a Manx Nor­ton, the Sport Com­pe­tizione found plenty of buy­ers and was a ma­jor fil­lip to the 125 class. It con­tin­ued in limited pro­duc­tion un­til the end of 1956, but even ten years later, plenty of the red rock­ets were still on the grids around the world, although now fight­ing a los­ing bat­tle against the Ja­panese two and four strokes. DOHC con­ver­sions were mar­keted from 1955, and a stretched 203cc ver­sion cre­ated for use in the 250cc class, although only a hand­ful were built.

Colo­nial MVs

When the new 125 MV Agus­tas be­came avail­able for the 1953 Euro­pean sea­son, there were more buy­ers than bikes, de­spite the ask­ing price. How­ever one man who could af­ford one was Bendigo mo­tel owner Jack Wal­ters, and he man­aged to buy one and have it shipped to Mel­bourne, ar­riv­ing in time for the Fish­er­men’s Bend meet­ing in Oc­to­ber 1953. Wal­ters pur­chased the MV at the 1953 Isle of Man TT from the team’s works rider Les Gra­ham, who won the 125 TT on the works dou­ble-knocker but was trag­i­cally killed in the Se­nior race later in the week when he crashed at the foot of Bray Hill.

Over the next decade, Wal­ters pur­chased five of the 125 MVs. His own well pub­li­cised de­but came to nought how­ever, when the new MV seized in prac­tice and was un­able to be re­paired in time to take the grid at Fish­er­men’s Bend. Three weeks later, with the engine re­paired and tweaked jet­ting in the Dell’Orto car­bu­ret­tor, Wal­ters com­peted in the first meet­ing to be held at the 2.9 mile cir­cuit within the Army Camp at Ban­di­ana, near Wodonga. Although the bark of the lit­tle four-stroke was dis­tinc­tive amongst the two-strokes, Wal­ters could only man­age a dis­tant fourth be­hind the highly-tuned Ban­tam BSAs of win­ner Mau­rie Quincey, Ken Rum­ble and Eric Miller. Wal­ters strug­gled to get on even terms with the rapid Ban­tams and their star rid­ers, but he fi­nally got the bet­ter of them at the big Ban­di­ana meet­ing in Jan­uary 1955 when 10,000 spec­ta­tors piled in to see World Cham­pion Ge­off Duke in ac­tion on his works Gil­era-4. In a hard-fought 4 lap race, Wal­ters de­feated in­ter­na­tional rider Bob Brown af­ter ear­lier dis­pos­ing of Mau­rie Quincey on the Walsh Ban­tam. In record­ing MV Agusta’s first win in Aus­tralia, he also set a new 125cc lap record. By mid 1955, there was a se­cond MV in the coun­try, in the hands of Ital­ian im­mi­grant Gai Ce­sario, who made his lo­cal de­but at Dar­ley in June. On the grid for the In­ter­na­tional meet­ing at Mil­dura on Jan 1 1956 were no fewer than three 125 MVs for Wal­ters, Max Brum­head, and Col Brown rid­ing a ma­chine owned by Tony Street. As far back as 1954, Len Tin­ker, from War­rnam- bool in Vic­to­ria, had raced a SOHC MV 125 in Europe – the first Aus­tralian to com­pete in the small­est class – and took the bike with him to North Amer­ica, where he rode in USA and Canada be­fore sell­ing it. Back in Europe with his brother Neil, Len bought an­other 125 di­rect from the fac­tory, along with one of the 203cc ver­sions. Neil also had a 125, and the brothers and their three MVs plied the Con­ti­nen­tal Cir­cus with some suc­cess un­til Len re­turned home af­ter the 1958 sea­son and Neil moved to Canada. Back home, Len and his rather scruffy but re­li­able

Where it be­gan; the 98cc MV ‘Lusso’ of 1947.

1952 Isle of Man TT win­ner and 125cc World Cham­pion, Ce­cil Sand­ford on the works MV Agusta.

Sports ver­sion of the 98cc MV, the Corsa.

ABOVE The Aus­tralian de­but of Jack Wal­ters’ new MV at Fish­er­men’s Bend in 1953. RIGHT Eric Hin­ton on Len Tin­ker’s 125 MV at Da­ley in No­vem­ber, 1959. Two-stroke fore­run­ner; The ‘Carter lungo’ (Long sump) 125 in the MV Mu­seum, Italy.

ABOVE Jack Wal­ters new MV in the pits at Ban­di­ana. RIGHT Jack Wal­ters warms up his MV at Fish­er­men’s Bend, circa 1957.

ABOVE Last gasps; 1960 Bathurst 125 win­ner Ken Rum­ble keeps his MV just ahead of Alan Os­borne’s Honda. CEN­TRE RIGHT Kel Carruthers on the Daniel MV at the 1961 Easter Bathurst meet­ing. RIGHT Clem Daniel with his MV in the Bathurst pits in 1961.

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