By: Dave Abrahams
Chantilly, France - You'll forgive us for being cynical about motorcycles 'designed' by even the most prestigious of automotive studios. Because a motorcycle wears so much of its engineering on the outside, the styling of what little bodywork it has, is a very specialised field.
Even the iconic Giorgetto Giugiaro couldn't get it right; his angular body kit for the 1974 Ducati 860 GT was so unpopular that it was discontinued after just one year - although he did grace it with what is still acknowledged as the finest specialist logo font in automotive history.
Multi-talented French industrial designer Philippe Starck screwed up so badly on the 1995 Aprilia Moto 6.5 that Aprilia stopped cataloging it even before it went out of production two years later, while Lotus designer Daniel Simon's C-01 - which was intended to be the company's first motorcycle - never even got off the computer screen.
But this one might just be the exception to that rule.
This is the MV Agusta F4Z Zagato, the first motorcycle ever created by the legendary Milanese studio and like all Zagatos, it's a full-on runner. Based on the standard 1000cc F4 sports machine, it was created as a one-off special for a wealthy Japanese enthusiast with interests in fashion and publishing who also owns Zagato cars, but is primarily a biker, having 'personalised' his first motorcycle himself in the 1980s.
First, however, it's on display this week at the third international Arts & Elegance Concours in Chantilly, where it has apparently attracted a lot of comment, both positive and negative.
The engine, frame, and running gear are standard, but the F4Z's distinctive bodywork was designed and engineered by Zagato, mostly in aluminium and carbon fibre, using as few, relatively large, panels as possible; according to Zagato that is what sets bespoke styling apart from production vehicles.
Certainly, it's a complete reversal of the current 'post-industrial' motorcycle design trend, led by BMW, towards a large number of smaller discrete styling elements, cheaper to make and repair but which looks unfinished to older eyes.
Some parts have had to be modified or adapted to fit under the slinky body kit, while the fuel tank, battery, exhaust system and intake manifolds were made specially for this bike.
Zagato says it was the customer's passion for riding that inspired this design; the brief was to create something unique, classic and timeless, that would retain its value and appeal. Whether he got it, or just another over-styled concept, is up to you.
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