MV Agusta 350 GT

The big­ger GT with a sporty heart per­forms mul­ti­ple roles. we swing a leg over the icon


THE LIT­TLE MV’S NAME is 350 GT and, at first glance, I had ex­pected it to live up to those ini­tials. High han­dle­bars, a rel­a­tively large dual seat and that aris­to­cratic “MV Agusta” name on its tank com­bined to make this GT seem as much of a Grand Tourer as any el­derly par­al­lel twin with a ca­pac­ity of just 349 cc could pos­si­bly be.

But as the lit­tle ma­roon-and-white twin charged along the nar­row coun­try lanes, its en­gine revving hard, its ex­haust note rolling across the fields, and its taut han­dling and pow­er­ful brak­ing mak­ing it as much fun in the bends as on the straights, that GT des­ig­na­tion seemed more than a lit­tle mis­lead­ing. If this bike is a Tourer at all, it’s one with a dis­tinctly sporty heart.

I re­ally shouldn’t have been sur­prised. The 350 GT is an MV Agusta, after all, and built in the hey­day of the fa­mous old firm from Gal­larate, north of Mi­lan. When this bike was pro­duced in 1972, MV ace Gi­a­como Agostini was on his way to win­ning the mar­que’s 15th con­sec­u­tive 500-cc world cham­pi­onship and also to tak­ing yet an­other ti­tle in the 350-cc class.

Like the vast ma­jor­ity of the MV fac­tory’s pro­duc­tion, this 350 road­ster was very dif­fer­ent from the ex­otic, multi-cylin­der race bikes

rid­den to glory by Ago and Co. Ever since the Agusta firm had be­gun pro­duc­tion after World War II, most of its out­put had been rel­a­tively hum­ble sin­gle-cylin­der ma­chines. And al­though MV had un­veiled a strik­ing 350-cc sports model at the Mi­lan Show in 1955 — com­plete with gear-driven dou­ble over­head cams and elec­tric starter — it had not reached pro­duc­tion.

In the early 1960s, MV de­vel­oped a sporty 166-cc twin, called the Arno, but even this was too ex­pen­sive to be sold in any num­bers in the de­pressed Ital­ian mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket. In­stead, in 1967, the firm re­leased a less glam­orous 250-cc model, called sim­ply the 250 2 Cilin­dri, whose styling, es­pe­cially the chromed tank with its knee rub­bers, owed much to Ja­pa­nese bikes such as Suzuki’s pop­u­lar T20 Su­per Six. In 1969, the twin was re­named the 250B (for Bi­cilin­dra) and joined by a Scram­bler de­riv­a­tive that in­cor­po­rated high-level pipes but few other off-road mod­i­fi­ca­tions.

The 350 twin range was launched two years later, at the Mi­lan Show in Novem­ber 1971, and was cre­ated by bor­ing out the 249-cc unit to 349 cc, giv­ing over­square di­men­sions of 63 x 56 mm. A slightly in­creased 9.5:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio and larger 24-mm Dell’Orto car­bu­ret­tors helped boost the pushrod-op­er­ated twin’s peak out­put by 13 PS to a claimed 32 PS at 7,650 rpm. Two mod­els were in­tro­duced: the sporty 350B, with clip-on bars, an­gu­lar fuel tank and humped seat, and the more prac­ti­cal 350 GT, which fea­tured higher bars, a more rounded tank and a con­ven­tional dual seat.

Both were stylish ma­chines, their com­pact, neatly finned en­gines held in sin­gle-down­tube frames, and with their pre­dom­i­nantly red paint­work off­set by small, chromed side-pan­els. This ex­am­ple, from the UK’s lead­ing spe­cial­ist, Made In Italy (www. madeini­taly­mo­tor­cy­, was a very orig­i­nal 1972-model ma­chine that was in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion, even if its odome­ter’s 10,500 km fig­ure was surely not ac­cu­rate. The GT’s ma­roon-and-white tank car­ried a typ­i­cal MV badge on its top, show­ing a group of stars and the words: “34 volte cam­pi­one del mondo”, em­pha­siz­ing the firm’s cham­pi­onship-win­ning his­tory.

The GT was al­most com­pletely standard, apart from its carbs be­ing un­fil­tered, like those of the B model, in­stead of hav­ing the small fil­ters that they would have worn when new. To start the bike, I ap­plied a bit of choke, tick­led both carbs to get the petrol flow­ing, then stood to its left and gave a gen­tle dab of the kick-starter. The MV came to life eas­ily, with a pleas­ant par­al­lel-twin bark through its pair of chromed ex­haust pipes.

If the sound was im­prob­a­bly sporty, then the same was true of the bike’s feel, de­spite the up­right riding po­si­tion dic­tated by those high, pulled-back han­dle­bars, and foot-rests that were set fur­ther for­ward

Al­though very few were ex­ported, the GT was quite pop­u­lar in the Ital­ian mar­ket

than the B-model’s racy rear-sets. At a claimed 152 kg, the GT was light and its low seat and fairly firm sus­pen­sion helped make it feel very ag­ile and easy to ride as I snicked into first gear with the right­foot lever, let out the light clutch and ac­cel­er­ated away.

