Magni Lemans 1000

Introduced at Milan in November 1985 the Magni Lemans 1000 is an uprated version of the Guzzi production model of the same name, in alternative spelling. That same-but-different theme continues all through the Magni’s build, starting with founder Arturo Magni’s version of the Lino Tonti cradle bolting up the new-for-1985 Le Mans sportbike engine. Forcella Italia forks are used in place of the stock Guzzi legs, but the twin 76-series Koni shocks are carried over. The frame’s rear section is engineered to incorporate Magni’s dual beam Parallelogramo swingarm, while the 18” EPM (Magni) cast wheels and sectioned body shell mix with various production pieces including the wiring harness, Vegila clocks, Brembo calipers and the rear drive housing. Available in stock 949cc tune or opened to an optional 1090cc, the Mangi Lemans weighs just 429-lb dry.

Originally posted in 2019, this rewrite is labeled version II but I’ve updated it many times. Always keeping the lines of communication open in our search for more information, some new details recently emerged to deepen the historical perspective of Magni’s first Moto Guzzi sports bike, Much credit is given to Dutch enthusiast Willem van der Togt, who himself has invested work and miles on a Magni-built 1100cc Classico, and many other Guzzi specials. Not knowing his connections to Magni in Italy, the years Willem spent researching and collecting Magni related material certainly benefits both this writer and the readers here, with Willem’s ownership experience tossed in for free. Using our own magazine and advert archives (many of these, gifted by Magni owners) and fundamental searches online, it’s fairly easy to piece together Magni’s production schedule. Happily, Willem has filled in some of the numbers fitting inside that timeline, giving us a better pattern of Magni’s engineering details. Well aware that all of my questions could be answered by director Giovanni Magni, my queries have mostly gone unanswered. I’m told it’s best to visit in person, which is exactly what WMM contributor Bill Ross (shown here at with Giovanni) did in 2002.

Promoted and priced as an exotic sports bike with strong ties to fabled MV, US riders who missed Bruno De Prato’s test in the July, 1986 issue of Cycle probably didn’t know it existed. Crediting this glaring lack of international reach as the main reason I got into journalism, that lack of European focus simply wasn’t as prevalent in the UK, Europe or even Japan, where Magni’s success in MV Agusta’s racing program received proper respect. Dominate in post-war open class Gran Prix, MV’s all-star roster of heroic riders piloted Magni-prepped racers to more manufacture and rider world titles than any other factory in history. Still. Accurately credited as the driving force, Count Domenico Agusta’s 1971 passing began the countdown to extinction for MV’s famous fours. Racing ended in 1975 and soon after, remaining management chopped motorcycle production to concentrate solely on Agusta’s aviation wares. Too young to retire and having key contacts, Arturo began his namesake company in 1977 with sons Carlo and Giovanni, crafting hi-po bits for the MV’s street four then expanding with a new chassis two-years later.

Events during the eight-years preceding Magni’s first Moto Guzzi deepens perspective and establishes some manufacturing patterns. It was easy to predict the shortage of MV fours would dictate the need for another engine, and the choosing of Honda’s 900cc Bol d’Or four was a logical first step. The DOHC, 16v air-cooled multi fit in a modified Magni/MV frame, but the first Magni Honda (MH1) kit retained the original fork, wheels, brakes and various components. Following close behind, the MH2 was constructed in-house or delivered with premium suspensions – son Carlo’s EPM wheels and MV bodywork. Informed by Honda in 1982 that the inline was being phased out, Magni fulfilled requests to redefine BMW’s long running airhead opposed twin with Magni panache. As before, the MB1 and MB2 offered differing levels of flash and budgeting. Getting my vote for motorcycling’s most beautiful sports tourer ever, the MB2 was unlike anything Arturo had done before. History repeating itself, the arrival of 1983’s K100 inline four drew interest away from Magni’s swoopy new wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance.

(Hansen 1100 Gran Prix from MV’s German importer, Arturo Magni consulting. Germany would become a key export destination for Magni. 900cc MH1 pairs Magni frame with varied Honda parts. Kevin J. Martin in USA mated Magni’s MB1 kit to his BMW airhead. Full Magni MB2 in motion from Motorrad)

Sent with translations by Willem, a German interview with Arturo (and, I assume son Gio) conducted in 1989 revealed many important details. Leading in with the tuner’s well known background, the text suggests Magni wanted to offset the use of imported engines by offering a 100% Italian machine. “In 1985, I approached Mr. De Tomaso and we got an agreement to use Guzzi engines,” said Arturo. “Since that time, we have produced around 300 motorbikes, the latest being the Sfida.” Stripped of its body, note Magni’s frame as remarkably similar to Guzzi’s production unit, retaining the trademark triangular point rising from the swingarm pivot, top rails through the cylinders, detachable lower rails – even Tonti’s preferred 28-degree fork angle. More trail was added through custom triple-trees, this to quicken steering. Strong and beautiful, the top rails run inside of the front down tubes to connect the steering head lower. Sweeping past, the bottom rails connect above.

