Two August Agustas

Text: James T. Parks • Photography: James T. Parks

Early morning light bathes the seductively shaped sculptures in warm radiance. Curvaceous bodywork, distinctively flared fuel tanks, brilliant red paint and the assertive thrust of those symmetric silencers denote great style and speed. The marque badges, with their iconic lettering, simply proclaim the obvious: MV Agusta.

Near the end of World War II, with Italy's defeat looming, it was eminently clear to Count Domenico Agusta that the days of producing military aircraft at his family's manufacturing facility near Milan were numbered. Italians would need affordable transportation after the war; and so the factory was converted in the war's last days to produce motor scooters and, later, motorcycles. The post-war financial success of this venture allowed the Count to indulge in the passions of his youth: motorcycles, mechanical engineering and motor sport.

Count Domenico oversaw all aspects of the Agusta racing program, including the selection of riders. During the 1960s and early 1970s, when his racing teams went head-to-head with the likes of Honda and Yamaha, Agusta established itself as perhaps the most highly successful motorcycle racing marque at the time.

The 1971 MV Agusta 750 S was the second street model offering the in-line four-cylinder engine developed in Agusta's racing program. A 600cc touring bike came out first with an in-line four, but there was such a loud enthusiasts' outcry for the 750 racing model that Count Dominico finally relented and allowed a limited production run of the 750 Sport. With its sexy styling and distinctively sculpted fuel tank, the 750 S is considered by many collectors to be one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever to put tires on the street.

However, the 750 S was a commercial failure in its day, resulting in a total production run of less than 700 bikes. Because the 750 S had a racing bike's complex design, it was not well-suited for low-cost mass production. Its substantially higher price tag constrained it from being competitive in a market offering similarly performing motorcycles for much less. Though not right for the times, a bike's low production numbers, beautiful styling, and an iconic racing marque often are just the right ingredients that create a highly collectible motorcycle several decades later. And in this case that's exactly what happened.

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For the complete article of the riding impression(s) and technical specifications, please purchase the September/October 2008 back issue.