During the First World War three young friends serving in the Italian Servizio Aeronautico dreamed of starting a motorcycle company after the war.
Carlo Guzzi would engineer the bikes, Gorgio Parodi (the son of wealthy Genovese ship-owners) would finance the venture, and Giovanni Ravelli (already a famous pilot and motorcycle racer) would promote the bikes with his racing prowess.
Sadly Ravelli was killed in a plane crash just a few days after the Armistice but Guzzi and Parodi pressed on, adopting as their logo Ravelli's squadron emblem, the eagle that you see on every Moto Guzzi to this day.
They set up shop on 15 March 1921 in Mandello del Lario, on the shores of Lake Como, and Guzzi designed their first machine, a conservative 500cc single called the Normale (Standard), which went into production that same year. But the plan was always to go racing, and a string of innovative and successful Grand Prix bikes followed, including a 350cc flat single that beat more powerful multi-cylinder machines by virtue of its extreme light weight and agility, and, in 1955, the unforgettable 500cc V8.
During this period Guzzi even built the first wind tunnel for motorcycles.
The creator of the V8, Giulio Cesare Carcano, went on to design the tough, straightforward transverse V-twin engine that has powered almost every MotoGuzzi since the early 1970's and is still in production. Today, 90 years after Carlo Guzzi and Giorgio Parodi shook hands with Parodi's father on a 2000-lire start-up loan, Moto Guzzi is part of the Piaggio empire, Europe's biggest bikemaker and the world's fourth largest after Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki.
The Italian Motorcycle Owner's Club of Cape Town will celebrate the 90th anniversary of Moto Guzzi on Sunday April 17 from 11.30am to 6pm at Fireman's Arms, on the corner of Buitengracht and Mechau Street. All Moto Guzzi riders are invited to attend (you don't have to be a member of the club, but you are expected to arrive on your Moto Guzzi!). There will be a limited number of commemorative T-shirts and various prizes to be won, and both World Superbike races at Assen - featuring bikes from Moto Guzzi's sister brand Aprilia - will be shown on the big screen.
If you own a Moto Guzzi and would like to join the fun, email [email protected] to RSVP for catering purposes. There is ample parking outside the pub and in the adjacent parking area, where the bikes will be shown off to the public.