Cross-braced three times on top, the front brace attachment differs from Tonti’s design that welds tubes at the stem with plates. Magni’s cross-brace just above the alternator doubles on each side as a frame detachment joint, differing again from the factory location but not unlike some racing MVs. Like the production Le Mans 1000, the rear rails climb to attach seat pan, with Magni dropping square-section struts to fasten the exhausts. Made primarily of 32mm OD, 1.5mm ID argon-welded chrome moly Magni’s frame is stronger and lighter…somewhat offsetting the weight added by Arturo’s dual beam swinging arm. Another nod to Tonti, the Magni’s wheelbase is nearly identical to the factory Le Mans.

Per Willem’s list, 60 of the 300 Magnis made between 1985-89 were Lemans models. That is odd, given De Prato’s test at Monza was truly eye opening. Despite the healthy rake and high engine mounting that normally leads to slow steering, De Prato praised the Magni’s stability and reaction to input – two accolades that rarely run together. Its milled parts, Forcella fork and EPM wheels all add up, but the Parallelogramo remains Magni’s most distinctive feature. Drawn decades before for Remor’s Gilera Four shaftie, the isolated arms and locking pivots eliminate gear pinion climb (or drop) while maintaining normal suspension action. More details: a dual u-joint driveshaft that relieves binding but fits close to the tire. Even after moving the engine 30mm to the right. Concluded as being “A world apart” by De Prato, the Magni Lemans was included on his very short list of the best handling motorcycles available in 1986.

(Parallelogramo swinging arm prevents unwanted pinion climb. De Prato at Monza 1985; 143-mph on the Monza straight. Magni tubework is artistic)

One major revision is the info collected from new (to us) factory literature and assorted monthly tests, primarily from German bi-weekly Motorrad and Superbike in the UK. Citing previously unknown sources and specific design aspects, some of the data conflicted. Perhaps something was lost in translation, but it can be confirmed that Italy’s Morbidelli Benelli Armi (Morbidelli V8) was contracted to manufacture Magni frames, and likely more. Giovanni explained that prototypes were built in-house before the final design was released. More questions about sister company EPM wheels came up too, but research is incomplete. “Well tooled, Mangi is certainly capable of building a complete bike in house,” says Bill Ross reflecting on his visit. “I saw rows of frames…albeit for Magni minibikes, and V11 fiberglass work was happening too.”


“We only had interest in Italy for the Lemans,” said Giovanni Magni in a 1991 interview. “None of our foreign customers were really interested. We made some, but not that many. We asked what they wanted and the answer was more traditional, with a half fairing and spoke wheels in the MV style”

Speaking of bodywork, Superbike magazine reported Magni designed and made all of the Lemans bodywork, but Motorrad cited German engineer Claude Bonnin (winner of Motorrad’s 1983 Motorcycle Design Competition) “for the elegant shape of the Le Mans 1100 fairing”. Testing a 1100cc Sfida in its March 1991 issue, Superbike quoted Giovanni’s take on the discontinued Lemans; “There was only interest for the Lemans in Italy. We made some, but not that many. We were selling more to Germany and Japan, so we asked those markets what they wanted and the response was a traditional MV-style with half fairing and spoke wheels like the works racers.” Superbike based the Lemans’ rejection on it being “too Japanese” and it  may be true. In any case, Giovanni Magni was now managing the operation, and his input on the Lemans was considerable.

Having scraps of technical info before, the materials found by Willem, Joe Caruso, Bill, Alex Woodbury and myself all worked to piece together the details of Magni’s big bore kit. According to De Prato, the Lemans couldn’t fully explore the limits of its chassis with the standard Le Mans 949cc engine, but his (well circulated) test rig still managed to trigger the Monza timing lights at 143-mph. Developed in conjunction with the Lemans and fit to Motorrad’s 1985 test bike, the kit upped capacity to 1090cc by adding 4mm to both the bore and stroke. Who supplied Magni’s 82mm stroker crank, bored cylinders and 92mm domed pistons is unknown, but it that’s the extent of Magni’s modifications. Save for its ‘1100’ lettering it’s indistinguishable from the 1000, both fitting the factory airbox, frame breather and (most with) black exhausts engineered in place. On record until proven otherwise, both tuning packages feature 47/40mm diameter inlet/exhaust valves, deep sump, Dell’Orto PHM 40mm pumper carbs and the 850 PR’s racing B10 camshaft, driven via timing chain. The standard five-speed transmission, twin-plate clutch and 7/33 rear drive gearing also carry over. “The big bore adds a useful increase of torque from low rpm to upper midrange,” says Willem, who tuned his factory 1100 Classico to an even higher degree. “But in terms of peak power, the kit didn’t offer much, if any more than the factory 949cc tune.”

