The Moto Guzzi V8 ‘Otto Cilindri’ is widely regarded as one of the ten greatest motorcycle designs of all time. Yet it only won three Grands Prix. So what makes it so great? Mostly the engine, which gave the bike incredible performance. In the mid 50s at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the Otto Cilindri was clocked at 275 kph—a smidge over 170 mph. Its power-to-weight ratio was unparalleled, with around 78 hp pushing just 148 kg (330 lbs) dry. The engine was a technological miracolo: a 499 cc water-cooled four-stroke, blessed with twin overhead cams and no less than eight Dell’Orto carburetors.
The V8 was penned by Giulio Cesare Carcano in 1954, and hit the Grand Prix tracks the following year. Just five machines were built, and the one in these images is a 1957 example. It has the final engine specification, which means a multi-piece crankshaft, longer conrods, different camshaft profiles and the largest carburetors. Unfortunately, the complexity of the engine resulted in reliability problems—and its sheer power overwhelmed the tires and suspension. By 1957, when Moto Guzzi withdrew from Grand Prix racing, few riders were prepared to risk their limbs (or lives) on the V8.
It’s hard to find good images of this beautiful racer, so thanks are due to photographer Phil Aynsley for supplying this portfolio, taken at Mandello del Lario.
Check out the Phil Aynsley book Ducati: A Photographic Tribute, available from Amazon.