Moto Guzzi V1000 Le Mans Part 1
Many claim it doesn’t exist, but the Agostini’s of Mandello know otherwise. From Italy to Germany comes the best Guzzi superbike you’ve never heard of.
What if I told you that in 1980, a special order of Guzzi sports bikes were made to outgun the world’s fastest production motorcycles? Largely ignored in the press, little was known of this limited edition export to Germany, introduced five-years before the world market machine. Given Guzzi’s past GP accomplishments it’s not beyond imagination, even if Mandello’s V-twin originated from a touring heavyweight. Benefiting from years of bruising endurance competition and decades of experimental tuning, specification for the big bore Le Mans demonstrates clear intent…leaving only its omission from history to explain. Questions and doubt often swirl around rare or exotic specials, but thanks to a favorable alignment of the stars, the following will show Guzzi’s forgotten superbike not only existed, but influenced future production.
The seeds of this writing project were planted long ago, 1983 to be exact, while leafing through the November issue of Cycle Guide magazine. Keen on Guzzi from age 17 and owning a V7, it’s no surprise the transcontinental teaser from German Guzzi importer DMB caused me to pause. “For most sport riders a stock Moto Guzzi Le Mans 850 is enough,” reads the headline. “For DMB, it’s just a starting point.” Clearly based on the (then) new Le Mans III, this was done up with a twin-lamp fairing and other custom parts. “Up to 992cc and 140-MPH plus on the Autobahn too.” It took decades to learn this was a 3rd gen DMB-built model, covered in Part two. As time passed I collected everything on the V1000 I could find, but recently, key contacts expanded the research. That said, this report would not exist without archivists Bill Ross (USA) Joe Caruso (UK) and the transcription/editing work of Alex Woodbury. A very fine team.
Founded in 1921, Moto Guzzi lead engineer Lino Tonti earned much acclaim fifty-years on for his V700 to V7 Sport transformation. Established as director, Alejandro de Tomaso’s 1972 arrival at Guzzi altered company course, shifting emphasis from the twin to a range of badge-engineered inlines culminating in the Benelli SEI. The six failed to catch on, but in 1975 Guzzi delivered DeTomaso a winner with the highly acclaimed Le Mans 850; Mandello’s brightest star. Contesting for sales in a market that evolved almost monthly, by 1979 Guzzi’s 850 lacked the GS1000’s dash and the CBX flash, but plans were being made to change that. “Many Le Mans pilots made us understand they want a more sporty motorcycle with more displacement and more power,” said Motobecane CEO Fritz Schaper in a 1980 report published in Germany’s Motorrad magazine. “Therefore DMB have decided to launch a small, special series on our own. The V1000 Le Mans II was developed especially for the Federal Republic.“
Draw a direct line between DMB’s 1000 to a pair of V7 Sport racers campaigned by Mandello dealer Duilio Agostini, once a factory GP Champion. Finding success post-comp as a tuner, opportunity arrived when De Tomaso closed Moto Guzzi’s race shop in 1972. This inspired Agostini and a group of key partners (some released by the company after 1967’s state-funded SEIMM takeover) to seize the gauntlet and continue V-twin development offsite. Eventually opened to 850cc, Agostini’s racers were entered into popular events throughout Europe, and the competition not only offered exposure, but proved an ideal laboratory for testing. What passed was added into Agostini’s manifesto, and with it much attention. Not interested in self promotion, Duilio poured his energy into making his Guzzi tuning parts available to the riding public.
Standard Le Mans production began with three 850s, followed by a succession of 949cc models from 1985-93. After the 850 II’s 1979 release, DMB contacted Mandello for a bigger version, but this had become a common request at Moto Guzzi. The factory had already begun production of the Le Mans CX100 for Berliner/USA; created by mixing the 850 II and 949cc touring engine. “Guzzi management didn’t appreciate that dealers were modifying their products,” says Alis Agostini, who assumed control after Dulio retired in 1980. “An agreement between us and the factory did exist, but as opposed to a conventional order, production of the V1000 II was more of a personal agreement between my dad and Mr. Giuseppe Ermellini; export manager for Moto Guzzi.” Ms. Agostini went on to relay several other bits of news, including the purchase of Guzzi-made camshaft blanks for Agostini’s special performance grind. “There was some, shall we say, ‘unofficial’ support inside the factory.”
In a recent bio prepared by Alis and sponsored by the Carlo Guzzi Club (founded by Duilio) it was reported Agostini’s first licensed workshop opened in 1956, located at the old AGIP station in Mandello. Moving into a three-story emporium in 1977, the Agostini dealership became a destination for enthusiast friends and families world wide, and is still in operation today. Interestingly, new Le Mans 850 II models (shown here in white, on test at Motorrad in 1980) taken from Guzzi’s storehouse in Lecco were reworked by Duilio’s tuners at this old workshop, tooled up for engine building, machine work and other serious tuning or fabrication projects. Seeing the target set by dashing Ducati Desmos, ripping Jota triples and Asia’s ever rapid DOHC fours, these hand-picked components resulted in more power and more speed behind the Agostini bubble.
Duilio Agostini bio, a national hero. AGIP station prior to Agostini works shop transformation. The family still owns it. Duilio and daughter Alis Agostini.
“It was a crazy system,” says Peter Horvath of the V1000 transformation process. Becoming a highly successful expert in his own right as Horvath Moto Guzzi in Austria, Peter was just starting out when hired in January of 1980 to build engines at Agostini. “Officially, Guzzi delivered ten Le Mans 850 IIs at a time to German importer Deutsche Motobecane, via a company that shipped bikes from the Guzzi factory to Lecco. We’d go to this warehouse, take the bike from the crate, fasten a tank with fuel, a battery, then ride back to Mandello. The tuning package was identical for each, and once finished, the bikes were returned to their crates in Lecco for shipment to Germany.” Wrenches spun well into the night, according to Horvath, as Peter and English mechanic John Gahan completed seventy-five V1000 Le Mans II motorcycles that year. Note: Round headlight fairing on this V1000 prototype. Originally developed for the round light 850, this one wears 850 badges too.