An interview with
Ing. Giulio Cesare Carcano
Mandello del Lario, 09.05.2002
by Luca Angerame with the cooperation of Aldo Locatelli
Aldo and his wife Terry: without them organizing this interview wouldn’t have been possible.
Fange, Goffredo and Alberto for editing.
Paola for her patience and support.
My uncle Marco for hospitality.
Under a merciless rain we arrived. We were in a timeless courtyard among the alleys of the old part of Mandello, on the shore lake.
At the top of a little staircase there was a wooden door with a simple brass nameplate. I read it and I lost a heartbeat: “Ing. Carcano”.
Everything started some months ago with the idea to have the workshop manual of my bike autographed by its designer, then slowly this idea became a bit different: interviewing Ing. Carcano for “Anima Guzzista”. (note: ing. is the italian abbreviation for Ingegnere, Engineer)
Giulio Cesare Carcano is the man who designed both the 500 V8, the ultimate racing bike of every time, and the V90, one of the most famous motorcycle engines, the engine that made “Moto Guzzi” surviving by more than 35 years.
Thanks to Aldo Locatelli’s good offices, we had his approval and then I spent a lot of hours reading the preceding interviews, thinking to new questions with the help of Fange, Goffredo, Alberto and of Aldo himself. Then I spent a lot of time reading again the questions in order to eliminate banalities, manage the interview properly and organise the logistics aspects.
The train trip from Rome, then a good lunch by Aldo and a last equipment check and I was ready, but still full of doubts: will our questions be interesting? Or our interview will be banal for a person who already has had hundreds of interviews. Will he say goodbye to us unceremoniously? Will the equipment be OK?
But now there we were and all these questions became meaningless.
I knocked at the door and a tall gentleman just a bit bent for being 93 years old, with a lot of white hairs opened the door. It’s him! I recognized him from Colombo’s pictures taken some 50 years ago. I lost another heartbeat.
We were invited to enter in the dining room. A dining room with a floor made with squared marble tiles and old time’s furniture. It seems like time passed there without touching anything. We sit and start the interview warmed up with Mrs Carcano’s coffee.
Luca Angerame: First of all, I whish to thank you for being willing and so kind. I’m here on the behalf of a Motoclub of guzzisti and above all we simply wish to thank you for what you did. Everyday we use your motor and the all the kilometres we travelled depend on you.
Aldo Locatelli; every starting it’s: ing. Carcano… ing. Carcano… ing. Carcano…
LA: we wish to ask you some questions for an interview.
Giulio Cesare Carcano: (smiling) please do! If I’m able to answer, it ‘ll be a pleasure.
LA: as a present for you there is the T-shirt of our web site “anima guzzista”; all fans, you know, almost maniac people…
GCC: (smiling) I see! Guzzi having soul, that’s very very nice!
The V motor and the V7 the first motorbike
LA: I would like to start by asking about your engine V90. It’s a project dated 1965, and nowadays it is still there; what was the evolution you foresaw when you projected it? What could this engine achieve?
GCC: it’s an old story. As you know, because now it’s common knowledge, the corps of cuirassiers (note: the special Guard of the President of Italy) needed a new official motorbike because the Falcone they had, looked very poor. A colonel commander of cuirassiers said to me “you know we choose our horses in Normandy because it’s bad for the men and for the horses to see a two meters tall man riding a little horse… We need a bike that is what those Norman horses are for our rider”. And this was the main starting point. We realised the first V project (note: he referred to the engine and not to the motorbike), a 704 cc. From that project all the complications and the elaboration of the subsequent motorbikes were born.
At that time I also built a V, 500 cc first and then a 600 cc. I put it on a Fiat 500. I remember that it gave me a lot of satisfactions. It was a motor, the 600, giving 36 or 38 HP. Exactly twice the output of the original Fiat engine, giving 18-20 hp.
The car was very brilliant, pleasant and funny; it had a very good acceleration and the maximum speed was almost too much:140 Km/h for such a small car!
Then I built another V, much more a humble project, I’d say; it was assembled for a a military vehicle, the so-called mechanical mule, the 3×3. We did some tests for that purpose.
Eventually, the V model for the bike was the chosen one, because police forces and the Army liked it, and not only the Italian ones but all around the world.
Then it was increased to 750 cc. making it a sport engine, almost a racing engine. In any case, in my view, in spite of several advantages for tourism, police corps and stuff, that engine scheme is not too suitable for a racing motorbike, for several reasons that I do not explain for I fear to become boring…
AL: is it because of the projecting cylinders…
GCC: Not only for the problem with fairings. The main difficult is that the shaft drive gives rise to an overturning torque. This torque is dangerous for a racing motorbike, while it is tolerable in a walking machine. This can be confirmed by BMW. They have had several successes with the sidecar, because of the third wheel, while without sidecar the performances weren’t satisfactory, because of the side lying down during the bend.
Then, the actual motorbikes have been derived from that 700 cc engine, by using always the same scheme. In my view, the scheme is very practical, even now, for a touring bike, while it isn’t so for a racing bike.
LA: indeed the V was supercharged a lot
GCC: yes they even built the four valves (he smiles). But try to think to some motorbikes existing today, they are super machines and only few people can really used them up to what they can give. The 100hp Japanese motorbikes are able to run to speeds over 200 km/h, they are wonderful machines, but few people can drive them.
AL: but still everyone wants to drive them!
GCC: yes and it’s quite strange if you think about that: the motorbikes market is in crisis for mopeds and light scooters but there is no crisis for the superbikes, and they are dedicates to few people able to really drive them…
LA: Thus when you projected the V90 you didn’t think it would be able to get the actual 1100CC
GCC: (smiling) oh no, I didn’t thought that that motorbike could have been so successful with the police corps worldwide. We sold it in US, in Egypt in Argentina… It was a motorbike made for the police corps and in fact it was projected for that use.
LA: a very reliable bike
GCC reliable, clean, with good performances and above all robust.
LA: thus you didn’t foresee the development of that engine for bikes such as the 850 Lemans of 1975.
GCC: no it was something that happened then and it was a commercial success. But as I said before, the origin of the motorbike was as requested by big horse (the nick name of the cuirassier colonel NDA), i.e. an impressive motorbike made to be ridden by an impressive tall man, a cuirassier.
LA: If you consider what that engine eventually got, I mean 1100 cc, 4 valves, etc; according to your opinion what could be the evolution in the future? Do you think about it with liquid cooling?
GCC: mmmm, today a part of the marked is focused on sports motorbikes and another part is focused on half-sports motorbikes. And next to than the GP races there are also championships dedicated to currents road models that are successful in the market, so…
La: Thus according to your opinion the V90 keep evolving because there is market?
GCC yes sure, even if I don’t really know the situation of Moto Guzzi after it was bought by Aprilia. Inside Guzzi, I still know some draftsmen, old friends of mine but I’m not too much informed about their programs, but I think they will have to do something new and different.
LA. People are talking about liquid cooling, rotating the engine of 90°C with aspiration ducts inside the V and exhaust ducts outside on a side.
GCC always keeping the V scheme?
Al: the most actual evolution, the hydraulic tappets, are already mounted on the engine.
GCC: I don’t know, 35 years have been passed from my retirement, I still have some friends of mine such as Todero that was my tight hand man, sometimes he tells me something but I’m not so informed about what they are doing. But they should do something new.