Straight-line per­for­mance was im­pres­sive for an el­derly 350-cc tourer and the bolt-up­right riding po­si­tion helped by mak­ing the lit­tle MV seem quicker than it re­ally was. The mo­tor pulled crisply from low revs, send­ing the bike rum­bling re­spectably rapidly up to an in­di­cated 120 km/h, about 6,000 rpm in top gear. Ac­cel­er­a­tion above that speed was more gen­tle, but the GT was good for a max­i­mum speed of about 150 km/h.

At low and medium revs the GT’s 360-de­gree par­al­lel twin mo­tor stayed pleas­antly smooth. The bike was happy to sit at an in­di­cated 100 km/h, feel­ing as though it could live up to its Gran Turismo la­bel by cov­er­ing some se­ri­ous dis­tance in rea­son­able com­fort. But above about 5,000 rpm the bike em­pha­sized its en­gine lay­out by vi­brat­ing a lit­tle through the seat and foot-rests; not painfully, but in­sis­tently enough to en­cour­age me to change up through the light and smoothshift­ing five-speed box, which had a heel-and-toe lever.

That meant the MV was best rid­den in a not-too-ag­gres­sive way. So al­though the racier 350B doubt­less made a more stylish and ex­cit­ing ma­chine for the youth­ful Ital­ian en­thu­si­asts of the early 1970s, the

more re­laxed GT was ar­guably a more prac­ti­cal bike. It han­dled well, too, steer­ing ef­fort­lessly with gen­tle pres­sure on those wide bars and stay­ing sta­ble with no need to wind up the fric­tion steer­ing damper at the head­stock.

That rea­son­ably firm sus­pen­sion hinted at MV’s sporty back­ground and made the bike fun to throw into bends, con­fi­dent in its gen­er­ous ground clear­ance. The Met­zeler front and Pirelli rear tyres on its 18inch wheels were nar­row, but gave very ad­e­quate grip on a cold but dry day. And the 200-mm twin-lead­ing-shoe front drum brake, iden­ti­cal to that of the 350B, did a great job of slow­ing the light MV, backed up by a sim­i­lar-sized sin­gle-lead­ing-shoe drum at the rear.

If I’d had far­ther to ride, the 350 GT’s up­right riding po­si­tion and high-rev vi­bra­tion would prob­a­bly have made it un­com­fort­able be­fore long, de­spite the rea­son­ably gen­er­ous dual seat. Nev­er­the­less, the GT was un­doubt­edly a stylish, lively, and sweet-han­dling bike — and also a fash­ion­able one, thanks to that all-con­quer­ing MV Agusta name on its tank.

Al­though very few were ex­ported, the GT was quite pop­u­lar in the Ital­ian mar­ket. The orig­i­nal model was up­rated in Oc­to­ber 1972 by the ad­di­tion of 12V electrics and elec­tronic ig­ni­tion. How­ever, MV had am­bi­tious plans for their mid­dleweight range and, at the Mi­lan Show in 1973, the firm un­veiled a new gen­er­a­tion of 350-cc par­al­lel twins. The re­vised ver­sion of the en­gine fea­tured more an­gu­lar cases, com­pletely re­worked finning, and a claimed out­put of 40 PS.

The new tour­ing model had the full name of “350 GT model 216”. It com­bined the new en­gine and frame with a fa­mil­iar GT lay­out of high bars and for­ward set foot-rests and used wire-spoked wheels, drum brakes, and gold and blue paint­work. In­evitably, the sen­si­ble GT was out­shone by its racier sta­ble-mate, the 350 Sport, whose dra­matic styling — by fa­mous car de­signer Gior­gio Gi­u­giaro — fea­tured cast wheels and a twin-disc front brake.

Both the new twins were good for a gen­uine 160 km/h and han­dled well thanks to stiff new frames and high-qual­ity sus­pen­sion. But their re­cep­tion was mixed, partly be­cause the new en­gine’s ex­tra power was ac­com­pa­nied by in­creased vi­bra­tion. Just like its pre­de­ces­sor, the 350-cc par­al­lel twin unit was highly re­garded for its per­for­mance and re­li­a­bil­ity, and even for its low fuel con­sump­tion. But be­tween 4,000 and 6,000 rpm it shook badly enough to numb its rider’s hands and feet.

Ul­ti­mately, how­ever, the new 350 GT’s main prob­lem was ex­actly the same as that of this orig­i­nal model: it was sim­ply far too ex­pen­sive, es­pe­cially to make a se­ri­ous im­pact out­side Italy. The orig­i­nal GT had never gone on sale in many ma­jor ex­port mar­kets; al­most all had been sold in Italy. By 1978, MV’s prob­lems were summed up by the fact that in many coun­tries the 350 GT cost more than Suzuki’s new GS750 four!

Sadly for MV Agusta, that in­abil­ity to of­fer its bikes at a com­pet­i­tive price hand­i­capped the firm right across its range and re­sulted in this most glam­orous of mar­ques ceas­ing pro­duc­tion later that year. The fate of the 350 GT went al­most un­no­ticed by most peo­ple amid the pub­lic­ity sur­round­ing the demise of MV’s ex­otic four-cylin­der su­per­bikes and once all-con­quer­ing race team.

Ev­i­dent style was backed by bril­liant per­for­mance

Note the right­side gear lever

High, pulled-back han­dle­bar of­fered an up­right riding po­si­tion

Rea­son­ably firm sus­pen­sion hinted at MV’s sporty back­ground

The pleas­ant par­al­leltwin bark is sporty

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