MV Agusta F4 750 Serie Oro: Gold Standard
More than its limited edition exclusivity, the F4 750 Serie Oro represents the modern rebirth of MV Agusta
The closure of MV Agusta in 1977 signalled the death of Italy’s premier motorcycle brand. Between 1952 and 1976, MV Agusta won 37 world titles and took 270 Grand Prix victories, which was an achievement unmatched at the time. In 1978 Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni of Cagiva took steps to acquire the MV name, but the talks broke down. The factory was dismantled soon after and, in 1982, the company was placed in liquidation.
Things move slowly in Italy and it wasn’t until a decade later, in the spring of 1992, that the Castiglioni family finally managed to acquire MV Agusta. At the time, the Castiglionis owned Cagiva, Ducati, Morini and Husqvarna, and operated out of the old Harley-Davidson Aermacchi premises at Schrianna on the shores of Lake Varese.
Massimo Tamburini ran Cagiva’s design department, CRC (Cagiva Research Centre), in San Marino. Tamburini came to Cagiva from Bimota (the ‘Ta’ in Bimota), and by late 1992 was in the final stages of finishing the Ducati 916. But after the 916 was finished, Tamburini was ill with a stomach tumour and it wasn’t until 1995 that he could embark on the next production bike project: the four-cylinder F4.
Andrea Goggi, an engineer with Cagiva since 1988, was entrusted with redesigning the liquid-cooled F4 engine. With oversquare dimensions (73.8 x 43.8mm) and a central chain-drive for the double-overhead camshafts, the layout was unlike the Japanese four-cylinder engines at the time, which featured side camchain drives. The cylinder block was sand-cast as a separate piece, and inclined forward by 20 degrees, which provided near-vertical 46mm throttle bodies for the Weber-Marelli EFI.
Another unusual feature was a reduction gear driven by the crankshaft, which allowed smaller cam sprockets. This reduced the size of the cambox, but the cams rotated backwards and required a front-mounted camchain tensioner. Another unique feature was the radial four-valve layout. The included valve angle was a narrow 22 degrees, with the valves tilted outwards two degrees. The cassette-style six-speed gearbox came from the 500cc Cagiva Grand Prix racer, the primary drive was by straight-cut gears and the clutch a wet multiplate.
Tamburini designed the 4-2-1-2-4 exhaust system, with special emphasis on the four outlets. He wanted it to sound like music. “It looks like organ pipes. Just like I love listening to Pavarotti, I love listening to the engine,” Tamburini said. The pistons provided a 12:1 compression ratio and the 749.4cc four-cylinder engine produced 126hp at 12,200rpm.
Eschewing the popular aluminium-beam frame, Tamburini preferred a composite chassis layout. This included a chrome-molybdenum tubular-steel trellis section wrapping around the narrow engine and bolting to cast magnesium rear uprights. These doubled as engine mounts and pivots for the single-sided magnesium swingarm. Eccentrics on the steering head bearings provided adjustable steering geometry, while alternative mounts for the Sachs shock allowed a choice of rising-rate.
The suspension, wheels and brakes were all designed specifically for the F4. The 49mm upside-down Showa fork incorporated quick-release axle clamps and the brakes were designed in cooperation with Nissin. Along with 310mm floating discs, the front calipers featured six pistons of different diameters. At the rear was a 210mm disc with four-piston caliper. Marvic supplied the magnesium 3.50x17 and 6.0x17-inch wheels and Tamburini commissioned Pirelli to supply a special 120/65ZR17 EVO front tyre to match the 190/50ZR17 rear. Completing a rigid chassis specification were large diameter axles, 35mm on the front and 50mm on the rear.
ALL THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD
The F4’s styling was another Tamburini triumph. Following the example set by the Ducati 916, the small poly-ellipsoidal headlights dominated the frontal aspect. The final design placed the twin headlights one above the other in the centre of the fairing. According to Tamburini, “Lights in the centre are easier to control, allow a more compact fairing and simplify homologation around the world.”
Completing the specification of the 184kg F4 750 Serie Oro was carbon-fibre bodywork, a transverse Öhlins steering damper and adjustable (by eccentrics) footpegs and levers. Instrumentation was thoroughly modern, with a digital speedometer and analogue tachometer. Rolling on a short 1398mm wheelbase, the F4 750 Serie Oro promised exceptional agility and stability, with a claimed top speed of 275km/h.
The F4 Oro was initially unveiled at the Milan Show in September 1997, and appeared in the Guggenheim exhibition The Art of the Motorcycle at the end of 1998. Production of three units per day started mid-1999 and, by the end the year, delivery of the limited-edition run of the 300 pre-ordered examples was complete. Unfortunately, however, it took so long to develop that by the time the F4 Oro was released it was arguably already obsolete.
By 1999, the Japanese 750 fours were lighter and more powerful, but that didn’t worry F4 Oro buyers, most of whom would never ride them. Many Oros went into the collections of celebrities, including King Juan Carlos of Spain, TV host Jay Leno, Giacomo Agostini, and Max Biaggi. A handful made it to Australia courtesy of the then MV distributor, ex-champion racer Paul Feeney.
MV Agusta has released many limited editions since 1999, but the F4 750 Serie Oro stands alone. It heralded MV Agusta’s resurrection and is still the most collectable of the new-generation MV Agustas.
Five Facts about F4 750 SERIE ORO
1 The genesis for a new fourcylinder motorcycle went back to September, 1989 when Claudio Castiglioni and Tamburini discussed creating a high-performance 750cc four-cylinder all-Italian motorcycle over a late-night dinner in Rimini.
2 As CRC was heavily involved in Cagiva’s 500cc Grand Prix racing program, resources to develop the F4 were limited so Ferrari Engineering in Modena was engaged to develop the prototype. The four-cylinder engine was initially similar to half a Ferrari V8. The choice of radial valves was also Ferrari Formula 1-inspired.
3 Engine development was problematic and in 1991 the F4 project was moved to the Ducati factory at Borgo Panigale in Bologna. Here two of Ducati’s most eminent engineers, Massimo Bordi and Fabio Taglioni were engaged to help facilitate development.
4 By 1994 the Cagiva Group was under considerable financial pressure and, at the end of the year, the Cagiva Racing Department closed. Department head Riccardo Rosa then assumed control of the F4 project, which moved back to Schrianna. Andrea Goggi, an engineer with Cagiva since 1988, was entrusted with redesigning the engine.
5 Massimo Tamburini was given the task of finalising the chassis and styling. By now it was decided the F4 would be an MV Agusta and Tamburini was given a blank sheet of paper with the freedom to design what he wanted. When Cagiva sold Ducati to the Texas Pacific Group in 1996, Tamburini elected to stay with Cagiva, citing as his reason, “Cagiva is my family”.