LA: your engine made Moto Guzzi surviving from 1965 until today, and it is still in production
GCC yes, there is a problem; but I don’t know what they have in their minds. Regarding the competition I know today at Aprilia there is a new engine that already raced. As you know starting from the next year the highest category will be only for 4 strokes engine.
They (Aprilia NdA) built a 3 cylinders engine that raced in some competitions but they are very late. I don’t know if this engine will be able to compete with the 5 cylinder Honda or with all the 4 cylinders Yamaha, Suzuki and so on.
Regarding the production, I don’t know what they want to do. I felt they wanted to built the V liquid cooled (It’s the VA10 NdA), but I don’t know if they will keep developing it.
AL by now your engine has been developed to the maximum…
GCC Indeed and I believe that people are always attracted by something new and frankly I believe my V cannot be something so new, yes maybe it can become the liquid cooled; I heard rumours but, who knows…
LA: Not everybody would agree on that; for example I read of a pool in which the majority of people declared that they would not buy a Guzzi with a different engine!
AL: there was the same problem when the V90 turned out, i.e. nobody would have abandoned monocylindric Falcone…
GCC if we forget Moto Guzzi for a moment, the problem is that today the competition on the market of racing motorbike is very hard. I remember that people said “Japaneses? Will they be reilable?” but Japanese men today succeed impeccably either in motorbikes or in cars.
There are not qualms anymore about Japanese products. Such as considering the product only as fashionable at a first view ; now they are able to built very good cars. Thus if today one wants to abandon the V scheme it is necessary to go on high fractioned engine and high powers. Today, 100 hp are just not enough.
Actual Racing Motorbikes
LA: today motorbikes having up to 160 hp are sold; it is difficult to think to pass this value talking street motorbike
GCC: yes and I’m not able to understand. Now there is the new 990 4 strokes formula for the GP. In the first year this formula has to rice together to 500 2 strokes: you have to consider that a 1000 cc 4 strokes can reach 300 hp. Do you know what this mean? They are crazy, the two strokes engine has more than 200 hp and the new 4 strokes engine that is trying to race now seems to have 240 250 hp.
The argument is simple. If we assume that in the Formula 1 a 3 litres powered has easily 800 hp. A small engine is able to turn quicker or at least at the same regime thus it is easy to predict that the Honda engine racing this year would have almost 300 hp once it will be completely developed, next year.
Now think what means 300 hp on a 4 inches tyre…. It’s..absurd!!
Thus one of the scopes of racing it’s to attract the public, fascinate it by showing that it’s always more engaging and difficult, but at the extreme, it’s only absurd.
LA: they will have to introduce some electronics controls as in formula 1
GCC on these machines everything is electronic..
LA: I meant traction, suspensions brakes control
GCC: yes and by the way, those old circuits where effectively power made the difference have now disappeared. I remember Avus circuit in Germany. It was composed by two straight tracks 10 km long, one bend to be made practically at very low speed and a big banked bend where at the time, Auto Union and Mercedes speeded at 400 km/h.
Today these circuits do not exist anymore, but there are circuits in which it is difficult to remain on the seat with a motorbike having so much power.
Just think about a wet race nowadays! I know it is exaggerated, but people are fascinated by this show.
If the aim is to make money with the public then fine, it is achieved, but if the goal is to use this r&d in practical way what can be learnt from such powerful bikes, I really don’t know… (He is puzzled)
LA: thus according to your view it is unlikely Guzzi come back to competitions
GCC I don’t know, I heard that Guzzi would come back to competitions, but I don’t’ know when and how, it’s only rumours. Even because to go back to the competitions means to race in the Grand Prix formula where Aprilia is already present.
I don’t know the power they have. They gave a motorbike to Laconi, in the first racings he is in the eighth, ninth position (he is puzzled)
I don’t know how much horsepower they have, but for fighting there among other things there is a weight scale. With a minimum weight depending on the power and splitting, with the exception of a splitting above to 6 cylinder.
Of course the 6 cylinders engine has a weight the four weights less the three even less. The differences are about 20 kg. That is important but not enough to cut the power of these engines
AL: it seems that even today you are still close to the motorcycle racing world…
GCC (smiling) no no I’m just one who listen to rumours from time to time… But I see car and motorcycle races with pleasure.
AL Thus you still have the passion, you didn’t forget your first love!
LA what competition engine would you use today?
GCC for actual formula of 1000cc?
GCC The weight scale need to be studied because it is decisive. It’s clear that with the same power a 6 cylinders is able to give something more than a 5 and 4 cylinder and even more than a 3 or 2 cylinders, that goes without saying…
Al: Is this what you were thinking when you thought about the V8?
GCC yes, but now it is not possible anymore to do it, so we can simply avoid talking about it. The three cylinders could be a good solution, but one has to keep in mind the limitation of the turns of the engine.
I don’t know the maximum power and the number of turns of Honda 5 cylinder. If the Italian three cylinders is able to turn at almost same speed it could be competitive, but if that turns at 20000 and the latter at 14000 it is not possible to do. People said that an engineer who worked at Ferrari cooperates for the 3 cylinders and that the engine has pneumatic return of the valves. In this case, well, it could turn enough.
The problem is that to be competitive you have to think about power as we said before. At least 200 HP and I believe now we are quite far from that.
The origin of eight cylinders engine
LA: The choice of the eight cylinders was made because it would be better than six and four cylinders?
GCC: We thought differently. Once abandoned the monocylindric and the bicylindric, our closest solution would be a four cylinders. But building a 4 cylinder meant stay behind Gilera and MV because they started earlier and we would had to work at least a couple of years to be at the same level of experience and development.
Then we thought that aiming to the eight cylinders the power was not an issue anymore, on the contrary weight and dimensions would be important. Our 8 cylinders was brilliant because it was as large as a 250 (waving)
When it was tested on the bench for the first time it already gave 63 hp while the Gilera gave 60 hp, and we were just at the very first tests. Then it achieved 70-72 hp and the power would be increased more and more if they did not kill it with the famous 1957 agreement.
LA: What will it would have been able to achieve, according to your view?
GCC: we had so many things to test. A new crankshaft and other things. From 75 hp, I think 100 hp could have been achieved relatively easily in one or two years. I’m pretty sure because we tested the engine at the bench at 12500 rounds, but Lomas said that at the Avus circuit, it turned at 14000 rounds. I remember I said we were going to install a turns limiter (smiling).
For sure 14000 rounds were possible with that dimensions. The problem was with distribution. Think what margin of improvements that engine had, by using what today is normal, the possibility to have an electronic starter or the distribution with the pneumatic return of the valves…There were huge possibilities to improve it.
LA: and even an electronic ignition in the middle of the V of the cylinder would have solved the carburettors problem.
GCC yes sure, with the indirect or direct ignition, depending on the case. We were able to do the V with eight carburettors and all these stuffs. But it would be so much simplified with the injection. It would be possible to improve fuel consumption, the power, everything. There were plenty of room for development in front of us.
LA if regulations would not forbid it, would today your eight cylinders still relevant?
GCC the actual engine we were talking about, no I don’t think so; but its son, probably yes! There are so many technological innovations that became available after that engine. And if it would be possible, you can bet that Japanese would have already done that. I remember on 1956 Honda built a 125 5 cylinders. Do you know what it means??? It turned at 19000 rounds; I saw it turning at the Tourist Trophy. Was it between 1955 and 1957? Maybe later… (he thinks).
