SV.VM (Sironi Vergani vimercate Milano) was founded in 1971 in Milan, Italy by Piero Sironi and Fausto Vergani. They started with small capacity Sachs engined enduro bikes and progressed to Rotax engined TL125 and TL320 trials bikes in 1977. Joan Riudalba won the Enduro Spanish Championship in 1980 on an SWM & in 1981 Giles Burgat won the Trials World Championship on an SWM. In 1983 all bikes got alloy swing arms and the reed valve motor and frame were introduced. Production ceased the following year.
Suzuki began life in 1909 as a weaving looms manufacturer in a tiny seaside village in Japan. Business boomed providing Michio Suzuki with the financial power to develop engines for both automobiles and motorcycles. By the late 50s, early 60s, Suzuki was producing high calibre bikes for race and road use. In 1965 they introduced the T20 as “the fastest 250cc motorcycle in the world”. In 1968 they launched the T500 with it’s air-cooled parallel-twin 500cc engine – the largest displacement of any two-stroke at the time. And the list just grows and grows ……..
Originally a bicycle manufacturer founded in Wolverhampton in 1887 by John Marston, Sunbeam began producing motorcycles in 1912 (when Marston was 76 years old) from ‘Sunbeamland’. From the initial sale of Sunbeam to a consortium in 1919, the company changed hands several times whilst still producing bikes under the Sunbeam name. It was finally dissolved in 1964.
Whilst working as a craftsman for Fiat, Enzo Simonini designed his own two-stroke engine for off-road bikes and in 1970 Simonini began production in Modena, Italy. Their bikes featured fibreglass tanks and mudguards, with mechanical components made from elektron. Hence, they became known for their super light bikes.
Founded in 1899 by Johann Puch in Graz, Austria, Puch specialised in vehicle production. It wasn’t until after the Second World War it realised it’s true potential within the motorcycle industry: between the 1950s and 70s it launched the 125 and 175 SV, the extremely successful MS 50 moped followed by the staggeringly successful Puch Maxi.
Initially a producer of railway carriages, Piaggio was founded in 1884 by Rinaldo Piaggio. With the advent of World War One, Piaggio diversified production with aeroplanes, seaplanes and motorboats – which over time achieved 21 world records. After World War Two, Piaggio identified a need for a modern, affordable mode of transport for the Italian mass market so they employed the talents of the aeronautical engineer Corradino D’Ascanio … and the Vespa “Wasp” was born. Within the first ten years over one million units had been produced. By 1960 4 million scooters had been sold worldwide. Over the next forty years, Piaggio would acquire some of Europe’s motorcycle greats: Gilera, Aprilia, Moto Guzzi, Derbi and Scarabeo.
Founded in 1873, NSU was a German manufacturer of automobiles, knitting machines, pedal cycles and motorcycles. The first NSU motorcycle appeared in 1901. During World War II they produced the Kettenkrad, the NSU HK101 and the 251 OSL. After the war, Albert Roder, the chief engineer at NSU propelled the company into another stratosphere as it became the biggest motorcycle producer in the world – with the NSU Fox and the NSU Max with their monocoque frame of pressed steel and a central rear suspension unit. In 1956 Wilhelm Herz of NSU at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, became the first man to ride a motorcycle faster than 200 mph.
As research & production costs soared in the 60s, NSU was taken over by Volkswagen who merged the company with Auto Union to form Audi.
Founded by James Lansdowne Norton in 1898 in Birmingham, England, Norton was originally a trader in motorcycle fittings & parts. In 1902 the company began manufacturing motorcycles with bought in engines. By 1908 a Norton-built single-cylinder engine was added to the range which continued with few changes until the 50s. In 1914 Dan O’Donovan broke a staggering seven world records on the 490cc Norton reaching speeds of 78 mph. The First World War had an impact on production but by the early 1920s Norton were literally back on track … and scooping up titles galore – between 1924 and 1938 Norton won the Isle of Man Senior TT event ten times. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Norton were ahead of the military motorcycle game with their Norton 16H. Between 1937 and 1945 nearly a quarter (over 100,000) of all British military motorcycles were Nortons. Post war and Norton resumed its successes at the Isle of Man Senior TT with consecutive wins from 1947 to 1954. With the Manx Norton of 1947 and the Norton Dominator in 1949 with the benchmark featherbed frame the Norton range of civilian motorcycles became more assured. However, Norton was in dire financial difficulty and by 1953 sold out to AMC. Production under the Norton moniker continued … changing to Norton Villiers in 1966 when AMC became insolvent. With 1968 came the Commando (in several different styles) and its innovative isolastic frame. In 1972 Norton Villiers merged with Triumph. Improvements on the Commando continued and the Wankel engine was developed. Norton is now owned by Norton Racing Ltd and is based at Donnington Hall, Leicestershire.
With the end of the Second World War came the emergence of M V Agusta Motorcycles and it’s small-displacement cafe racer style motorcycles. Cheap and efficient, the initial models were produced purely to fund the ‘no expense spared’ racing efforts of the Agusta brothers, Count Vincenzo and Domenico. By 1952, their expensive passion had paid off and the
M V125 powered to a 1952 Isle of Man TT victory. The scene was set for motorcycle racing history: one 125cc and 175cc model superseded another from the high gloss red ‘flying saucer’ to the Super Sport to the ‘Shark’. From 1957 M V Agusta went on to dominate Grand Prix racing, winning 17 consecutive 500cc world championships with some of the hottest riders in the world – notably Agostini and Ubbiali.
Established in Pesaro, Italy, in 1949 by one of the six Benelli brothers – Giuseppe Benelli – Motobi introduced the B200 Spring Lasting “The Egg” in 1953. Due to its streamlined pressed steel frame and horizontal cylinder layout it became the trademark for many future Motobi bikes. After several improvements over the years it transformed into a factory racing machine of high calibre and derived a reputation amongst Italian riders as the “power egg”.
Aesthetically, the bikes were becoming stand out due to their bright colours and so a trend began. In 1962 Motobi was acquired by Benelli – bringing not only the brothers back together – but solidifying a joint brand that saw production soar to 300 machines a day.