Moto Guzzi's 1930's Wind Tunnel Was Their Slipstream Cathedral

In the early days of aero testing, Moto Guzzi led the charge.

La Galleria del VentoGetty Images

You're looking at a landmark: La Galleria del Vento at Moto Guzzi headquarters in Mandello del Lario, on the shore of Lake Como. The world's first motorcycle wind tunnel, built in 1950, represented the singular vision of Carlo Guzzi. When he commissioned the project, the boardroom thought he'd gone mad; Guzzi's brother, Giuseppe, who designed the structure, had never seen a wind tunnel before drafting the blueprints. He didn't hold back.

Based on an open-circuit “Eiffel style” layout, the womb-like main chamber stretched more than 88 feet long. The engine room, extending another 32 feet, housed a 900-hp, military surplus Fiat V-12. (Moto Guzzi later upgraded to a larger closed-circuit configuration with an electric motor.) Rider and motorcycle were suspended on a pendulum, like a proto Space Age trapeze act, facing 120-mph winds. Fergus Anderson was among the first racers to test inside the tunnel. He compared the sensation to flying.

But it worked. While the competition toiled in hypotheticals, Moto Guzzi breached the realm of empirical design. During the 1950s, the company’s aero-focused Grand Prix effort unleashed a succession of iconic dustbin racers—including the famed 186-mph Guzzi V-8.