Moto Guzzi V1000 Le Mans Part 2

Duilio Agostini and his team were at it again after the release of the Le Mans III, delivering more than just big power to Germany’s cashe’ of Guzzi fans. With style, luxury and coast-to-coast high performance the V1000 Le Mans III paved the way for future development with its dominate features. Not bad for a motorcycle forgotten by time.

As reported in Part 1 of this series, the V1000 Le Mans engineered by Duilio Agostini has remained largely unknown…and not just to buyers in the USA. Rare,  but not invisible, especially for those enthusiasts keen on Europe’s wildly popular endurance racing scene of the 1970s. A quick historical review lists Charles Krajka, Stan Copelowitz, Ted Stolarski plus French importers Teston and Seudem among the fraternity of Guzzi speed merchants, each offering a 1000cc Le Mans and most (at least to start) built around Agostini’s catalog. Contacting the factory to request a larger, more competitive Le Mans, German importer Motobecane took delivery of sixty Agostini V1000s in 1980. In this segment we’ll cover the next order Agostini provided, based on the 850 III. After, we’ll look at DMB’s in-house V1000 III and finally, the world-market Le Mans 1000.

There’s a reason Moto Guzzi choose to define its existing V-twin than develop a new engine. Money, or the lack of it might have played a part in Mandello’s decision making process but much can be gained from methodical practice. Like its Euro contemporaries the Guzzi’s sleek silhouette brings instant recognition…a form of function only cultivated over time. Good as it is, when the 1980s moved so did Mandello’s spot in the market, trending down. To a large segment of bikers Moto Guzzi wasn’t the answer, while others believed the right question had not been asked.

A new platform: 850 Le Mans III

Continuing the progress forged during the previous decade, Suzuki’s 4v 1100 four ruled among the 80s rockets, and the Japanese were heavy into engineering turbos, liquid-cooled V-fours, and plenty else. Dissuaded, Alessandro de Tomaso’s Le Mans III was released in 1981 looking exactly the way he wanted. redrawn in his signature Modena wedge. Under the new lived Lino Tonti’s tested chassis and a revised engine, modified to accept a larger bore and squared off cylinders. Seemingly not interested in actually increasing the capacity of its flagship sportsbike, the 850III’s bore and stroke of 83 x 78mm (844cc) remained as before. It still wasn’t enough for many of DMB clients however, and demand from the German importer resulted in another order –  one-hundred V1000 Le Mans IIIs in Agostini tune, please. Well advertised and tested by the press, the full-liter Le Mon’ was a known commodity. For those fortunate to take delivery, a vividly different Moto Guzzi experience was in store.

Agostini/DMB V1000 Le Mans III 

Far more literature exists for the V1000 III than the M.k. II covered in Part 1 of this series, thanks to Alis Agostini. Taking the wheel at the Mandello Del Lario dealership from founding father Duilio (remaining at a lesser capacity) much of the work filling out this new order happened under her watch. Again, as previously mentioned, the focus of Agostini’s V1000 wasn’t just horsepower, but also elements designed to boost comfort, style, and touring endurance. A super Le Mans, built for fast travel. Well versed in all aspects of Guzzi production and specification, the files contributed from Ms. Agostini’s personal archives have not been largely circulated.

Asking for information on the team responsible for developing Agostini’s V1000, Alis responded with the following; “At the time of the GP bikes, Ing. Umberto Panzeri was a young mechanical engineer working at Moto Guzzi and cooperating with the race team in his spare time. He did his dissertation at University Politecnico di Milano on Guzzi. Naturally, being from Lecco his first occupation was at Moto Guzzi where he worked for some time, but left due to disagreements with De Tomaso. He started working at the Gilardoni cylinder factory in Mandello and still does, though I believe he is now pensioned. In the early 1980s my dad and Umberto started a small company; Motoman, which produced and distributed big bore cylinders and pistons. The company was passed and still exists under the name R.A.M. Another key member of our staff was Piero Pomi, a Guzzi Works mechanic during the 1950s. Guzzi’s golden age of racing championships. Piero worked under legendary engineer Carcano and was a very good friend of my dad. His favorite mechanic.”  

Contoured to direct a cooling blast to the enclosed cylinders, the fairing and Agostini’s new solo seat transformed the angular 850 III into a sleek, aerodynamic flyer that still owned much to its endurance racing roots. Again called out as 942cc, the plot begins with 88mm Nikasil cylinders and new pistons, but this time with slightly less compression at 10.1. Replacing the stock cylinder heads were assemblies modified with larger 46.5 and 40mm inlet and exhaust valves, stronger springs, and opened ports. Twin 40mm PHM Dell’Ortos attach via special manifolds. 40mm headers pair with upswept Lafranconi Competizione silencers, held in place by Agostini’s pattened rear-set footpeg and bracket. Driven from the crank’s nose, Agostini’s alloy gearset replaces the chain and tension spring, connecting Duilio’s hearty P3 camshaft and oil pump. Popular options from Agostini’s catalog include a vented sump and a dual seat. Power is a claimed 82-hp @ 7500 rpm, and 136-mph. Other bikes boasted more output or faster 1/4-mile acceleration, but for top end thrust (and price) only a handful of production motorcycles lived in the Agostini’s neighborhood.

Using factory supplied machines meant Guzzi’s considerable uprating of the 850III carried over to Agostini’s 1000cc remake. Some of these included engine-to-frame vent, narrower 180mm spaced trees, air forks, a 20mm longer swing arm and longer shocks. Inside, the cylinder studs were moved outwards approx. 3.5mm, leaving more meat for Agostini to apply his big bore upgrade. “In time, we began to have issues with the Le Mans III castings when fitting our largest valve packages,” recalls Alis Agostini. “The new material used for these cylinder heads was not as stable as before, so the option was discontinued.” New options for the V1000 III included a close-ratio gearbox and a taller 8/33 pinion gear.

Mainly published in Germany, advertising showing the flashy Italian appeared before shipments arrived. “New!” proclaimed DMB’s press writers and indeed it was, resplendent in bright white with black trim. “The super bike for super demands,” reads the translation. “The new 1000 III. A top performer among the ‘Formula I’ machines to give the sporty driver what he seeks.” Now fully supported as a pure racer or street going gran turismo, more tuning components were available from Agostini’s rapidly expanding catalog. These include more bodywork options, a racing camshaft, flywheel machining and an available 992cc using 90mm pistons. Bold and expressive, Agostini’s second production V1000 offered a sharp uptick in both finish and flow, again as a general carryover of the previously mentioned improvements. I’ve never seen one for sale but highly coveted among the Guzzsti, these remain formidable over the road.

(More sedate in white, festooned with chrome exhausts and silver wheels. Agostini Duilio of Italy products page. A classic expression in Le Mans red.)

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