The Avignon Motor Festival celebrates all powered vehicles, and is an understated, still-growing event, run over 3 days, with around 50,000 visitors.  Tanks, cars, boats, planes, trucks, tractors, farm equipment, and motorcycles; this year (Ed- this was 2011) with a beyond-killer display of Moto Guzzis, including precious factory Grand Prix machines from the Moto Guzzi Museum.  Also included were production bikes from all years: a mouth-watering display of exotica from the 1920s-1950s.  Enjoy these ‘vintage’ iPhone2 photos!

The stunning 1956 Moto Guzzi V8 Grand Prix racer of 1957, designed by Giuliano Carcano, with hand-hammered aluminum bodywork and a magnesium fairing. It was the first DOHC V8 motorcycle, although not the first V8 motorcycle – the first was also Italian, but was a two-stroke V8, the 1938 Galbusera. [Paul d’Orléans]
A peek at the DOHC cam drive and part of the throttle assembly of the V8. The 500cc motor was watercooled with all magnesium castings, and weighed only 99lbs (by contrast, a Honda CB750 motor weighs 176lbs), while the whole motorcycle weighed only 326lbs. The motor produced 78hp @12k rpm, with an amazing top speed of 171mph – a speed not equalled in GP racing for another 20 years!  Of course, tire technology, as well as suspension and brake technology, were not up to the task in 1955, and using the full potential of the Otto Cilindri was dangerous business. It was a fearsome machine, and Moto Guzzi employed the best racers in the world to ride it, but by 1957, all refused to ride it again until the defects were sorted out! [Paul d’Orléans]
Did you know Moto Guzzi built an inline four racer in 1953? The Quattro Cilindri had a longitudinal DOHC four-cylinder, with the crankcase and cylinder barrels cast in one lump from magnesium. Two valves/cylinder, mechanical fuel injection and shaft final drive. Big magnesium brakes, and a hand-hammered aluminum fairing with a ‘beak’, as was the fashion in the early 1950s. While fast, the rotational forces of the crankshaft and gearbox/final drive made the handling unpleasant, and the Quattro Cilindri won only 3 races in 1953, so it was shelved in favor of the Otto Cilindri V8. [Paul d’Orléans]
The front forks of the 1953 Quattro Cilindri used a short leading-link as first employed on the Bicilindrica racer. There was hardly a frame as such, but tubes ran over the engine to the swingarm, with the engine acting as a stressed member. Ignition was by magneto, with 54hp @9000rpm, and a top speed of 140mph. [Paul d’Orléans]
The glorious harmony of four simple exhaust pipes and a finned magnesium final drive housing on the 1953 Moto Guzzi Quattro Cilindri. [Paul d’Orléans]
One last shot of the Quattro Cilindiri: the bank of Dell’Orto racing carbs, looking like a racing car and breathing through the gap between fairing and fuel tank. [Paul d’Orléans]
In the foreground, a late model (c.1952) Moto Guzzi Bicilindrica: the amazing 120deg. V-twin OHC racer built from 1933-1951. The Bicilindrica was one of Moto Guzzi’s most successful models, and belied the adage that twin-cylinder racers don’t last as well as single-cylinders for fours. The Bicilindrica won just about every type of race during its production run: the 1935 Isle of Man TT, the Italian Championship six (out of nine) times between 1934-49, and many many other races around the world. The engine was remarkable, with a staggered crankpin that gave even firing and eliminated secondary vibration (there was no primary vibration), with OHC two-valve cylinder heads: the early version used aluminum crankcases with iron cylinder barrels and head, and later the cases were magnesium and the barrels/heads aluminum. Early versions produced 44hp with a 110mph top speed, the ’35 TT model had 50hp and 125mph, while the post-war versions like this machine hit 130mph. [Paul d’Orléans]
An extraordinary design, basically a doubled-up version of the factory’s 250cc racer, with 68x68mm bore/stroke, single OHC with shaft-and-bevel drive.  The OHC V-twin is among the rarest motorcycle engine configurations, as before WW2, only Moto Guzzi, Cyclone, and Koehler-Escoffier built them, and Moto Guzzi never sold them to the public.  Even in the modern era, the first mass-production OHC V-twin was the Yamaha Virago of 1981! [Paul d’Orléans]
What most competitors saw of the Bilindrica. Teh hand-beaten alloy tank is ergonomically designed for a crouched rider, as is the seat with integral bump stop faired into the fender. Note the external flywheel – a Moto Guzzi trademark. [Paul d’Orléans]
Going back a little further in time, the Moto Guzzi 250 Compressore is a fascinating machine, and the only Moto Guzzi that employed supercharging. Why they didn’t add a blower to other machines is a mystery, as this 250 was wildly successful, as Nello Pagani won 11 races at Monza alone in 1938-40. This was basically an OHC shaft-and-bevel single, their Monoalbero, with a Cozette supercharger, that produced 48hp for a 112mph top speed. Simply fantastic for the era, and far beyond. [Paul d’Orléans]
The 250 Compressore of 1938 was also used post-war for a spree of record-breaking, and was good for 137mph. It was campaigned by the factory until 1959. [Paul d’Orléans]
Love the ‘backwards’ Jaeger tachometer: the redline for this 1946 Gambalunga was 5800rpm, when it was producing 35hp, for a top speed of 110mph.  The Gambalunga was a racer for factory-supported riders, and an improved version of the Condor and Dondolino production racers with pushrod motors. [Paul d’Orléans]
One for the ages: a late 1924-27 C4V (racing 4 valve), a hand-built motorcycle for the factory team and for privateers. The C4V was an evolution of Carlo Guzzi’s very first prototype motorcycle of 1921, the GP500. For production, the OHC motor was considered too expensive, but for racing, anything goes, and the C4V proved a worthy rival to the dominant British racers of the 1920s. Plus, it was simply gorgeous. [Paul d’Orléans]
Complication, like an expensive Swiss watch. The oil tank sits atop the fuel tank, with the delicate hand-shifter alongside. The steering damper is atop the forks with their multiple main springs and check springs, while the handlbars have the magneto advance lever beside the front brake and twistgrip. I could, and have, stare at this for hours. [Paul d’Orléans]

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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