It is true that the V8 engine had fans worldwide (He points out a picture hanged above the fireplace with a drawing representing the eight cylinders): the Mandello Moto Guzzi Club gave me that.
Last year an Australian man comes to visit me. It was a peculiar person: in Australia he built two eight cylinders motorcycles, a 750 and a 1000 and he told me a bit of the story. He built them by himself
LA: thus if it would be possible, today would you project the same 8 cylinder for racing?
GCC if it would be possible, you bet I would do that! An 8 cylinders engine with the same V scheme but very few other common features besides it. Today if you don’t build a four or 5 valve you will already lose. The old 8 cylinders had two valves. Then the new one would have completely different cylinder heads and starter. At that time for that engine the ignition problem was practically without solution.
We started trying the Vertex, a Switzerland magnet. It was quite good, but it didn’t hold. When the engine turned at half of the maximum (6000-6500 turns) it already had problems. Then we built a system with a cylindrical ignition coil and spark plug point. It worked well but such a system today would be ridiculous.
AL: I am thinking about your engine with the modern starting injection distribution…
GCC: yes, sure. It seems to me that engine is square, with the diameter equal to the stroke. Today they built undersquare engine able to turn more quickly. I think that an 8 cylinder thought in this way could turn at 20000 rounds/min and it would be possible to have 150 hp with half a litre…
LA: is it true that at that time it was thought to develop a four cylinders from half of the eight one?
GCC no it isn’t true. A test was made by reducing the power to 350. It was thought to take of one cylinders block. But the test was never carried out.
We talked about this 250 four cylinders, but it would be bulky since it has the carter, speed gear clutch and also the radiator of the eight cylinders engine. And the test was not carried out.
On the contrary the 350 (8 cylinder) was built and tested at Monza: I remember that engine was able to give more than 50 hp, 52 or 53. But it was only for fun, and only the 350 8 cylinders was built.
LA: Could it have been interesting development for a street use?
GCC: Yes maybe you are right but it would not have been so easy to sell it because of the high price. The ones who can afford to spend so much money on race bikes, would rather buy a 500, a 750 or 1000 cc, that kind of superbikes.
LA: maybe it could have grown until 500 or 600 cc and hence become as the japanese fours of the seventies, but with 15 years earlier?
GCC: well, maybe yes but at that time, from what I remember, nobody ever though to have something to sell, starting from the bikes we used in the competition. At that time people were not into superbikes.
Ing Carcano and Moto Guzzi
AL: what was the relation between the racing department and the production department?
GCC: If you thing about modern factories, The Guzzi’s organisation of that time will make you shuddering! Thinking about Guzzi’s organization at that time, for example: the racing department didn’t have a workshop of its own. We had our own staff managing the racing but for the rest it depended on the production department.
The toolmaker department that normally produced the tools for normal motorcycle, had to work also for us and we, in the racing department, had always to beg them while a part of the workshop people shilly-shallying. It was a continue fighting.
There was not an organisation dedicated to the races as for example today in Ferrari. We depended to the toolmaker people that helped us on a personal courtesy base!
LA: how did you live the end of the racing, the famous “patto di astensione” of 1957?
GCC I’m saying the truth: I lived it in a bad way because it was a completely unexpected decision; I don’t know if it was right or wrong. If they had called me…
I remember we were in Modena, for some tests for a city race on the Modena local circuit, a simple fenced lawn. When we came back somebody told me: “do you know Guzzi withdrawn from racing?” I got the news like that, the decision could have been right or wrong but a different approach was necessary. In any case if Guzzi have had keep racing, it would have become more modern. Organize itself in a different way.
AL: So it was that bad for you…
LA: by brusquely interrupting the racing a lot of knowledge and experience was wasted, wasn’t it?
GCC yes it’s true, I remember in the 1936, my first year in Guzzi, there wasn’t a divisions of works and responsibilities, all people did everything, sharing knowledge.
Since at that time I was the only engineer in Guzzi, every time there was a problem or a trouble, people come to me and I had to find a way to solve it. There were some military supplies that needs to have a list of drawings about the values of some tests such as powers consumption, torque and so on, and these drawings were due according to the contracts. And I had to do them, there was no choice! They wanted the accelerations of the military motorcycles in the first second third fourth gear, and I have to draw all the plots. I did so many different tasks, every time there was a trouble, they came to me saying: “and now? What do we do?”
LA: What was your nicest moment in Guzzi?
GCC the worst moment is easy to remember, on the other hand then there were a lot of good moments. Let me say, and nobody can deny that, that I was so enthusiast, I would have paid to work in Guzzi! I never had controlled time or badges, neither at the beginning nor later.
Some times I went to the work at 10a.m. and the porter, scared, told that Dr Parodi was looking for me. And I answered: “Yes I am late but yesterday at midnight I was still drawing”.
He never obliged me to clock in or out, and I worked with passion; I didn’t fell the weight.
After the 1957 I didn’t’ clock in or out but the situation was completely different. That enthusiasm, that team spirit which made us try and try again everything, just disappeared. When we built the eight cylinder my co-workers and me did enormous efforts for drawing, then we had to go to the model maker in Milan, then to Isotta Fraschini that moulded the first carters… It was a continuous moving, then after the 1957 everything stopped.
AL After the 1957 you was employed in the series production…
GCC; after ’57 more or less we went on pretty well until 1965-66 then SEIMM arrived, then… You see, I had a boss, Dr Enrico Parodi, who was such a nice person, a good fellow, too good to be a manager. To be a manager you have to be cruel. If one of his employers was sick he sends him a specialist at home, he was really a remarkable person. Of course, some people knowing that took advantage of the situation and therefore we had that period of ’60 when there was also a general crisis. Moto Guzzi didn’t participate to races anymore and the thrill of past times was gone. He was badly treated by some managers. And I’m very sorry for this because he was really a good fellow; he was too generous to be an executive officer.
The boats and the American Cup
AL: then you took refuge in the boats.
GCC: yes I took refuge in the boats and I have also had a lot of fun. You see, I honestly have to say that I still prefer boats to bikes! (he laughs)… Next year there is the American Cup and I can only watch it on the TV…
LA: So, what is better, motorbikes or boats?
GCC even when I was involved in motorbikes, I always loved sailing boats. For this reason I keep working with boats. Sailing boats gave me a lot of satisfaction.
AL: so you are an artist for aerodynamic and hydrodynamic shapes both in the water and in the air…
GCC (laughing) it‘s a very pleasant problem because there are a lot of variables. You see, now I can only watch the American cup on the telly, but there was a period in which I was near to be part of it. It was on 1962 when Gianni Agnelli wished to challenge the America’s Cup. He went to Croce and the latter to me asking if I would be able to make a drawing. I answered something like: “I don’t’ know, let’s see what can be done”. I went in America with Agnelli and Croce, we were received by Kennedy at the New York yachting club. At that time there was a rule that the challenging boat for the American cup had to be the drawn by a designer of the challenging nation, and all the boat parts such as masts, sails, winches, keel, and rudder and so on had to be built in the challenging nation. I think that rule still exists but it is possible to bypass it. It was not possible to build a boat and take say the mast in America, the sails in Australia and so on as it is done today. Now if the two Italian challenging teams were forced to compete using only the Italian instrumentation and Italian masts they would not even be taken in serious consideration.