(1100cc made the Lemans even more impressive, per Motorrad. Some comparisons were made to the CBR 1000F Hurricane, but the Magni came first. Standard Le Mans 1000 cockpit rearranged in Magni dash, switches are upscale. This example fits K&N oval filters in place of the factory airbox.)

(In dashing white with blue, grey, and silver accents, Rolf Jenssen collected this Magni Lemans 1000 some years ago. Hunting them down, Rolf located and purchased a set of red bodywork to transform the bike’s graphics at his whim. Note polished edges on wheels, mainstand grab handle)  

I’m maintaining the position that Magni’s Lemans continued the theme introduced on the lavishly appointed MB2; a machine Arturo was justifiably proud of. Some in red with white trim (in B&W and 1100cc) most were finished in red/black or white/gray. Fastened by screws, the entire tank/seat/sides is a monoque cover fitting over an aluminum fuel cell. The seat is surprisingly well padded. Made in sections to ease service chores, the fairing has openings for the cylinders and a sexy inlaid screen. Part of the factory wiring harness, the Le Mans 1000’s Veglia clocks and function lights fit in the fairing’s built-in dash, but I’m less certain about the Magni’s evolving controls. First issue models plainly used the 85/86 Le Mans switches and dogleg levers, but following bike used more sophisticated ‘Vimercati’ components and milled lever mounts. Some apologies might be in order, for in all the searching and research I never bothered to check what it cost. Truth is, the Magni was a bargain and still is, shockingly. You’ll likely pay more for a 750 GT roundcase, but I don’t care. Lots of riders have a fantasy machine. The Lemans is mine.

Production analysis – Willem van der Togt

(Note; This chart is a work in progress, and incomplete. However, the information listed can be trusted as a general production guideline. Please contact us via email for more details or if you have information to share:

Magni BMW twin: (150)
Magni Honda DOHC: (250)
1985-1986 Magni Lemans 1000 (red/black, white/blue/silver: (60)
1987-1988 Magni Classico/Arturo (Max production capacity: 150-per year = 300)
1989 Sfida NA
1993 Australia (Supply of 4v engines stopped): (90)
1995 Sfida monoshock/Giappone 52 NA
1999 Magni 1200S – Suzuki: (10)

Perhaps the most important revision to this report is bringing some personal experience to the table. Purchased by a mutual friend at Bonhams in Las Vegas a few years back, Bill Ross’s 1990 (build date: 1989) Arturo 1000 is his second Magni. Joining the naked Classico on Magni’s 1988 docket, both of these machines were based on the preceding Lemans. Accepting his offer for a ride, Bill’s prep and refurbishing erased years of storage cobwebs; starting on the button and functioning as new. Even though we’re close, I was more than a bit tentative blasting the rare Arturo past SoCal’s distracted tailgaters, but the experience was thrilling. At normal city and highway speeds the Magni feels like a beefy Lemans, due mostly to its nearly identical size and ergos. In just a little time the weight difference became noticeable in left-to-right transitions or squeezing the brakes. Naturally, both stability and power is intensified being nearly 100-lb lighter than the stock LMIV, and there’s more than enough thrust generated by the stock 949cc Le Mans. Bill explained the graphic differences he experienced pushing the bike harder. “Upping the pace the bike gets tighter and lighter on its feet…even ‘way up there’ the stability is uncanny. It always feels secure and planted, but the steering precision allows no drama line changes. I’m a big fan of the 16” Le Mans and my 1000 SE is a favorite, but like someone said, the Magni is another world apart.”

Finished for now, new contacts will certainly inspire yet another revision of this article. These importers and owners are critical in our quest to report historically accurate, and therefore useful information. For this writer, a newfound respect for long time director Giovanni Magni, who no doubt can express the challenges of following a legend. Visiting will show the current offerings (currently the stunning MV-powered Filo Rosso) are built in the same exact spirit of ingenuity and passion, yet all Magni products old and new can still be serviced or restored at the factory. Joining other special frame standouts in what must be the most underappreciated segment in all of motorcycling, the Magni Lemans is a intense vintage sports bike with toughness and real teeth. A masterpiece from master craftsmen, Magni’s provenance ranks it among the elite. Nolan Woodbury

Magni Lemans 1000 / 1100 (1985)
Engine: 949cc, 2v Le Mans 1000. 2 -PHM 40, frame breather, factory airbox and black chrome exhaust, B10 camshaft. Optional uprating to 92mm (Asso) pistons x 82mm Magni stroker crank (1090cc)
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. Not linked.
Max length: 86.2″
Seat height: 28.3″
Wheelbase: 59.4″
Dry weight: 429-lb
Top speed: 145 (+) mph

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