A  History of Classic Racing  50cc Motorcycles


Guazzoni was a motorcycle company based in Milan from 1935 until 1978. Founded by Aldo Guazzoni (1908-1978 ), who was a mechanic and a Milanese motorcycle dealer. Moto Guazzoni began in 1935  with the construction of a motorcycle with the engine derived from Calthorpe in England.  This was a 500cc, single cylinder model.  However this bike had meagre success in the Italian market and so they subsequently built three-wheelers that at that time were a common sight in Italy. After the war in 1946 Guazzoni became a dealer for the Milan based Moto Morini company.

The motorcycle building activity began again in 1950 with a 250cc single-cylinder two stroke, built and badged, Guazzoni under agreement with the Bologna company FBM, which was founded in 1950 by Vittorio Minarelli and Franco Morini, who set up Fabbrica Bolognese Motori, to build lightweight motorcycles.  This agreement allowed the Guazzoni company to develop its manufacturing lines and in 1951/52 they were able to bring to the market a 150cc motorcycle. These motorcycles always used the single-cylinder, two stroke engines that were built in FBM. This "150" model was called the GRIFO and was available in number of variations consisting of the Tourer, Sport and Premium Sport. All of these had a good success in sales and also in competition as in 1952 the GRIFO won its class in the 24 Hour Enduro of Warsage (a town in the area of Liegi ). From the moment that it became the winner of the Belgian marathon, there was a new model born called the "Bol d'Or" 175cc, which took its name from the famous French competition of Endurance, which still runs today as the Bol d'Or 24 Hour. The Guazzoni "Bol d'Or" was shown to be the fastest bike of its category, with 10.5 HP and 125-130 km/h.

History note: The 24-hour Bol d'Or motorcycle endurance racing has a strong Francophone base, with the three main events being held in France (Le Mans & Magny-Cours) and French-speaking Belgium (Spa-Franco champs), At the time the most successful teams and riders were the French. In 1992 an all-British team of riders won the race and British rider Terry Rymer had consistent results through his period of racing in this event. In the 1970s the competitors included Phil Read and Neil Tuxworth, the man who later headed up Honda Racing UK. Additionally the Mead & Tomkinson racing team fielded "Nessie", a revolutionary bike with hub-centre steering.

In the 1953 the company presented its new model called the "Snout". This was a 150cc two stroke that was characterized by reference to the engine which had a horizontal cylinder.

In 1955 Guazzoni created a four stroke motorcycle instead of their normal tow stroke. This was a a 200cc single-cylinder SOHC. (There do not appear to be any photographs of this model). 

In the two-year period 1955-56 a Guazzoni 50cc two stroke made a complete conquest of the Monza circuit by taking 30 world records.

The Guazzoni Torpedo 50cc 1955 to 1956 Record.

This information is taken from an Italian forum and put into English. The greater part of the detail is from a gentleman named on the forum as RM74. Some changes and additions have been made where necessary.

"The story of the Torpedo Guazzoni is from stories passed down and the fact that I could see them under the spotlight on the side mounting for motorbikes in the new department where I worked at Guazzoni, They displayed them there for at least 15 years. I speak in the plural "torpedoes" because they made more than one bike for the 50cc and also the 75cc. They also made a further model for a 125cc engine. However the model that has made the world records was the 50cc, shown above in its final version and still existing with a grandson of the founder. 

This 50cc Torpedo, I know very well because I was given the job by Joseph Guazzoni to bring it back to it's original condition so that it would look spectacular before exposing it to the exhibition of Novegro.

I think this was in 1986 and so I polished it with great love at my house before taking it to the show (it was in very poor condition when I got it from the factory due to the storage). After this first appearance The Torpedo was shown in at least three other public events. These machines were called the 'Sciuri Aldo Guazzoni' 'machines by the workforce' and had at least two different fairings before having the one shown in the photo opposite which was the final design.  

