Events during the eight-years preceding Magni’s first Moto Guzzi deepens perspective, and may offer a few hints too. It was easy to predict the shortage of MV fours dictate the need for an alternate engine, and Arturo’s choice of the Honda 900cc Bol d’Or four was a logical first step. The DOHC multi fit in a modified version of Magni’s MV frame, but the first Magni Honda (MH1) kit used much of the original machine including the fork and wheels. The following MH2 was tarted with premium suspensions, son Carlo’s (alloy or magnesium) EPM wheels and works-style MV bodywork, but by 1982 Honda was phasing out the design in favor of the new V-Four. Finding a willing base in Germany, Magni fulfilled requests to redefine the BMW opposed twin using his own frame, and followed previous practice by offering the MB1 and MB2 kits for differing levels of flash and dash. Very much in the performance/luxury mold, the MB2 was unlike anything Magni had done before. Alas, the arrival of the ground breaking K100 four drew interest away from Magni’s squared-off wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance. 

Stripped of its bodywork you’ll note Magni’s adaptation remarkably similar to Tonti’s original, retaining the trademark triangular point at the swingarm pivot, top rails arrangement, detachable lower rails, even Tonti’s preferred 28-degree fork angle. Studying the photograph (<lifted from a series of Sfida frame photos taken by Japan’s Ritmo-Sereno) notice how Magni ran the top horizontal rails behind the vertical bottom tubes to connect the steering head lower, and the bottom rails sweeping past to connect at the top. The top rails are cross-braced in three places, the front-most brace attaching the top main tube. 

Running on nothing  more than a hunch, some of the comments and interviews I’ve seen suggest Magni’s Lemans continued the theme introduced on the lavishly appointed MB2; a machine Arturo was justifiably proud of. Mostly finished in vivid red with black or glossy white and gray, the vented tank/seat/sides are a one piece fiberglass cover fitting over an aluminum fuel cell. The fairing is a multi-piece structure with openings for the cylinders, twin side vents on each side, a distinctive curved screen, period angular square headlamp, a passenger seat cowling and a built-in plastic dash loosely based on the factory layout. Both a side and main stand were included. 

Events during the eight-years preceding Magni’s first Moto Guzzi deepens perspective, and may offer a few hints too. It was easy to predict the shortage of MV fours would dictate the need for an alternate engine, and Arturo’s choice of the Honda 900cc Bol d’Or four was a logical first step. The DOHC multi fit in a modified version of Magni’s MV frame, but the first Magni Honda (MH1) kit used much of the original machine, including the fork and wheels. The following MH2 was tarted with premium suspensions, son Carlo’s lightweight cast EPM wheels and traditional works-style MV styling.  

Introduced at the Milan Expo in November of 1985, the Magni Lemans 1000 was an upscale take on the Guzzi model using the same name, in alternative spelling. The first Guzzi-powered Magni and the first sold as a complete machine, that same-but-different theme continues throughout, starting with Arturo’s version of Lino Tonti's frame and the new-for-1985 Le Mans 949cc sportbike engine, Forcella Italia forks and twin 76-series Koni shocks incorporate into Magni’s Parallelogramo swingarm. The custom fitment continued with the company’s EPM wheels (also available in magnesium) and body shell intertwined with various production pieces like the wiring loom, instruments, brake components and rear drive housing. Available in stock tuning or opened to a full on 1116cc, the Magni Lemans 1000 weighs just 429-lb dry.          

So while Magni’s customers in Germany and Japan asked for (and received) stripped down Classico, Sfida (like the beautiful example above right, provided by German Magni owner Wolfgang Krueger^) or other variants crafted to resemble MV racers, the Lemans is wholly unique. Perhaps the best motorcycle you've never heard of,  the Magni Lemans 1000 stands alone as the only factory-supported extension of the famous Le Mans sportbike. Nolan Woodbury

Specs for Magni’s advertised 1116cc big bore tuning kit remain somewhat of an unknown, and despite most tests mentioning this mystery engine, details are hard to come by. Bonneville record holder Bill ‘Billoni’ Ross did the math to calculate a 84mm stroke x 92mm bore to equal 1116cc, but these components are not common aftermarket items. "There is some reference to the 84mm crank in my notes, mostly coming from Raceco in New York" says Ross. 

