Since 1943, Moto Guzzi had been planning a low-cost vehicle to meet transport needs on the country’s war-shattered roads. The engineers came up with two projects: one for a micromotor for use on a bicycle, the second for a low-displacement lightweight motorcycle. The motor was named Colibrì (humming bird; the prototype is on display in the Moto Guzzi museum in Mandello del Lario), and the motorcycle went into development. Carlo Guzzi assigned the design project to Antonio Micucci, specifying that the motorcycle should have an engine displacement of more than 50cc and high wheels. The first prototypes began to appear in mid-1945: a two-stroke mono-cylinder 65cc cast aluminium engine, with three gears, on a 50mm diameter tube frame. The final version, which would be marketed as the Motoleggera 65,was presented in the spring of 1946.
Motoleggera 65, 1946
The Motoleggera 65 was a simple two-wheeler both in mechanical terms and for the rider, with few controls, all within easy reach, and weighing just 45 kg: it was an immediate success, on the market and on the racetrack. Among the riders who raced with the little Moto Guzzi bike was a young Umberto Masetti, who took it to victory in Reggio Emilia in 1947. The lightweight bike, which was gradually enhanced with innovative additions over the years, was immediately nicknamed the “Guzzino”, the name it is still known by today.
In 1949, Moto Guzzi granted Spain's Hispania Motor a manufacturing licence for the Guzzino. Production was terminated in 1954, after an output of 71,534 bikes, and the Guzzino was replaced by the Cardellino, a model closely related to it.
A Cardellino 65cc from 1955, the heir to the Guzzino
A Moto Guzzi Cardellino 75 Lusso from 1956
On 5 June 1949, an important rally was organised by Moto Guzzi for owners of the Motoleggera: 14,257 participants came to Mandello del Lario (including Gino Magnani, founder of the Motociclismo magazine, and writer Giovannino Guareschi), from all over Italy as well as Switzerland, Spain and the USA, bringing 12,660 Guzzinos with them. The rally established world records for number of participants, number of vehicles and number of motorcycles of the same brand, type and displacement. Take a look at this rare archive footage (from the historical Italian “Istituto Luce”) on the 1949 rally:Mandello Lario-Lecco. Il raduno delle moto leggere Guzzi
At the Automotoretrò show at Lingotto Fiere in Turin (12-14 February 2016), the Clan del Volano and the Turin Veteran Car Club presented the “2nd International Motoleggera Guzzi 65 Rally”, displaying a faithful reconstruction of the 1949 Moto Guzzi design office for the fondly remembered Guzzino.
The rally dedicated to the “Guzzino” will be held in Turin on 5 June 2016, the anniversary of the legendary first rally held in Mandello in 1949. Hundreds of bikes are expected and a number of modified two-wheelers will also be there: record-breakers, a racing model, a four-stroke model, a Dondolino version. An event devotees of the eagle brand will not want to miss.
Also in 1949, 25 Guzzino motorbikes (supported by two other Moto Guzzi vehicles: an Airone and an Ercole truck) set off on the Red Arrow Milan-Oslo Rally, a charity event organised by don Carlo Gnocchi and don Andrea Ghetti for young rover-scouts from Lombardy, on the occasion of the 4th World Rover Moot in Skjak, Norway. The Guzzinos used on the trip were fitted with stiffened suspensions and thicker wheel spokes to manage the long journey over the difficult postwar roads, and an extra carrier for the riders’ luggage (this issue's On the Road Memories column has an article about the rally, ed.).
Over the years, the Guzzino took part in many motor-racing competitions, in and outside Italy. Some of its most impressive victories were in the 75cc class, with Alberto Cesari and Enzo Rippa, in the Milan-Taranto race in 1950 and 1951, and the Italian Gymkhana Champion title won by Erio Casadei in 1953. The Guzzino also set a series of records. The first was on 28 February 1948 on the Charrat-Saxon road in Switzerland, when Raffaele Alberti broke the kilometre and mile records, from a standstill and at speed, in the 75 class.
On 5 November of the same year, at the Monza Autodrome, Alberti, Gianni Leoni (photo above) and Bruno Ruffo set 19 other world records in the same class. On 14 September 1950, Alberti, Leoni and Ruffo arrived at the Montlhéry Circuit with a torpedo-shaped motorbike, which retained very little of the Guzzino (horizontal cylinder engine), and set or improved an astonishing 24 world records.
Guzzino owners made many custom modifications and adaptations to their motorbikes. One of the most common transformations was to enable transportation of a passenger, possibly with a sidecar, or the “re-invention” of the bike as a pick-up, or with the engine used to power a hoeing machine or blade grinder. A more original realisation was devised by Rino Berton, a race rider in the 1940s and 1950s (and a Moto Guzzi dealer), who came to the 1949 rally in Mandello with a sort of chariot pulled by three Guzzinos lashed together (the vehicle is mentioned in the Istituto Luce video). Other transformations include the "Guzzina", an open-frame version for women, and the kit developed by the Fagnani company of Bergamo in 1953, to convert the Guzzino engine from two strokes to four.
INFO, MOTO GUZZI MUSEUM: