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 alternative spelling. The first Guzzi-powered Magni and the first sold as a complete machine, 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 company’s 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 opened to a full on 1116cc, the Magni Lemans 1000 weighs just 429-lb dry.

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 Euro production during and after the superbike 70s, with Cycle (and later Cycle Guide) being the editorial exception. Coverage wasn’t an issue in the UK or Europe, where Magni’s work as MV Agusta’s racing director was lauded and acknowledged. Dominate in post-war GP action, big-budget MV’s all-star team of riders spun Magni-prepped MV Agusta works motorcycles to more world titles than anyone. Ever. Credited as the driving force in his post-war effort, 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 fours to concentrate on aviation. Not ready to retire, Magni began his namesake firm in 1977 with sons Carlo and Giovanni, crafting fast MV fours and adding a new performance chassis soon after. Arturo was involved in or assisted various post-factory efforts (including Hanson MV in Germany) but with a limited number of available engines forced Magni to look elsewhere.   

Events during the eight-years preceding Magni’s first Moto Guzzi deepens perspective, and still very much a mystery, may offer a few hints too. It was easy to predict the shortage of MV fours dictate the need for an alternate engine, and Arturo’s choice of the Honda 900cc Bol d’Or four was a logical first step. The DOHC multi fit in a modified version of Magni’s MV frame, but the first Magni 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, but by 1982 Honda was phasing out the design in favor of the new V-Four. Finding a willing base in Germany, Magni fulfilled requests to redefine the BMW opposed twin using his own frame, and followed 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. Alas, the arrival of the ground breaking K100 four drew interest away from Magni’s squared-off wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance.

Note the frame’s remarkable similarity to Tonti’s original, 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 run behind the downtubes to connect the steering head bottom, and 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 adding 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 (mostly) in mild steel. Indeed, the savings might have helped offset the extra weight added by Magni’s dual beam Parallelogramo swinging arm.

A rumored 200-odd Magni Lemans 1000s were produced between 1986 and 1989, meaning there’s a slim chance you’ll see one unless mingling with the elite at the Hotel Berchtesgaden or some other five-star 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, De Prato 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 triple-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 Guzzi as “a world apart” by De Prato, the Lemans 1000 was included on a very short list of the best handling motorcycles available in 1986.

According to De Prato, the Magni couldn’t fully explore the limits of its chassis with the standard 949cc engine, but his test rig still managed to trigger Monza’s timing lights at 143-mph. Impressive? We say yes, considering the Lemans bested Yamaha’s speedy FJ 1100 wearing the factory air box, frame breather and exhaust.  Needed to meet regulations in both Japan and Germany (Magni’s biggest import destinations) the stock components fit as if they were engineered together. A brief review shows the engine was prepared by Moto Guzzi with nickel-silicon bores set in barrels squared-off during De Tomaso’s modernization program of 1980/81. The specifications will be familiar to those who know the Le Mans line; 949cc, 90-degree pushrod 2v twin with 47/40mm inlet/exhaust valves, deep sump, domed 10.0.1 pistons, Dell’Orto PHM 40mm pumper carbs and the racing 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. Even though most of the tests 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 piston sizes and con-rods don’t figure mathematically. That is not to say Magni didn’t specify these special parts, but not a trace of them have been found since.

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 sportbike. 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 tub3 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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