Magni Lemans 1000

Introduced at the Milan Expo in November of 1985 Arturo Magni’s Lemans 1000 was an upscale take on the Moto Guzzi model using the same name, in alternate spelling. The first Guzzi-powered Magni and the first sold as a complete motorcycle, that same-but-different theme plays out to the end. This starts with Arturo’s version of Lino Tonti’s Sport frame and the new-for-1985 949cc Le Mans sportbike engine. Forcella Italia forks control the front, and twin 76-series Koni shocks incorporate into Magni’s pinion-taming swingarm design. Finished in the House of Magni, the family-made EPM wheels and body shell intertwine with various production pieces like the stock wiring loom, instruments, brake components, and rear drive housing. Available in factory spec tune or (reportedly) opened to 1116cc, the Magni Lemans 1000 weighs 429-lb.

You’re forgiven if Magni’s Lemans is news to you. Except for Bruno De Prato’s excellent report in Cycle magazine (July 1986) coverage of the Magni Lemans in the USA was non-existent. This lack of press extended to the majority of European production during and after the superbike 70s, with Cycle (and later Cycle Guide) being the editorial exceptions. Coverage wasn’t an issue in the UK or Europe, where Magni’s work as MV Agusta race director was acknowledged. Dominate in post-war GP action, big-budget MV’s all-star team of riders spun Magni-prepped works threes and fours to more world titles than any maker. Ever. Credited then as the driving force and since confirmed, Count Domenico Agusta’s 1971 passing changed the tides for MV’s motorbike division. The racing ended in 1975 and soon after, remaining management pared away the famous red street fours to concentrate on aviation. Not ready to retire, Magni began his namesake firm in 1977 with sons Carlo and Giovanni, crafting fast MV sports bikes and adding a new performance chassis soon after. Arturo was involved in or assisted various post-factory efforts (-Hanson MV in Germany) but with a limited number of available engines, Magni was forced to look elsewhere.   

Events during the eight-years preceding Magni’s first Moto Guzzi deepens perspective. For me at least, it’s largely a mystery, but a few hints exist. It was easy to predict the shortage of MV fours would dictate another source for engines, and Arturo’s choice of the Honda’s Bol d’Or four was a logical first step. The 900cc DOHC multi fit in a modified version of Magni’s MV frame, but the first Honda (MH1) kit used much of the original machine, including the fork and wheels. The following MH2 was tarted with premium suspensions, son Carlo’s (alloy or magnesium) EPM wheels and works-style MV bodywork. By 1982 Honda was phasing out the design in favor of the new V-Four, so finding a willing base in Germany Magni fulfilled requests to re-define the BMW opposed twin using his own frame. Following previous practice by offering the MB1 and MB2 kits for differing levels of flash and dash. Very much in the performance/luxury mold, the MB2 was unlike anything Magni had done before, but alas, the arrival of the liquid-cooled K100 flat four drew interest away from Magni’s squared-off wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance.

Finding a willing partner with Moto Guzzi, note the frame’s remarkable similarity to Tonti’s original V7S design; retaining the pattern of the triangular point at the pivot, rail pattern, even Tonti’s preferred 28-degree fork angle. This photo, sent by Japan’s Ritmo-Sereno shows the top horizontal rails running behind the down tubes to connect the steering head bottom, the bottom rails sweeping past to the top. The cross-brace just above the alternator doubles as the frame joint and differs from the original location near the front engine mount. Like the production Le Mans 1000, the rear frame subrails rise to attach the seat unit, with Magni dropping square-section struts to work as exhaust hangers. Made from beefy 32mm, argon-welded Cr-Mo tube, Magni’s frame is both stronger and lighter than the factory unit.

