It was the late 1990s and visionary designer Massimo Tamburini was on a roll. His masterpiece Ducati 916 had been released in ’94 to a hailstorm of critical acclaim. Not content to rest on his laurels, Il Maestro whipped up the MV Agusta F4 as a dramatic encore. The 749cc four arrived in ’98 in classic red-and-silver livery with an underseat organ-pipe quad exhaust and a single-sided swingarm. The F4 succeeded in re-establishing the MV Agusta brand after its purchase by Cagiva, Ducati’s former parent company. Ferrari contributed to development of the engine, which featured hemispheric combustion chambers with radial valves. The F4 grew to a full liter in 2005 with the production F4 1000S. Output was a claimed 166 bhp.
San Francisco’s Munroe Motors fielded an F4 1000 S in American Superbike races and at the Isle of Man TT. Technician Jamie Karrick (now with Bowman Motors) says the F4 1000 “crushes the 750cc version,” and describes the engine as “bulletproof,” adding that the valves rarely need adjustment. He recommends upgrading early F4s fitted with Nissin brakes to the Brembo radial master cylinder and calipers from the later models. He also relates that a Fast By Ferracci exhaust and computer chip add more power while improving throttle response.
The F4 1000 is remarkably robust, but there are a few quirks to consider. The radiator can crack at its upper mount—look for telltale steam mist. High engine output and lean low-speed running can lead to overheating. Some owners have substituted a Microtec ECU for better fueling control. An upgraded aluminum fan and water pump impeller from Muzzy’s helps, too. Also the airbox can split, which affects fueling.
As with other exotics, sourcing parts can be like negotiating a hostage release. And due to a sparse dealer network, securing service can mean a long-distance relationship. According to Munroe Motors Service Manager David Bottini, a full service every 15,000 miles takes 9 hours and costs $1200. And pray that you never crash and need replacement body panels!
Used F4 1000s can be found for a fraction of their original $21,495 asking price. Expect to pay a premium for the special-edition AGO, named after racing great Giacomo Agostini. MC
|The Armani suit of motorcycles.
|Cracked radiators, expensive service, speeding tickets.
|Massimo Tamburini’s masterwork.
|2005 | $9395
|2006 | $10,375
2003 | $6695
Designer Pierre Terblanche’s surprisingly user-friendly Italian superbike. Relatively inexpensive to buy, less so to maintain, and so ugly that only its mother loves it.
Benelli Tornado TRE
2003 | $16,000
A three-cylinder Italian exotic: Walks like a pair of Prada pumps, honks like a Hinckley Trumpet. So rare it makes an MV Agusta look commonplace.
Moto Guzzi MGS-01
Extremely limited-production, air-cooled, 1225cc superbike. Commands awe at track days, which is the only place you can ride one since it’s not street-legal.