MV Agusta celebrates 80 years of the famous 98

In 1943, the aeroplane manufacturer Domenico Agusta had inherited from his father was forced to change paths in the wake of WW2, and MV Agusta was born.

MV Agusta logo

MV Agusta is celebrating 80 years of its first engine, the two-stroke 98, which began production in 1943.

The Second World War was a complicated time for Italy. Between switching sides, the destruction of many of its cities, and the removal of long-time dictator Benito Mussolini from power, Italy was certainly a country in flux during the 1940s. 

That did not stop Count Domenico Agusta from forging from his father’s now defunct aeroplane maker (because of the ban on Italian aircraft production following WW2) what would become one of the most iconic motorcycle manufacturers in history, though.

Meccanica Verghera’s destiny was established in 1943 with the creation of the 98 engine. A single-cylinder two-stroke motor, it was simple and therefore cheap, which Agusta realised would be qualities much needed in the products of post-war Italy.

Complications for MV arrived in the shape of German troops occupying its factory from September 1943. Fortunately for the Italians, they had hidden the engineering drawings and plans for the 98 in the houses of trusted engineers and technicians before the Wehrmacht had arrived.

It took until the middle of 1944 for all of the designs to be recovered, but by the middle of 1945 production on the motorcycle was able to begin.

Agusta had wanted to launch the motorcycle powered by his 98 as the “Vespa”, but this was blocked by Piaggio, of course, and their now famous scooter brand.

As a result, the bike sold as simply ‘MV 98’, albeit in two different versions. First, there was ‘Economica’, and second ‘Turismo’ which had the distinction of a three-speed gearbox, compared to the two-speed Economica.

The 98 set MV Agusta on a path to becoming one of the most revered motorcycle manufacturers in the world; winning Grand Prix World Championships with riders such as Cecil Sandford, Phil Read, and John Surtees, and heroes of its home country Carlo Ubbiali, Tarquinio Provini, and Giacomo Agostini; and, by now, establishing itself as one of the most luxurious brands in motorcycling.

Adventure Motorcycle Comparison, Ducati Desert X, MV Agusta Lucky Explorer, KTM 890 and Tiger 900

Adventure Motorcycle Comparison, Ducati Desert X, MV Agusta Lucky Explorer, KTM 890 and Tiger 900