A rumored 200-or so Magni Lemans 1000s were produced between 1986 and 1989. This means there’s slim chance you’ll see one, unless mingling with the elite at the Hotel Berchtesgaden or some other posh Alpine resort. That said, there’s plenty of reading available from the Euro press of the era, and the best is from the previously mentioned De Prato. Testing the bike at Monza’s Junior circuit, Bruno praised both the machine’s stability and its sensitive input. This is surprising, as the design’s rakish fork and high engine (crankshaft center 17” from earth) would suggest slower steering. Sure, the whittled alloy trees, anti dive fork, lightweight wheels and 2-piece fixed (not floating) Brembo brakes all contribute to the Magni’s alure, but the focus plainly falls on the Parallelogramo rear suspensions system. Engineered by Arturo in 1950 for lead Ing. Remor’s shaft-drive Gilera Four racer, the fixed arms and bearings eliminate drive gear pinion climb (or drop) while maintaining normal suspension action. This is aided further by a dual u-joint driveshaft that relieves binding when not in alignment. Simply concluding the Magni Lemans 1000 as “a world apart”, De Prato included the slashing red 1000 on a very short list of the best handling motorcycles available in 1986.

De Prato reported he couldn’t fully explore the limits of the chassis with the standard Le Mans engine, but his test rig still managed to trigger Monza’s timing lights at 143-mph. Impressive, considering the Magni bested Yamaha’s speedy FJ 1100 wearing the factory air box, frame breather and exhaust. All were needed to meet regulation in both Japan and Germany (Magni’s biggest export destinations) and the stock components fit as engineered together. A brief review shows the engine was prepared by Moto Guzzi with nickel-silicon bores set in squared-off barrels – courtesy of De Tomaso’s 1980/81 modernization program. Specifications for the engine: 90-deg, 949cc 2v twin with 47/40mm inlet/exhaust valves, deep sump, 10.0.1 pistons, Dell’Orto PHM 40mm carbs and the racing kit’s B10 camshaft.

Concerning driveline components the standard five-speed transmission, dry clutch and bevel gearing also carried over, but specs for Magni’s advertised 1116cc big bore tuning kit are unknown. So while most of the period-testers mentioned this mythical engine, I’m beginning to have my doubts it existed. Record holding Guzzi racer Bill Ross identified Magni’s 82mm stroker crank as a reality, but available pistons and connecting-rods don’t figure mathematically. That is not to say Magni couldn’t specify these special parts to be manufactured, but not a trace of them have been found in my circle of Guzzisti.

Running on a hunch, some of the comments and interviews I’ve read suggest Magni’s Lemans continued the theme introduced on the lavishly appointed Magni BMW II; a machine Arturo was justifiably proud of. Mostly finished in red/black or white/gray, the vented bodywork is a one-piece cover fitting over an aluminum fuel cell. The fairing is a multi-piece structure with openings for the cylinders, a distinctive curved screen and inside a built-in dash loosely based on the factory layout. Both a side stand and main stand were included. Following trend, Magni’s customers asked for and received stripped down Classico and Sfida variants made to resemble MV racers, leaving the Magni Lemans 1000 as one of only two factory-supported extensions of the famous Le Mans sportsbike. What’s the other? Stay tuned. Nolan Woodbury

Magni Lemans 1000 (1985)
Engine: 949cc, 2v Le Mans 1000. 2 -PHM 40, frame breather, factory airbox and black chrome exhaust, B10 camshaft. Possible uprating to 94mm x 80mm (1110cc) 94mm x 81.2 (1127cc)
Transmission: Five speed
Clutch: Two-disc dry
Frame: double cradle, Cr-Mo steel tube 28-degree steering head angle
Fork: 40mm Forcella Italia fully adjustable/w external anti-dive
Rear suspension: Koni 76-series Magni double swingarm Parallelogramo
Wheels: 2 x 18″ EPM cast alloy
Brakes: Brembo 2 x 280mm front, 1 x 260 cast iron drilled w/2p calipers
Max length: 86.2″
Seat height: 28.3″
Wheelbase: 59.4″
Dry weight: 429-lb
Top speed: 140+ mph

Photos: Bruno De Prato. Rolf Jenssen, Ritmo, Wolfgang Krueger

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