MV Agusta 350B Classic (May 2004) (May 2004)
MV Agusta won a record 63 World Championships. While the 350B wasn’t represented in any of them it was a lovely looker and even better handler. Ian Falloon of Australian Motorcycle Trader takes a closer look
There are few names in motorcycling as illustrious as MV Agusta. Yet while the racing machines and magnificent four-cylinder models receive most of the accolades, the MV legend was also built on a range of single and twin-cylinder production machines. Racing success in the 1950s led to MV offering some of the finest sporting singles then available, including the magnificent 175 CSS, and in 1955 they unveiled a prototype 350cc twin.
The double overhead camshaft design was quite radical for its day but remained a dream, and it wasn’t until 1963 that MV reconsidered the twin. This time the design was much more mundane, with a 160cc overhead valve pushrod twin-cylinder engine that produced an unremarkable 7.5 horsepower.
One thing that has characterised MV over the years is the time delay between initial display and production. The parallel twin was no different. The 160 disappeared for a couple of years, but in the meantime grew to 250cc and eventual availability towards the end of 1967.
By 1971 the twin became 350cc, and for 1972 and 1973 emerged as the magnificent 350B featured here.
The all-alloy, unit-construction twin-cylinder engine followed the usual MV practice of looking outwardly similar to a two-stroke, with the heavily finned cylinder-head and barrel almost completely disguising the overhead valve layout. In the process in growing from 160 to 350cc, the bore and stroke became oversquare (63x56mm), the compression ratio went up to 9.5:1, and carburettors increased to two 24 mm Dell’Orto.
The power was up to 32 horsepower at 7650rpm, and was transmitted through a five-speed gearbox. Vibration, always a problem with 360-degree parallel twins, was reasonably well-controlled on this short-stroke engine. The earliest MV350B featured coil and points ignition, but this was changed to electronic (as on this example) in October 1972.
At the same time the electrical system was upgraded to 12 volts.
When it came to the chassis, the 350B was more akin to 1950s bikes than 1960s. Utilising the engine as a stressed member, the frame was not unlike that of the contemporary Ducati single, with a single front downtube. In many other respects the 350B was also similar to the little single-cylinder desmo Ducatis. There were 18-inch wheels front and rear, with full width Grimeca drum brakes.
The overall dimensions of both bikes were also similar, but the slightly heavier (149kg) MV could outrun the desmo Ducati, topping out at around 160km/h. Both bikes were typical middleweight Italian cafŽ racers of the era, featuring clip-on handlebars and rear-set footpegs. And because the power was moderate it didn’t tax the chassis unnecessarily.
One feature that set the MV apart was the optional full racing fairing. MV Agusta wanted to make the most of its racing success, then at its greatest, and while the 350B engine specification was unremarkable, its breeding was impeccable. Like the Ducati desmo singles, the MV 350B represented the culmination of an era for Italian motorcycles.
Demand for faster and more powerful motorcycles led to the market for small displacement sporting bikes diminishing. The cost of producing such high specification machines was no longer justified, and only those who appreciated finesse over horsepower wanted the expensive MV 350B. But those who did appreciate it got one of the sweetest handling, best looking, and best balanced bikes ever.
Published. Friday, 14 May 2004
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