According to De Prato, the Magni couldn’t fully explore the limits of its chassis with the standard 949cc engine, but his test rig still managed to trigger the timing lights of Monza at 143-mph. Not bad, considering the regulations in Germany and Japan (Magni’s biggest import destinations) required the factory air box, frame breather and black chrome exhaust be retained. These fit impressively in Magni’s frame…like they were engineered together. A brief review shows the engine uprated by Guzzi with nickel silicon coated bores and squared-off during De Tomaso’s modernization program of 1980/81. The specifications will be familiar to Le Mans faithful; 949cc, 90-degree pushrod twin with 47/40mm inlet/exhaust valves, deep sump (spacer), domed 10.0.1 pistons, Dell’Orto PHM 40mm pumper carbs and the racing B10 camshaft. The standard five-speed transmission, twin-plate dry clutch and gearing also carried over and properly run in, the standard engine will deliver even better performance  (< photo: Motorrad Classic)

Along with the swingarm pivot, the steering head differs somewhat from Tonti’s design that butts and joins the tubes at the front via side plates. Note also the bolted crossbrace at the front just above the alternator that doubles as the frame joint, and differing again from the original location near the front engine mount. Like the production Le Mans 1000, the rear rails rise to attach the seat unit, with Magni adding square-section struts (instead of the control brackets) to fasten the exhaust. Made primarily in beefy 32mm argon-welded Cr-Mo tube, the Magni frame is both stronger and lighter than the factory unit in mild steel, perhaps offsetting somewhat the extra weight added by Magni’s dual beam parallel swinging arm.

Special thanks to: Bruno De Prato, Rolf Jenssen, Wolfgang Krueger, Motorrad and Bill Ross for photographs and technical assistance. Deep thanks to the late Mick Walker  (photo bottom)

Magni Lemans 1000 (1985)
Engine: 949cc 90-degree 2v Le Mans 1000. 2 x PHM 40, frame breather, factory airbox and black chrome exhaust, B10 camshaft.
Transmission: Five speed  
Clutch: 2 disc dry
Frame: double cradle, Cr-Mo steel argon welded 28-degree steering head angle
Fork: 40mm Forcella Italia fully adjustable/w external anti-dive
Rear suspension: Magni double swingarm Parallelogramo
Wheels: 2 x 18" EPM cast alloy
Brakes: Brembo 2 x 280mm front, 1 x 260 cast iron drilled w/2p calipers
Max length: 86.2"
Seat height: 28.3"
Wheelbase: 59.4"
Dry weight: 429-lb
Top speed: 143-mph

Caught in the middle, Honda was phasing out of the design in favor of the recently released, liquid-cooled V-Four by 1982. Finding a willing base in Germany, Magni fulfilled requests to redefine the BMW opposed twin using his own frame, and followed previous practice by offering the Magni BMW 1 (MB1) and MB2 kits for differing levels of flash and dash. Very much in the performance/luxury mold, the MB2 was unlike anything Magni had done before. Alas, the arrival of the ground breaking K100 inline four drew interest away from Magni’s squared-off wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance.

Magni Lemans 1000

design in favor of the new V-Four. Finding a willing base in Germany, Magni fulfilled requests to redefine the BMW opposed twin using his own frame, and followed previous practice by offering the MB1 and MB2 kits for differing levels of flash and dash. Very much in the performance/luxury mold, the MB2 was unlike anything Magni had done before. Alas, the arrival of the ground breaking K100 four drew interest away from Magni’s squared-off wunderbike, despite its vastly superior performance.  .

You’re forgiven if the Magni Lemans is news to you, for except Bruno De Prato’s excellent report in Cycle (July 1986) info on the Magni Lemans here in the US was non-existent. This lack of press extended to the whole of Euro production during and after the superbike 70s, with Cycle (and later Cycle Guide) being the exception. Coverage was not an issue in the UK and Europe, where Magni’s standing as former director of MV Agusta’s racing program was acknowledged. Dominate in post-war GP action, MV’s all-star team of riders piloted Magni-prepared machines to claim more manufacture and rider world titles than any other factory in history. Let that sink in. Credited as the driving force, Count Domenico Agusta’s passing in 1971 meant the days were numbered for MV’s moto-division. The racing ended in 1975 and soon after, remaining management pared away the famous fours to concentrate solely on the aviation side. Too young to retire, the master tuner began his namesake company in 1977 along with sons Carlo and Giovanni, crafting performance parts for the MV four and adding a new racing-type chassis two-years later.    

Semi-confirmed, some 200 Magni Lemans 1000s were produced from 1986 to 1989, making it a fairly slim chance you’ll spot one unless mingling with the elite at the Hotel Berchtesgaden or some other five-star Alpine resort. That said, there’s plenty of reading available from the European periodicals of the era, and the best of these is from the previously mentioned De Prato, who tested the Lemans on the Monza Junior circuit. Despite a rake figure and high engine mounting (crankshaft center 17” from earth) that would suggest slow steering, De Prato praised both the machine’s stability and its willingness to react to sensitive input; two accolades that rarely run together. Sure, the whittled alloy trees, 40mm Forcella anti-dive fork, lightweight wheels and special Brembo brakes all contribute to the Magni’s excellence, but the focus plainly falls on the Parallelogramo. Engineered by Arturo in 1950 for Remor’s shaft-drive Gilera Four racer, the arms and bearings eliminate drive gear pinion climb (or drop) while maintaining normal suspension action. This is aided further by a dual u-joint shaft that relieves binding when not in alignment. Simply concluded as being “a world apart” by De Prato, the Magni Lemans was included on a very short list of the best handling motorcycles available in 1986.  

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