So, I remember on 1962 we went to watch the American Cup and since there were the strict and controlled rule that the boat and all the tools had to be Italian we just forgot about it. And we were right because we couldn’t have been competitive.
Next year there will be this new edition of the American Cup, where there are two Italian challenging the Switzerland, France and England among others. In my view the best one is the Swiss boat because they faced the problem in the right way. They took away the steersman and the design engineers from New Zealand. They took away from New Zeeland all the good they can.
The America’s cup problem is fascinating because is at the same time easy and complicated; the problem is easy in its formulation, you need to have a boat that in the average conditions in which the American Cup is played is quicker than the others. It’s easy, isn’t it?
But here the difficult bit: New Zealand won the last American cup, it was a quite strange boat. Now everybody thinks to copy it but it’s the worst thing you can do, because after four years New Zealand people have gone for sure further on. The experience of the America’s cup shows that both the Americans and the non Americans won the cup with different boats representing something new with respect to the solution that won four or five years before.
When people did copy-cat boats, as I called them, they always lost badly.
Ing Carcano tells about Carlo Guzzi
AL: what Carlo Guzzi told when you proposed to built the wind gallery?
GCC: The wind gallery was a Carlo Guzzi‘s craze. I said him not to do a home-made wind gallery as this one: we either had a good one or none. But to do that perfectly, would have been four times more expensive…
That wind gallery was born with an internal combustion engine. A Fiat aeronautic one of 900 hp it had a propeller capable to suck everything around it! After then it was installed an electric engine. As I said, Carlo Guzzi really wanted the wind gallery.
AL: How were you relationship with Carlo Guzzi?
GCC I admired him a lot.
AL, and he let you did whatever you wanted?
GCC well, yes especially lately, but at the beginning no, he didn’t. Carlo Guzzi was a clever person, having a sense of humour I didn’t find in anybody else. He was a pleasant person because he was facetious and unmistakably clever .
As everybody, he had his good and less good sides, one of them was that he didn’t give acknowledged a thing if it wasn’t effectively tried and tested. As a results, sometimes he was lost in tests and trials of which he already knows the result, but he wanted to try nonetheless.
AL how was working with Carlo Guzzi?
GCC Carlo Guzzi was a clever person with a pleasant sense of humour; plenty of good laughs…
AL: Before you were introduced in the racing department was Carlo Guzzi the only one involved?
GCC Carlo Guzzi was involved in everything and accidentally also in the races. Before 1936 when I joined Guzzi, he built the four valves European champion of 1924 and then after he built a liquid cooled 4 cylinders with a timing with push-rods that didn’t was successful, but he did that in 1929 or 1930. Then in 1932 he built the first twin, then two Albatros 250 in 1926 or 1927.
Then when I joined the company, the Guzzi racing motorbikes were the Albatros and the 500 twins at 120°. The Condor was then built. I worked a lot on the Condor.
AL: How was your “fork with little biscuits” born?
GCC the “fork with little biscuit” was born for Gambalunga. We tried the first one in Bergamo in the “Circuito delle Mura” with Balzarotti who was still with us at that time
I remember that the damper was in two sheaths and it was too difficult to let it work well. When we put the two external dampers, they worked very well. In fact that fork was mounted also on the world champion 350 and even on the V8!
AL, In fact it had the external dumper
GCC yes right they were external. It was a practical solution because we could change the couple of dampers in 5 minutes. Now the forks are much more evolved, we didn’t have problem anymore with that fork putting the dampers outside
LA: you had full power for the races. On the contrary, for production bikes, did Carlo Guzzi sometimes refuse an idea of yours?
GCC well, even for production series, factory organisation wasn’t exactly… (He does a vague gesture) At that time we were a floor above the “villetta” (a part of Guzzi plant used for the offices) that was used for the designers. On the left there were Paolini with 5 or 6 draftsmen: that was Carlo Guzzi’s reign, on the side Guzzi had a little office. On the other side, facing the street there were my co-workers Cantoni, Todero and me
AL When did they join you?
GCC Cantoni arrived just before the war, when we drawn a small engine for a bicycle. With the roller working on the tyre. It was around 1940 or ’41. At that time I didn’t have an office even because I never asked for it. I was itinerant in the plant. When Cantoni was assigned to me I had to find a place, a desk and a drawing table. Then I went to Carlo Guzzi who gave me a sort of passage near the department in which the engines were mounted. It would have been about half of this room wide and twice long (note: about 2×10 mt)
It was a warehouse for the tyres. He had it emptied and then said: “that will do!” (he laughs). People told this to me only later… He wondered I didn’t refuse to stay in that tunnel. There was space only for a small drawing table because the big one touched the walls. That was my debut with Cantoni.
AL: and going back to the question (Luca’s question) about assistance with the production models…
GCC: if there were problems in the lines, then I attended. For example sometimes there were problems with the thermal treatment. We had a thermal treatment where there was a quite good technician. Sometimes they had a problem and then I went there to see what the problem was.
Of course, after 1957 I was involved only in production only.
LA: Was there a motorbike built by something else that according to your opinion should have been built by Guzzi?
GCC: mmm I don’t know. I was a friend and a fan of Ing Salmaggi. At that time he worked in Gilera. A competitor of our Condor was Gilera Saturno. That was a very good machine. In my view the best Gilera motorbike of all time. Exception made for the first 4 cylinders, I mean the Roman one. The story of the Gilera 4 cylinders is known. It was the Rondine that was offered to Guzzi before. But Guzzi refused it.
Mandello del Lario
LA: if you’d stayed in Guzzi, what would be the motobike you’d have suggested for the production?
GCC That’s the million dollar question (he laughs). To be honest, I don’t know… When I left Guzzi, for a period of two or three years, I was disgusted by motorcycles…
Count Augusta looked for me to give me a free hand. I remember well that day of November. I went to Gallarate with my wife Claudine, where I was invited. It was raining and there was a bit of fog. I reluctantly answered that I didn’t feel ready to abandon Mandello, and my wife agreed with me. You see… I already had two or three cats going around my home.
I thanked Count Domenico but I did not accept the offer. He gave me absolute freedom to take care of motorbike, helicopters airplane, anything I wanted! But I was in a sort of nostalgic moment, as it happens and I didn’t fell right about leaving Mandello.
AL Mandello helped you also for your work at Guzzi because it was a quiet and pleasant village
GCC: My father bought this house a couple of years before my birth. We spent here Easter holidays and summers.
My father was an electronic engineer, born in 1876. He got his degree in 1900 or 1901.
During the war, the first year I worked in Guzzi, I couldn’t use this house because there was no heating, so I lived at the Grigna or at the Giardinetto (note: two hotels of Mandello) after 1940 my parents was evacuated and we installed some small commodities. From 1940 on, I always lived in this house.
LA: are you somehow addicted to Mandello ?
GCC sure I was here till I was 2 or 3 years old…
I remember that me and my brother who was three years older than me, were members of a sort of gang of tourists. There was also the gang of local people, and of course we hated each other. Those days, one needed to be very careful because sometimes there were some fights and stones flying by (laughs)
LA: In your view, the people of Mandello made an impact on Guzzi success? I mean from the human point of view.