The first design for the sleek torpedo style fairing was more open around the driver as can be seen in motorcycle advertising photograph and the two photographs above. The second picture shows the improved aero-dynamics of the intermediate design allowing better streamlining in front and behind the rider. The third picture shows the fully enclosed design based on the fuselage of a plane and was the final design for 1956. The records were obtained at the Monza circuit. Picture below: This is the first version of the Guazzoni Torpedo 1955-56 without the hull  

"The first eight records were won in 1955 and another twenty two in 1956. Those records were  of considerable importance and with perseverance we were being able to achieve the 100 miles of distance at 130km/h average speed and we obtained this using the last body configuration. The last time I saw the torpedo in it's physical form has been about 10 years ago and it was with a son of Aldo Guazzoni, Rinaldo Guazzoni, unfortunately he is now decease".

These photographs show the development of the Torpedo streamlining.  They are the only ones available and are of the later designs. the first two are of a mould from which the second to last shell was made and the last two are of the final development moulds before a final shell was produced.  

"These catfish, as I like to call them, which as I said are only the hulls/moulds, were a short time ago offered for sale on the web, I know where they are and I got to see them as the backup shells were created recently by a friend of mine".  It should be remembered that in the 50's many companies "used" this approach to advertise their products. For Guazzoni these records acted as a big personality jump and increased their credibility in the market place. Achieving these world records and their participation in the Six Day International Trial, were major publicity vehicles for Guazzoni in those years".

Contrary to what you might think the engine, with which the the speed record was made, was only a two speed engine and the inlet system was piston port controlled. The exhaust system was a straight tube ending in a megaphone. At this time the use of the expansion chamber had not been developed in Italy. The power unit developed 6 bhp at 8,000 rpm and because the fuel available was High Octane, ran a compression ratio of 17:1 without problems. The biggest problem we came across was the types of lubricant we could use. The best and readily available was the natural vegetable (castor) formula, similar to Castrol ‘R’, which at the time was in vogue. The engine was not a Guazzoni but one of the units they used in their mopeds, for example the Guazzoncino Sport of 1955/56.

It was manufactured by The FBM company and badged [Fabbrica Bolognese Motocicli which we changed as soon as possible to Guazzoni] it was a company for the production of motorcycles and engines.] It was founded in Bologna in 1951 by Franco Morini, nephew of Alfonso Morini, and Vittorio Minarelli, two technicians destined to prove themselves as Italians the most successful entrepreneurs in the field of Motorcycles.

Now here is an anecdote, translated from Italian, about the complete, fully faired and enclosed hull. After the first 8 records were obtained with the earlier hull it was decided to equip "the machine" with a full fairing for the attack on the other group of records. With the full fairing the pilot entered but had to be held upright when he was stationary and then assisted in despatch by giving him a push, to boost the speed quickly, to enable stability. Everything was ready, the Monza race track rented, ie reserved only for this event, to Guazzoni. 

On the  wall were the children, a mechanic and the official commissioners. We had the torpedo hurtling a few times in front of the wall and down the straight but then there was an ominous silence! All the staff quickly got into the car and take to the track in the same direction as the torpedo. As we neared the sadly famous curve (the first after the straight), we could see on the ground the tyre black stripe going off the track behind the guardrail. We all went down quickly from the car and rushed to descend behind guardrail where we saw the tipped up torpedo, and from which there came exaggerated curses, as well as a request for help !! Inside the pilot was in an immobile position and with the fuel mixture dripping onto his face, we got him out and he was so angry that he wanted to beat-up Guazzoni.

Rinaldo Guazzoni, who told me this tale said that they had made a note on the form that Aldo. the driver was a hazard when enclosed and his answer to him was "if one is crazy enough to get into the thing I don't give a damn if you don't want to be locked in." After this story it seem that there were no more attempts with the enclosed cab.

Here is the late Rinaldo Guazzoni in 2005. The two pieces of aluminium leaning against the fence behind him are the two semi-tanks, that once the pilot had entered and got into position, were tied either side of the frame with rubber bands. With Rinaldo standing by the side of the Torpedo you get an idea of the small area the bike takes up. The pictures below shows the use of girder forks.

After the Italian Depression of the Late Fifties.

Through the second half of the fifties the Guazzoni company, like almost all the motorcycle houses of Italy entered into a deep depression. This was further made serious by the problems in Argentina due to the Juan Domingo Perón administration.

