Collection of Peter Matthew Calles, Bethesda, Maryland

Sponsored by: R.C. Mathews Contractor, LLC

MV Agusta motorcycles for the road were always exclusive and expensive engineering marvels, closely related to the company’s Grand Prix racing machines. The heart of the MV 750 Sport superbike was an engine that could well have powered a diminutive sports car. Giftwrapped in a race-inspired fairing, MV offered a four-cylinder power plant that was transversely mounted, shaft-driven, and air-cooled, with a gear-driven dual overhead camshaft.

During the middle of the twentieth century, transverse in-line fours in motorcycles were a rare commodity. With its elegant sand-cast cylinder cases and squared cooling fins, the 750 Sport’s stunning I-4 resembled a complex mechanical sculpture. Its slightly inclined mounting, tightly embraced by the machine’s gracefully shaped tubular frame, was underscored by a curved duo of chromed exhaust pipes on each side, flowing gracefully into Siamese-twin megaphones.

MVs were widely considered to be “the Ferrari of motorcycles,” owing to their powerful and complex engines, race-bred handling, extensive application of Italian racing red componentry, and an exhaust note that sent chills up the spines of those within hearing. The 750 Sport and its slightly more powerful successor, the 750 Super Sport, were capable of 135-mph speeds, and despite being limited to duo-duplex drum brakes at first (the best of that era), an enthusiastically ridden 750 Sport could show its heels to nearly every vehicle, on two or four wheels, that it encountered.

MV’s designers elected to take the bold red, white, and blue of the US flag and paint it dramatically on the bike’s tank, seat, frame, and fairing. The lettering was brash and bold, and the “music” from the quad exhaust was magnificent. Just 150 examples were sold in 1973. When MV ceased building motorcycles in 1979, to concentrate on helicopter production, aficionados—even those who couldn’t begin to afford one—mourned the passing of an extraordinary machine.

—Adapted from the exhibition catalogue essay by Ken Gross

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