GCC: Yes for sure. In my view Carlo Guzzi was lucky because his first co-workers I known were good local fellows and very good technicians. I remember Agostini called “Moretto” who was called also “l’uomo del diton” (the big thumb man, NDT) for his way to build the cams of racing motorbikes
He made the bobbin, and then he gave it to toolmakers to mill the crankshaft according to the established angle. Then he made the profile with the Indian stone and the file. Then the crankshaft was cemented and tempered, he finished it off with the abrasive stone, the Indian stone. In order to check if it was good and if it was smooth enough he used his “diton” (big thumb) and passed it on the crankshaft in this way (he makes the gesture) . I remember this “diton”, he was such a joke.
The first Guzzi’s co-workers were simple people but very very good technicians.
AL: How did you live the races? The journeys, those moments when you are preparing a race..
GCC: in the last year we had two OM trucks, with the body fitted to transport racing motorbikes. If we were going to go very far, such as the Tourist Trophy, the truck drivers arrived at Calais, then from Calais to Dover, then Liverpool and at Liverpool they took the ferry boat for the Isle of Man. That was the longest travel.
Al : about a week?
LA: What was your favourite racer?
GCC: it’s difficult to say, you know, I had some friends of mine also among the pilots. For example I remember Lorenzetti: he was a clever man, I don’t remember another person similar to him. Lorenzetti had a talent, I don’t’ know if it’s the case to tell about it, but he was a bad rider in terms of sense of balance, but he was a good pilot. I remember once we were in Genew, He had a Condor 500 with something wrong in the carburettor. We went on a street open to the traffic in Geneve: he was riding the motorbike and we tried to regulate it; he was going slowly and behind him there was a BMW sidecar of a tourist; suddendly he turned without looking and the sidecar make him fall. A rider doesn’t do these things. In any case he was good. He was the opposite of what people can imagine about a pilot, he wasn’t a boaster neither exuberant, but he was very clever and expert.
The one I truly admired, even if I did not agree with his views, was Tenni.
Tenni was a very strange person. If you knewn him..if Tenni were to sit with us right now, he would have been calm, quiet, as a timid person. But as he was on a motorbike, he changed completely (makes a rapid gesture with his hands). I remember well that his only aim was to go fast when riding; not to win the race but to go fast. One day he told me: “ d’you believe the public come here to watch the races just to see if Guzzi or Gilera win? No! They go to the race to see people going fast”.
For example: Lorenzetti was a calculating man, if he was ahead, he cut off the gas 20 meter before. Tenni was the opposite, if he was leading, he cut off only 5 meters before the bend. He said “I fell as I am stealing from the public otherwise”. He was exactly the opposite of Lorenzetti.
Another good friends of mine was Alano Montanari. I don’t know if you remember him. I don’t know exactly how good as a pilot he was but he surely was a unforgettable person. Let me tell you about Montanari: when I knew him, he had an Albatros, he was already about 45 years old, I’m not sure, but in any case he was more than 40. We were at Ospedaletti and I was introduced to him by a friend of mine who came often to make a visit in Guzzi. He said I’d like to introduce you Montanari: he has just fallen, losing a thumb nail and he was lamenting.
He was a Guzzi’s maniac; do you know what maniac means? He would never conceive to race on a Gilera or Norton. To him it was either on a Guzzi or no race at all.
This story was reported to me thus I’m not sure it is true, but it gives you a picture of the man: he had a 250 PES normal (PE sport NdA) for using everyday. He was a “Romagnolo” from Cesena (Romagna is the Region in central Italy famous for the passion about motorsports) and once in Romagna he was on its bike with a passenger, riding very peacefully; all of a sudden, a Gilera came and passed him. Terrible! It was a personal insult, then with twisted mouth he said to the passenger behind: get off the bike, jump! (He is saying that in romagnolo slang) but the passenger didn’t understand immediately, so Alano repeated: jump! And so did the passenger and let him go to catch the Gilera who dared to pass him!
AL: Were you in charge for the selection of the pilots?
GCC: no I didn’t, sometimes they called me for an opinion but we were not involved in the recruiting of riders.
LA: In you view, was Tenni the most courageous pilot?
GCC Tenni was reckless. If you didn’t know him, it is difficult to think that a man could drive in that way…
There was a race of the Italian championship in Bologna, at the time when city circuits were still used. In that race there were 4 Guzzi’s with 250 equipped with the compressor. The pilots were Alberti, Pagani, Sandri and Tenni. There also were three Benelli’s equipped with the compressor, the pilots were Soprani, Rossetti and maybe Ciani, I don’t remember well; then there were all the other people around them, but the fight was between Guzzi and Benelli. Guglielmo Sandri comes from Bologna, he was a very good pilot and Bologna was his homeland.
Ok, so: ready?And go: Tenni and Sandri left behind all the others. Tenni was able to force Sandri to fall (something that gave him huge satisfaction) and he was the first.
Rossetti, with Benelli was late behind and at the penultimate turn there was Tenni first and Soprani second with a delay of almost one turn. At the entrance of Giardini Margherita, the street become narrow and there was a small passage Tenni caught Soprani up and overtook him on the inside of the bend! Both of them passed by but if they just touched each other… they would fly off. That was the kind of riding that today you would never think possible. Tenni wan the race with a turn of vantage with respect to Soprani, I said him: “listen, do you understand how crazy was what you did???” “Yes” he replied” “But if I’d passed him after the narrow bend it would not have been as fun…”
AL: You know what? We envy you for such memories!
GCC (laughs) I would love to have fewer memories and fewer years too, but it’s not possible, I am afraid…
LA: do you remember the Tenni victory at the 1937 Tourist trophy?
GCC: yes of course, but I wasn’t at Isle of Man. I remember well the telegram coming from the Isle saying that Tenni was the winner in the 250 class and that then he run in the 500 class with Stanley Woods. While in the 1935 Stanley woods won, in 1937 I don’t remember what happened to him but he didn’t win…
I remember that when I received the news, there was people coming to me asking: “who is arrived? Who is arrived?” and then they asked :“ with Guzzi?” ; that because there bets on the victory and a premium promised if Guzzi would have won also in the 500 class (laughs)
LA: how was Omobono from the human point of view?
GCC he was positive and proud. I remember with sadness when he felt and died in Bern. I was in Rome and I have remorse of conscience. You know, there are things that one thinks and, who knows, maybe they are not true but… maybe if I was in Bern, it would not have happened.
You see, at that time we built an experimental bicylindric motorcycle and we sent it to the “centro studi” of the Army in Rome there were some discussions because there was something they wanted, some specifications and stuff… but I don’t remember well and then Carlo Guzzi told me to go to Rome to see what it was all about.
In Bern Tenni tested for a lot of time this twin 250 and he wasn’t sure to use it in the race, and before the practice close, he said to Moretto “ I want to try my 250 mono as well” . The two motorbikes were different: the 250 twin has taller footboard and the rest while the other one was lower. In few words, he took this normal Albatros, he did a turn and arrived when the climb starts; in a bend on the right, he leaned the bike too much, touched the street and lost it. He knocked his neck against a small three (he makes a gesture) and he died on the spot. I don’t know, I don’t know… Practice sessions were about to finish and if he decided to run with the twin or with the Albatros he wouldn’t need to try it because he tried it a lot of times… But this is how things go, sometimes… He was a good man.
LA you were lucky to see both the pilots of 30’s and the modern pilots. Who was the best one and the most courageous you have ever seen?