In Argentina, where Peronism had been replaced by the revolution of 1957 there were constitutional reforms and they restored the Constitution 1853 and added the famous "article 14 bis" which introduced a strong protectionist regime into the “Market of the Argentine”. The new provisions involved many foreign companies, whose assets were immediately affected by the new law causing a stalemate in which it was essentially impossible to obtain payment for, or the return of goods supplied for sale. 

The Guazzoni Company found itself losing some 1,000 motorcycles already delivered to dealers and this was a huge economic blow for the small factory in Milan. This left Aldo Guazzoni in a serious financial position and he was forced to restructure the company. He was adequately supported by the joint action of the Directors and of the workers. In 1961 Aldo moved the Company to an old mill in Via Altaguardia, where he diversified into tools for machinery engines, outboard motors and thrusters for karts, these having a rotating valve induction. In addition he continued to make his moped models. A continued early model was the Guazzoni Sport 50cc. using the FBM engine.

Guazzoni Sport 50 also called the Guazzoncino Sports Moped.
Year of construction 1956. 
Size and class 50 cc Moped.
Engine Two Stroke FBM
Gears Two-Speed Hand Change on the Handlebars

This Italian model was one of the most sporty mopeds from the 1950s, the start of the moped era. 

This is the same model of engine that was used in the World Record attempts when Guazzoni took the 30 titles at Monza in 1955 and 1956.

The Guazzoni Matta (Matta translates to "Fool" or "Crazy")  (Jeep)

My first introduction the the Guazzoni stable was on 23rd September 1962 when I was riding a Manx Norton 350cc and an ITOM 50cc at Brands Hatch.  A chap called E Rhodes had a beautiful Guazzoni in red livery in the paddock.  I took a photograph but never did find out where he came in the race. This is a picture of his bike. 

As the picture was taken in 1962 I do not think it was a Matta but a Super Sport formed into a racing machine. If anyone knows of Mr. Rhodes I would be happy to be put in touch with him.

The engine of the Rhodes bike was a new development and taken from the the Kart engine design, Guazzoni developed a 50 cm³, single cylinder engine that was intended to equip a series of sports mopeds that would be called the MATTA (the name was chosen to emphasize the versatility of this engine). This was the first Italian motorcycle with a rotating disk power unit, which claimed an encouraging success among the very young. These riders were enticed by engine power that, in the "Export" model, delivered 6 bhp and pushed the vehicle to 100km/ h.

This engine, a rare survivor, is of a different development but shows the general design.

Tandem Twin Kart Engine

Guazzoni VR2 Single 50cc Engine

The Model - Guazzoni 50 Matta,

This model was produced from 1965. This name was chosen to emphasize the versatility of this little engine. The Matta was the first Italian motorcycle with a rotating disk induction giving it superior power and , took an encouraging success among the very young who were enticed by engine power that the "Export" model delivered. In the following year, thanks to the care and development of the technical team and Guazzoni's rider Franco Ringhini they set up the "Matta Competition", in the sizes of 50cc and 60 cc, They  nicknamed this model "ingranaggino" derived from the small chain sprocket primary drive. This version was adopted by some of the best riders including Pier Paolo Bianchi , who in 1971 conquered important championships in the Italian Series and the Trofeo cadets races.

Bianchi in 1971 had already won enough races to move to the senior classes and ran with the Guazzoni 50cc and also a Yamaha 125cc twin.

Bianchi, with number 119 on the circuit of San Remo in 1971

A Guazzoni 50cc Matta 1966

The Guazzoni MATTA was a new generation of a Sports Moped and was seen on the road, off-road and on the Race Track. We are looking at the, over the counter, Production Racer delivered to the public in 1965. It was never produced as a series or long run model. Its lean style and approach led some people comparing it to anorexia gone mad.

This particular bike was the subject of a restoration by Peter, a chap who worked for the Guazzoni factory and is a font of knowledge on the products of the factory going back into the early fifties. Some of this information is from the forum he belongs to. One comment Peter did make was that the bike belonged to a rider who has used it in the Italian speed championship juniors over the years 1971-1972 with a few victories (I was asked not to name names it the pilot, I knew and often saw in Guazzoni, that the current owner). 

