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email: Mitch Kay
MV Meccanica Verghera Ltd repairs and restores MV Agusta and Gilera motorbikes
On the pleasures of owning MV fours..
David Kay was interviewed by Jeff Clew in 1983. Here is an edited transcript of their conversation:
JRC: Why are you so interested in the MV 750 America?
DK: I followed over the years the racing successes of MV, yet when in the late sixties an MV road bike was announced, I was a little disappointed. The 600 four had very angular lines, was dumpy and overweight and had high rise handlebars, crash bars and a horrible rectangular headlamp. To me it was not an MV at all. Time passed, and when the 750S mode was announced in all its glory I knew I would have to have one. But at the time, my finances were very severely restricted and as time progressed the chances of purchasing one seemed more and more remote. The crunch came when I read a road test report on the 750S America in an issue of Motor Cycle Weekly published during 1977. I must have read that report a dozen times, coupled with the fact that the factory was about to cease production. I decided that no matter what the consequences were, I just had to buy one...
JRC: When did you buy your machine?
DK: The machine was purchased second hand from a Lincoln motor dealer for a sum that was at that time considered to be very expensive. the machine had done 2000 miles and I collected it during late 1977
JRC: What condition was it in? Were some of the faults found common for this model?
DK: The condition of the cycle parts was as new. But from the onset, trouble was experienced in starting the machine, due to a flat battery. A bump start brought the engine to life, sounding like a late 19th Century agricultural vehicle. I was informed that this was quite normal and that I would get used to it. After only two miles the engine cut out on two cylinders, caused by an empty petrol tank, which a refill soon put right. After 20 miles or so the engine began to perform as it should. It no longer sounded like an antique tractor, the working tolerances of the engine now being correct. It performed according to expectations and sounded great. When I arrived home, I realised I had experienced my most memorable ride on a motorcycle.
JRC: What repair and general renovation work has been carried out?
DK: The quality of the chromium plating was poor and being of Italian origin, the switchgear and electrics were not up to the by now generally accepted Japanese standards, being decidedly awkward to operate. These faults were apparent to the unbiased eye. Repairs have been surprisingly few. the ignition and cam timings were checked and adjusted, both being slightly incorrect. Having an engine designed for 100 octane fuel, ignition advance is critical. If the setting is too far advanced, overheating and holed pistons will result. Even with the ignition timing set correctly, the engine runs at a high temperature - approximately 210-220F oil temperature and 400F at the cylinder head. Incorrect ignition timing can add another 10-20F for every 2 degrees advance.
The only other work required on the engine has been balancing the carburettors at regular intervals and shimming the exhaust valve clearances by inserting shims of the correct sizes between the valve stem ends and the inverted bucket cam followers. Rear tyres last approximately 3000 miles and from tyres 6000 miles. No basic troubles have been experienced with the America in 11 000 miles. However, I would recommend that any prospective purchaser of an MV buys a known example, as there are machines on the road which have been repaired by various “MV specialists” which have had problems in the engine department due to incorrect assembly.
JRC: How does the machine perform and handle?
DK: In my opinion, the four cylinder MV engine is beyond criticism It is over-engineered and is likely to suffer only as a result of crash damage. the only real problem lies with the gearbox, which is splash lubricated. Being remote, the layshaft outer bearing tends to break up after severe loadings have been imposed. Handling is on a par with any other Italian machine that weighs 560lb, and due to its weight and the effects of the shaft final drive, it is not ‘flickable’ through corners. Physical effort is required through S bends but this type of steering is soon assimilated by the rider. some machines have a tendency to weave at around 90-100mph, usually on long sweeping bends. In most cases this can be attributed to incorrect tyre pressures and incorrect adjustment to the swinging arm.
JRC: Do you use the machine regularly? Is it practical and if so, how do running costs work out?
DK: My machine is used for pleasure riding. It copes with town traffic reasonably well, but in traffic jams the engine tends to overheat, as does the clutch. I would have thought that for everyday use, this machine does not present a practical proposition. the cost of spares is on a par with those of Ducati and in nearly all cases they prove cheaper than their Japanese equivalents.
With a machine of this type I never attempt to calculate running costs. The machine is used solely for pleasure and the pleasure it gives is beyond price.
JRC: Has your machine won prizes in any events?
DK: One of the four machines I own, a 750 Sport that was imported into England, won the MV Agusta Concours prize at the 1982 Cadwell Park track meeting.
JRC: To what extent has club membership proved helpful?
DK: The Riders' Club membership has proved helpful in that MV owners are spread thinly throughout the country, so that the track meetings held by the club tend to bring the more keen types together so that notes can be compared and problems discussed.
JRC: Is there an MV specialist you have found particularly helpful?
DK: Since owning an MV I have always serviced my machines personally as I have not found a garage or specialist I can trust with a machine of this quality. Most of the members who ride MVs have sufficient experience with other machines to carry out most tasks without problems. The factory manual is very explicit and easy to follow. Sadly probably half the MVs in Britain have been purchased as investments and are not ridden. they are owned by persons with little or no practical motorcycling experience; maintenance is therefore not required.
For major rebuilds within the Birmingham area I acknowledge the work of Mark Wellings who, in my opinion, has destroyed more MV engines than anyone I know through hard riding. In so doing, he has acquired the practical experience to rebuild engine units to ‘as new’ condition.
JRC: how would you sum up the enjoyment you get from owning an MV America?
DK: To sum this up is difficult, as owning an MV represents a love/hate relationship. A flat battery, or some simple electrical fault, can make an engine refuse to start. After losing nearly a stone in weight trying to bump start a machine weighing nearly 600lb you wonder whether a Japanese machine would not provide a more viable alternative. But when the engine starts and the first three or four miles have passed, a feeling of total exhilaration takes over. Just listening to that exhaust note makes you a Surtees, Hailwood or Agostini as you swing into the bends. When those who have criticised an MV are offered a ride, the expression on their face says it all when they return. Inevitably they say they never enjoyed a ride more.
UPDATE: From 1983 to present, MV Meccanica Verghera Ltd can now produce all mechanical parts for all the 4 cylinder road bikes manufactured by the late and great MV Agusta Co.
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