GCC: It’s difficult to say who was the best one (he pauses thinking…) there were a lot of them and it’s difficult to say who’s better even because you should test them on the same machines and the same conditions… Among the Italians, excepting Lorenzetti who was more a technician than a pilot and he was able to do things the other wasn’t, I’d say riders such as Tenni and Valdirolo. The later run for Gilera; he was a daring and very good pilot.
Among the strangers, Duke amazed me. I don’t exactly remember the year, it was when he won the first TT with the Norton 500. We were at the Isle of Man with the twin 120° of Bob Foster. I was gone to Craig Ni Bah; that was a descent bend. That circuit now it’s more or less put in order but at that time.. One wanted to kill the managers because they allowed to race on that street with tarmac having such a coarse grain full of holes and with stone walls on the left and the right that if you went against them you could seriously damage yourself…
Well, I remember to have seen Duke, when he was 18 years old and was at his first year of racing. He was the co-pilot of Harty Bell who was the Norton number one. I saw this boy at Craig Ni Bah and I was speachless: this young boy behind Harty Bell gave the impression to say :“go away! let me pass!” it was amazing to see! Duke was really a very good pilot. Another good pilot was Surtees, for sure a very good pilot.
Then there was Ray Amm, He did not race for long though. There were a group of three or four riders who were really exceptional.
We have had for a lot of years Bill Lomas who was a very good pilot. Champion of the word in the 350 and he was the pilot of eight cylinder. Then , besides Duke, the Gilera Team had McIntyre who was another very good pilot.
AL: now when you watch the races, the pilots fall and get up in a second….
GCC: it has to be said that now they have runaways that we haven’t at that time; if one crashed, he would be damaged, period. Now they have that shield back they started using after the Rainey’s accident. You know he was paralyzed, the poor man.
Sure, even today it is always better to avoid falling but I see that eight times to ten they fall and they have only some scratches on the hands…
LA: and what do you think about Valentino Rossi?
GCC: I think Valentino Rossi is very good. To be honest, I always enjoy watching him because he is really very good. Now as I said, with the motorbikes used in the GP it is very difficult to be able to go up to the limit…With all due respect to all the competitors around but he is really good.
LA: one would stay here for hours to listen to your memories…
GCC: yes I understand
AL: You were the designer of V90: some people say that the right cylinder of the engine is more brittle and more subject to breakage
GCC do you mean on the V7?
GCC I don’t know, this is the first time I hear this story! I don’t know it at all.
LA: people say that it is because is less oiled than the left cylinder…
GCC: well, this is an old story of the workshop manual of Moto Guzzi, now I’ll tell it to you: when I joined Guzzi, they sold the motorbikes with the workshop manual.
Together with the workshop manual there was a sort of vademecum for the Guzzi rider, in which there was explained the reason for which there was an horizontal cylinder, because the engine turn on the contrary and there was written that since the engine turned on the contrary it push the oil above and in this way oiled. That was all false, because, as you know, inside a carter when there is an engine running there is just oil fog going everywhere.
But the fact that the engine turned on the contrary because it sprayed the oil above and then they went down was written on the workshop manual of that time…
AL: Thus is there no reason in the project for the presumed fragility of the right cylinder?
GCC to be honest it’s the first time I hear that the right cylinder is more fragile! I have never heard about it.
LA: in your view would today a horizontal monocylindric on a street motorbike be possible?
I’m thinking to your monocylindric 500 long stroke. The son of that engine may be adapted on a sport street or a tourist motorbike…
AL: lets say a modern Gambalunga revised and adapted for the street use…
GCC it may be would be fit, but the difficult would be to find a client. Who would buy this kind of motorbike? Today people want 4 cylinders for 100 hp or more with high performances.
I believe that this kind of motorbike would be difficult to sell. And of course it has to be cheaper than a 4 cylinders… It would be difficult to find a market.
The main argument is that the motorbikes are not means of transportation but they are means for fun: if you are looking for means of transportation, you get yourself a car.
If you put on the market a 500 monocylindric today even at a modest price, I think you would find a lot of problem to sell it
AL: but there would be the Guzzi lovers…
GCC I don’t know… I would not agree, but maybe I’m wrong.
The Guzzi of tomorrow; why not a diesel?
LA: according to your view in this moment what would be the best choice for the Guzzi…
AL: if you’d work in Guzzi now…
GCC: Well, I‘d tell you something, but maybe its better I don’t say it, or maybe I’ll tell you later, privately…
LA: please say it, then if it’s the case we will delete it…
GCC: well, if I worked in Guzzi I think I should do something completely new: Rumours say that they want to liquid cooling the V90. But it is in any case always the same engine. What I would do -please don’t panic!- it’s a three cylinders diesel engine.
AL: I see…
LA: You said diesel?
GCC: diesel indeed! Because with a properly done common rail, today with a three cylinder diesel you can target all police corps and the army. In military motorbikes the fact to use diesel instead of petrol gives an enormous advantage. Imagine today you build a three cylinder of 900 cc. With about 60 HP. This motorbike could achieve 180 km/h with a tank that you fill once a month. A motorcycle what will never break easily. I told about this idea to some friends of mine in Guzzi. I don’t know if they will ever give any thoughts on it.
If you think the diesel engine did enormous progress with respect to a petrol engine. Surely if we are thinking about sport bikes, the ones who want a brilliant engine,, well, this is not the solution. But if the buyer is the army or the police dept and then maybe some enthusiasts…Well, then I think this is not a completely wrong idea.
If I’d be in Guzzi I will judge important the fact to be implied with the common rail technology development.
Al: You see, Luca, how ideas are born…
GCC: then they can do that or not but today the fact to be ablet to say…
AL: Yes, it would be a revolutionary idea
GCC: more than revolutionary; it would be an idea for the future. If you see that the trend y for petrol engine is flat while the trend for diesel engine is steadily growing. To say: “I don’t even know how to touch a diesel engine” it is not an advantage, for a brand that used to build engines.
LA: I think just by considering the traffic we have today, the advantages of motorcycles of this kind…
GCC: yes, you start from a pool of potential clients that are police departments, urban police etc, and then from that you make the project grow with the same evolution of the V7…
AL: Oh my, what a loss for Guzzi your departure…
GCC: Oh well, I already told you that I was called again about one year ago. I have to say that the new proprietor, Mr. Beggio was very kind with me, that must be said. As soon as there is a party or a meeting about Guzzi I’m invited, he send somebody to pick me up. I remember I was introduced to five top managers, now I don’t remember their names, but we talked a bit about what the future programmes could be. When they asked me “but if you are still in Guzzi what will you do? I answered as above. Now, I don’t know if that seed will fall on a fertile soil or on a stone. I think the seed has fallen on… Oh, well, I headt about this project to build the liquid cooled twin engine. I really don’t know what they will do.
AL: this would be a follow up of the initial project.
GCC: yes yes
AL: the maximum possible evolution; on the contrary, this diesel idea would be a new thing, a revolutionary thing
GCC: yes it means to be the first in the world, with an engine that has a future, it’s undoubted.
I remember the diesel engine of some years ago, so irritatingly bad smelling and noisy! Some days ago a lady with whom I had to have a lunch, picked me up with one of the last model of Lancia, I think a Lybra, with a common rail diesel engine, and it’s hard to recognize it as a diesel engine if you don’t know it!
Nice, smooth… the diesel technology has made tremendous progress.
LA: we can think about the big scooters used in the city, the diesel engine would be better than petrol…
AL: I already see Ing Carcano designing a diesel engine if asked….