This model is one of the few racing motorcycles made in small batches for private riders. (Aldo Guazzoni in a period interview with Motorcycling said he would have made about 50 during the manufacturing period). Reading the forum’s wealth of information, I can locate three mini production runs of 15 each for this series and so it could be 45 in total for the original manufacture. But now with all the replicas there appears even more !!! These production runs did not include those bikes that were made for the different frames for example the Road and the Moto Cross bikes.

Comparing this bike now to the first ones manufactured we see some changes that have been made over the years in that it has Ceriani 28 mm front forks and a hub by Fontana which is a magnesium 180mm unit. These were expensive item and would only have been fitted by some one who needed the competitive edge in racing or had the money for their personal image. This would have improved the braking although the riders rarely braked as they lost too much power. The first model had the T-30mm Ceriani forks and a lesser hub by the supplier Italfreno (Italjet type).

This racing bike, due to the changes in parts to maintain its functionality and to make it to the riders desire, cost almost 400,000 lire, just over twice the cost of the MATTA in its latest form of a "Sport" model. It had the same tank and seat, and a similar frame; the frame being changed in places due to the progressive development from the original.. The shock absorbers were always of Ceriani manufacture but these are more modern as on the first bike they were not adjustable. 

When speaking of a skinny build, if you look at the four brackets under the engine, (not easy to see in these photographs) you will see that they could be used for mounting the fairing.  Another and prime function of these tags was to allow the mounting of lead plates, should the weight of the bike be below the Regulation limit. Although they increased the weight they also gave a better centre of gravity and assisted in the handling of the bike.

However, this example, with its 17mm carburettor and engine capacity 49cc, developed 13 bhp at 13.500 revs. and allowed a top speed in the order of 180 km/h. These characteristics made it famous and victorious, and for a time the most imitated of 50cc race bikes.

Please note that when looking at the picture of the rev counter, this is a replacement Motoplat unit and is not calibrated correctly.  The dial should have an upper limit of 14.000 revs. You will also notice on the picture of the carburettor that there is a tube bracket holding the remote float bowl.  This does not appear on the general road machine.

The Road Version Guazzoni Matta 1965

What, you never heard of it? Don’t feel bad, neither had we. It must be one of the rarer brands in the world. From what little we can learn on Google and Wikipedia, it only existed for a few years in the 1960s/70s in Italy. They made small displacement road and off road bikes, such as this, the 1965 Matta 50. We believe that’s what it is, anyway. The engine is about 1/18th the size of a Harley Sportster 883. Back in the day, there was professional 50cc racing, and a number of companies made 50cc street motorcycles. These days there are a few 50cc street bikes out there, but you’ll work hard to find them in the USA.

It’s one of the bigger restoration jobs we’ve had — in terms of labour, if not engine size — and one of the best looking ones. When it came to us, it had tyres on it made by a company that doesn’t exist anymore and in a size that no one makes these days. Our task was just to make it look pretty, not to make it run and win races. This may be a lucky thing, because lord knows what you’d have to do with it if any engine parts broke on it.

1970 Guazzoni 50cc Production Racing Motorcycle

With a little editors licence the information here is taken directly from the BONHAM'S advert. Some of the background history has already been displayed above.  Also in the Gallery extra photographs have been created to give a better view of this bike.

1970 Guazzoni 50cc Production Racing Motorcycle Frame no. 49

The Guazzoni factory was founded in Milan, Italy in 1935 by Aldo Guazzoni (1908-1978). At first the company built models fitted with proprietary engines before turning to the manufacture of three-wheelers. After the war Guazzoni became the Milan concessionaire for Motori Morini and in 1950 returned to the manufacture of motorcycles, making a 150cc two-stroke model for FBM of Bologna

Like many other small Italian concerns, Guazzoni would concentrate its efforts in the ultra-lightweight market, and throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s produced a succession of stylish sports roadsters such as the Cadetti and Matta. Many of them used rotary-valve two-stroke engines with reversed cylinders (exhaust at the rear), a feature that became something of a company hallmark.

The un-restored, air-cooled Guazzoni six-speed production racer offered here has just such an engine, which is said to be capable of 15,000 revs. The machine's history is not known, other than the fact that it was raced in Italy.

Very very rare Guazzoni 6 gear unit. Year 1970, A water-cooled engine by Franco Ringhini

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