Moto Guzzi: The Complete History from 1921 - wBW Book Review
by Mario Colombo
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wBW Book Review by "Mad Dog" Earle
"Moto Guzzi - The Complete History from 1921" is a massive book at 35 mm thick (1.5") and nearly 500 pages. In fact, the book's size is what first attracted me to it, because I figured anything this big must be "the" definitive Moto Guzzi story.
I believe the book has been available in Italian for several years, but this new fourth edition has been translated into English and it's apparently created some buzz in the Guzzi community. It was rather hard to find, with strong sales quickly depleting the inventory in some stores. We had to special order ours and it took several weeks to arrive.
I don't know enough about other Moto Guzzi books to know whether or not this one contains anything different or unique, but it sure seems comprehensive to me. That the book was published and printed in Italy must be a plus, right?
A good place to start, of course, in any book subtitled "The Complete History" is with the origins of the company. The beginnings are described in some detail and although I am vaguely familiar with the story of Carlo Guzzi and his passion for engines and motorcycles, the book goes into some detail on Giorgio Parodi and Giovanni Ravelli, Guzzi's original partners.
Ravelli, who was a pilot, later died in an airplane accident just a few days after WWI had ended. The eagle with outspread wings that adorns Moto Guzzi motorcycles to this day was added to the logo in his memory.
The book is divided into 13 chapters and an additional but slim "Chronology of Production" is included at the end that lists the frame (but not engine) numbers for each model. The first half of the book is a narrative history of the company, its racing history and the motorcycles, with lots of text and photos, starting at 1921 and continuing right up to 2007.
The book is loaded with black and white photos and the quality of the reproduction ranges from very good to excellent, depending upon the source image. The middle of the book divides the narrative history from the year-by-year model descriptions in the second half. This middle portion that serves as the divider features high-quality single-page color photos of famous Moto Guzzi motorcycles, from the 1921-1924 Normale 500 cc, which somehow looks more modern than its contemporaries to the 1998 V11 Sport.
The second half of the book starts again with the first models, and each model or model year is described in detail, along with very good quality photos (mostly black and white) and specifications and engine or other diagrams.
The material in this section isn't anything that Guzzi aficionados haven't seen before, but it's nice to have the complete history available in one source.
The cool part that I haven't seen before (although I'm sure it exists somewhere) are the sections on Moto Guzzi racing bikes; four-wheeled record breaking vehicles; military and police motorcycles (including the 3x3 mountain vehicle); and a section on experimental vehicles and prototypes.
I really enjoyed this book and it's nice to have such a complete history all in one volume. The only disappointment is in the printed layout. The narrative in the first half has lots of text, and unfortunately the publisher didn't break up the paragraphs into small enough chunks -- and they weren't very fond of the carriage return either.
This photo illustrates the problem -- lots and lots of run-on text with not a lot of white space. This makes for a slightly difficult read.
You can see some of the sentences end and a new paragraph is started abruptly on the next line; this gives the book an unfinished feel, like the editor didn't go through and clean up the text after it was imported from the word processor. It's almost like the text was imported into the book, made to flow around the photos and that's it. Unfortunate, but not really a deal-breaker.
But for a list price of $79.95 (although it can be found for around $50.00), I was expecting a more professional-looking layout that would do the subject justice. I'm knocking off a helmet for that, but otherwise, the content and material are very good and this is an enjoyable read, especially for Moto Guzzi fans and historians.