GCC: I’m too old, gentlemen!
LA (to Aldo) you preceded me, because I wanted to ask: when you left Guzzi, who lost more? I Would say Guzzi, to be honest…
GCC (smiles) I don’t know if Guzzi lost a lot, but I suffered a lot for the way I was forced to leave suddenly. I didn’t like it. As the Poet says “il modo ancor m’offende!” ( I’m still upset by their ways) It would be better if they called me and said: “you cost us too much” even if it is not true because, among the wrong things I did in my life in Guzzi, I always have a very low salary, because it was more what I got from Guzzi under the table.
That mistake was reflected in my severance pay and my pension, because I should now live with (omissis) but fortunatley I have had some savings. In other words, I would not live on my pension schem, calculated on what I officially had.
LA in any case it is a fact that when you left Guzzi. Guzzi stopped innovating. The last engine was yours. After, there wasn’t anything really new. De Tomaso built the 4 cylinder in the 70’s…
GCC (agreed) a bad copy of Japanese engines
LA thus Guzzi stayed at that point
GCC: (agreed puzzled without commenting)
LA: it is a common opinion you designed the most extraordinary motorbike of all time: the V8. But you are remembered as well for the V90 engine, a piece of Italian story, the engine that motorized Carabinieri’s motorbike and so on. What’s your feeling about the fact to be the designer of a fabulous racing machine as the V8 and to be remembered for the V90, don’t you think it is strange?
GCC (laughs) I don’t know, they are two completely different things. That one (the V8) was born as the possibility for the Guzzi to defend its name in the 500 class, because Guzzi in 500 class lived modifying the bicylindric 120° from 1930-32 till 1950. And from that engine they pulled out everything possible.
Of course we had the problem to build a completely new machine. The concept of that machine was, in my view, quite simple, in the sense that we didn’t have any choice. If we made the 4 cylinders at least for a couple of years we would have to learn because there already were Gilera and MV and they were already evolved and developed. Then if we must make something new what would be our choices? No the Six cylinders too large, by putting 6 cylinders in line there was the well known effect we wish to avoid (overturning torque NdA). It seemed that the solution was to have an engine as large as a 250 even with all the troubles due to 8 cylinders. Especially for that time because today that solution would be match more easy.
We had to invent a new starting system because it was not possible to have satisfacting results by using a magnet. That solution seemed quite logic to us, let’s start with a 8 cylinder and then try to evolve it …
LA: sure! A V8 it is pretty normal!
GCC: (laughing) Well…
AL: people has to believe in such a project. They have to see someone’s will and incitement who told them “make that” so one puts the heart in the project.
LA: at the end you are famous for the V90 that is a utilitarian engine.
GCC: at the end I didn’t invented anything with the V90. It is a quite logic and rational scheme. And it is quite practical to be a tourism engine. I didn’t invent the V of 90° it was only a good solution for an engine having those features.
AL: yes but you were the one who did that.
LA: and you designed the engine that allowed Guzzi to survive.
GCC: ok, but come on…(he makes a gesture as to say ‘that’s not so important”…)
LA: what is the most satisfactory engine you worked on?
GCC: it’s a difficult question, (laughing)… It’s difficult. Well, the V8 among others left me with a lot of regrets. Because in 1957 when they decided to stop racing, we had already designed a new crankshaft and we had a list of things to do. The 1958 V8, if it had existed, would have not been just a modification of that of 1957 but probably a big evolution.
LA: Did you follow Tonti’s course of events when he developed the V bicylindric for the small series?
GCC: I knew Tonti, but when he was in Guzzi I wasn’t there anymore. As I told you, my relationship with Guzzi was bad and stayed bad until Mr. Beggio’s arrival; He had been a very kind person with me. I visited Todero and Cantoni, we had a chat, but at the end I didn’t know much more than people in the street.
LA: For this reason you neither followed the stories of De Tomaso…
GCC: I know he built the four cylinders copied from the Japaneses; it was a disaster, but I know it only because from time to time I met somebody who told me the news. Not because I was informed in a particular way.
LA: De Tomaso delayed the Le Mans 850 the sport motorcycle. It was ready on 1972, but he rejected it till ‘76 after that in the Milan showroom of 1975 he saw the motorbike was judged very well.
GCC: (agrees without commenting)
LA: Have you ever been involved with motor racing?
GCC: yes, I was involved with that because for some years – now I don’t exactly remember the period – I was a member of the Italian motor racing sport commission the CSAI when Ing Rogano was the president. I was involved with Formula One rules and stuff. I remember I had leather arm-band that allowed me to enter everywhere (smiles). I did that for 3 or 4 years. I always loved the formula 1 racing; I watch them with pleasure on TV but I’m not into the secret things…
LA: What do you feel to see that there are a lot of v90 fans? Even people who wasn’t born yet when the V90 was projected…
GCC (laughing) to be honest, I don’t feel anything!
LA: there are people for which your engine is a cult.
AL: when you find 10.000 guzzisti at a meeting that own your motorcycle, you would be a bit proud, would’nt you?
GCC: yes yes, but to be honest, even if it could seem a little strange, nowadays I think much more about sailing boats than about motorbikes…
AL: (laughing) that was your refuge.
GCC: yes a refuge, but even today I’m more informed of what people do with the boats than on motorbikes, there is a quite simple reason. After I left Guzzi, for some years I was disgusted by motorbikes.
LA: it’s incredible. You know, there are a lot of people going around with the image of your engine drawn on a t-shirt…
AL: And it would not be bad to add a writing: “Ing Carcano made it”
LA: Yes I’d put it on mine!
AL: The Carlo Guzzi’s monocylindric lasted till 1956, it went on for 35 years, then there was the evolution of the new Falcone, that was a different motorization, but your engine it is 40 years old and it is still running (laughing)
LA: there are a lot of teenagers who don’t look for the performance of 150hp, people who choose carefully, because as you said how many people are able to drive a motorbike having 120, 130 or 150 hp?
GCC: (agreed) yes only few people can. I have also to say that when I was in Guzzi sometimes I tried to ride motorcycles, but I know I have always been a mediocre biker, and maybe I’m lucky, for this reason I’m still alive.
I remember than every time I tried a motorbike and they told me to brake when I reached a roadside mark, I always missed it. I fell an enormous admiration for the bikers having that innate talent… You can’t buy it…
I remember a circuit in Ospedaletti, it was raining cats and dogs, class 250, there was the usual duel between Ambrosini on Benelli and Ruffo on Guzzi. First lap, I was with the Lorenzetti’s brother in law with first time sign. They leave, and do you remember the Ospedaletti circuit?
AL: Ehr…a little bit
GCC they leave, and after 100 meters a sharp turn, they keep climbing, then the slope they turn and come back. At the end of the first lap I heard the noise of the motorbikes arriving. Ambrosini was preceding everybody with Benelli. In front of hotel Regina, that is 100 meter far away from the sharp turn, at full speed on the wet he seized! I heard a strong noise, the motorbike turned on itself… We left the paddock and run for our lives! Do you now he runs 20 meters with the wheel in this way? (Across, NdA) without falling? Then he was able to push himself up and went to gently leave the motorbike near the straw bales…
That man had… eight balls for sure. I have never seen such a thing. I’ll remember it till I live that he seized at 200 km/hour on wet tarmac… And nothing happened.
