The first and only Fiat motorcycle that amazed the world


The first and only Fiat motorcycle that amazed the world
Written by aquitodovale

There are historic brands such as BMW, Honda and Suzuki, which have been in the automotive and motorcycle sectors for years. Industries that, alongside a top-level automotive tradition, boast very popular motorcycles. But which houses with an intense production of cars have not managed to make it into the motorcycle sector? Despite having all the technologies and qualities to do so, one of these was Fiat.

The Turin-based company designed a very special motorcycle, the prototype of which is still considered today a true masterpiece: the Moto Major. The name derives from Salvatore Maiorca, an aeronautical engineer in the service of Fiat who, even before the Second World War, was specialized in the production of landing gear for airplanes. Like the vast majority of industries, after the conflict, the need to reconvert war production also arose for Lingotto.

Elegance and technology

One of the first topics taken into consideration was the motorcycle designed by Maiorca which was presented in 1947 at the Milan Spring Fair. Built in Aeritalia workshops of the Fiat group, was an example of design and technology, characterized by a wraparound fairing that hid the engine, part of the front wheel, the steering, included the headlight and protected the driver’s legs. Equipped with a steel monocoque, the steering system was indirect and made use of two mechanical arms that connected the steering head to the handlebar.

Similar, not surprisingly, to a aircraft trolley, the real innovation was in the cushioning system. Without any spring on the forks, the frame was rigid and the patented wheels were responsible for cushioning the stroke, which, inside the rim and connected to the central hub, had twelve pairs of rubber cylinders as an elastic element. This solution allowed an excursion of 50 mm, giving the right stiffness ratio.

Tested at the time on a bench that simulated the distance of 40,000 km, the system showed a very low consumption of the rubber parts. Very elegant and sinuous, aesthetically it was not lost in any detail, so much so that the two exhaust pipes were flattened fish-fins, but only one was functional, while the other maintained a certain aesthetic balance. Initially, in fact, the Moto Major was to be a liquid-cooled twin, but the idea was discarded in favor of an air-cooled 350 cc single-cylinder, the elegance of the second escapement was preserved.

The engine of a great engineer

Another well-known engineer named Angelo Blatto took care of the engine, whose fame was linked to the Turin industrial world thanks to the previous company with Giovanni and Emilio Ladetto of Ladetto & Blatto whose motorcycles won the European championship in Geneva in 1928 and the national championship in 1929 in the 175 class with Alfredo Panella. Dissolved the collaboration with the Ladetto brothers in 1932 Blatto founded OMB (Officine Meccaniche Broglia) together with Carlo Broglia, but they did not have a long life and after having produced all 175 cc models, they closed the business in 1935.

For the Moto Major, Angelo Blatto created, as we have said, a single-cylinder 350 cc with forced air cooling via a fan placed on the end of the crankshaft. It had the dry multi-plate clutch and the four-speed gearbox with a modern pedal control. The final transmission was entrusted to a sturdy cardan.

Unfortunately, this bike never went into production as it did in an earlier experiment in 1938, when a scooter prototype was born. Fiat therefore decided not to enter the motorcycle market even ten years later, but the creation of Mallorca remained one of the best works of design and elegance in the sector, so much so that it received the first prize of the elegance contest at the BMW Group Trophy in Villa d’Este 2018, dedicated to historic motorcycles. That model is kept at the Deutsches Zweirad und NSU-Museum.

A fascinating project

The reason why the largest Italian car factory did not throw itself into the motorcycle sector in those years cannot be known, but it is certain that Fiat, which ranged from the car sector, to aviation, passing through agricultural machinery and trucks, he would have no problem opening lines to build motorcycles.

In the late seventies, a certain Ugo Grandis, a former employee of Chrysler South Africa, designed a motorcycle equipped by Fiat engine of the famous 127, called Shifty. Built in Busa di Vigonza (PD), this vehicle exploited parts of other motorcycles adapted in order to contain the massive 903 cc of automotive derivation and about seventy were produced between 1977 and 1982. The bizarre and suggestive idea was that of an owner of 127 who, also wanting a motorcycle, could have bought a Shifty without an engine and moved the one from his car if necessary.


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