LA: it‘s the sense of balance that….
GCC: yes yes they were very good, and they are even now when they fall. If one of us falls, he is in trouble, but if they fall they make their selves into a ball, and knock the hands (it make the gesture to knock the hands on the table) and they manage to get away with. They are good.
The Mille Miglia Race
LA: and your preferred car pilot?
GCC I remember at that time when Varzi and Nuvolari run, I was a Varzi’s fan and I thought Nuvolari was a brag and a car-destroyer! Then I become a Nuvolari fan, when he runs with German cars…
LA; with the Avus (I meant Auto Union NdA).
GCC: With Auto Union actually.
GCC: in1938 Nuvolari run at Monza GP. It was a moving moment. At that time there was a fight between Mercedes and Auto Union and the first ten runs Nuvolari on Auto Union fought with Lang on Mercedes. Then Lang broke and he was alone. When he was at the refuelling they put on his head an apron as big as this table. You see, they put 200 litres of alcohol in the tank and they were afraid that during the refuelling the alcohol could wet the pilot so that to make him as a human torch in case of accident… I remember at the end he won and when they pulled outside him he was as dry as a towel, poor boy. That Auto Union was so big, 16 cylinders, very hard to drive, it was a terrible thing, what run he did…
LA between Nuvolari and Varzi there was the episode of driving with the light turned off…
GCC: yes the light turned off. Guidotti, who now is dead, lived in Bellagio. Guidotti was a dear friend of mine and a good fellow. We meet twice or three times a year with him and some other friends of mine. Now it’s two or three years he is dead. He told me these stories. In the turned off light story the couples were Varzi-Bignami and Nuvolari-Guidotti.
Al: I was thinking how Ing Carcano remembers all these particulars and…
GCC: Well, nothing to be too happy about it! To be honest I remember all these old things but if you ask me what I had for lunch, I have to think about it twice and it is not easy…
AL: don’t worry, it also happens to us to not remember immediate things…
LA: in the ’57 even the Mille Miglia stopped
GCC: yes because of the Guidizzolo crash
LA: involving De Portago and Nelson
GCC: and so Taruffi won
LA: PietroTaruffi is the father of Prisca Taruffi, the pilot that appears sometimes at the TV.
GCC: yes, indeed.
LA: thus the 1958 was a quite strange year for the Italian motor sport. the Mille Miglia and the motorcycle races ended..
LA: Anyway the Mille Miglia was not possible anymore. Cars at 300 km/h in small open roads
GCC: Indeed. it was simply not possible in 1957.
LA: and in the Mille Miglia there were all kinds of cars too: ranging from Fiat 500s to Ferraris.
GCC: yes, indeed.
LA and it had to be raced respecting the street signals!
GCC: That’s true; people had to stay on the right and bend on the left keeping staying on the right because if the bend was cut the fault, in case of crash would be of the driver…
LA: and traffic lights were to be respected too, because at that time there weren’t speed limits
LA: In the old pictures cars speed by bicycles and barrows…
GCC: yes yes I remember one of the Omobono automotive experiences. Tenni, you know that Tenni run with the cars. He run the Mille Miglia with Bertocchi who was for Maserati what the “Moretto” was for Guzzi. Bertocchi when he go out with Tenni the first time, put a big button that connected to the ground the starter, (he smiles) because if something happened he would have pushed the button. Bertocchi said that Tenni was terrible; Tenni was simply Tenni.. even in a car.
In Milan they built a circuit around the Arena between the arena and the Park. I don’t remember the exact year but it was after the war. Maserati came with the 1500 and 3000. Tenni did about ten rounds testing the 3000cc and he already took away all the straw balls!!! Thus they made him run with the 1500cc (he smiles)
I remember he had the 1500 4 cylinders and there was Trossi with the new 1500 6 cylinders. Trossi won but Tenni was just there immediately behind. I don’t know if it was behind because of a team’s order or because he wasn’t able to go faster. Omobono… always running… With cars too he was irreducible…
LA: I thought I wasn’t able to ask all the questions, on the contrary…
LA: do you have an unpublished anecdote? An episode?
GCC: (thinking) a lot of them probably! But no episode in particular rises to mi mind right now.
AL: the research of lightness in the racing motorbike?
GCC we were able to make the 350 world champion on 1957 weighting 98-100 kg more or less. That was the motorbike I loved the most, because it was complete. The engine had 38 HP and it run against Gilera four cylinders 500cc.
Now, listen… Here, the episode! This is the gossip that shouldn’t be reported, ok? You know the famous rumours where in in a race at Monza during the tests the four cylinders 350 Gilera broke? Then they didn’t want to miss the race the day after so they run with a 500 in a 350 class, and that is not nice at all. When the race ended the motorcycle stopped at Lesmo, before the finishing line and it went straight in the direction of Arcore and nobody saw it anymore! Nobody doubted about that race, but I received a letter signed by a person from Arcore saying that the motorbike was so and so… It was a signed letter. But it would be impossible to raise such a weird episode but the fact that it didn’t arrive to the finishing line and then it quickly disappeared on a truck gave rise to a lot of rumours..
AL: Let’s talk about the wind gallery the aerodynamic lightness…
GCC yes it was one of the Guzzi’s obsession; he wanted it and we used it for sure! The advantages you get with the wind gallery are pretty straight-forward advantages: we did a certain kind of fairing and fifteen days after the others had exactly the same fairing!
It’s the same on the formula 1 cars. They cover the aileron in the front for the picture on the Gazzetta dello sport (an Italian sport newspaper NdT) then when all people sees it, if they think it could be an advantage, they will copy it
LA: you also projected the Guzzi records car, the Nibbio.
GCC no, actually I didn’t; the Nibbio was an obsession of Count Giovannino Lurani who was a friend of Parodi; but we didn’t projected the car, we just supplied the engine.
LA: I think we covered almost all the topics…
At this point we end the interview. I thank him and I ask for an autograph on the first page of my workbook.
GCC this is a workbook… (he seems to be amazed) I never saw it, it should be more recent (he turns the pages) it’s very well done (he signed the first page) and Look here: they explain the engine I did!!!
AL: well, I think that concludes our interview. We are grateful…
GCC: you are welcome, It has been a long chat.
LA: thank you!
GCC: not at all, you are welcome.
We leave the old house, while the ‘Ingegnere’ escort us to the door. It is still raining. We walk the narrow roads on the lake shore, we don’t talk too much, still amazed by how the meeting went.
We spent two hours with a man who let us approach at the very roots of the Moto Guzzi legend.
A man who used to joke with Carlo Guzzi, who disagreed with Omobono Tenni, who used to go out for lunch with Guidotti who talked with him about Nuvolari and the Mille Miglia… And he talks to you about that, as the simplest thing, as it has happened the day before… I feel I talked with a piece of History itself, I had glimpses of a spirit almost disappeared nowadays. I find myslef thinking about Carcano refusing the offer from Count Agusta. Because of the rains and the cats he had in Mandello…
I am soaked under the rain and I cannot help smiling. It was the passion that made him refuse that offer, surely not the climate…
We pass by the liberty-style ferry dock at Mandello, I still hear the Ingegnere talking about designing the V8 or the V90 as a pretty simple thing, suggesting a three cylindres diesel engine as an obvious design.
How different Moto Guzzi history could have been if only they asked him to stay…
Thank you for all, Ignegner Carcano.