Malaguti have been making stylish small capacity machines since the late 50’s. Although exported throughout the world since that period, the brand didn’t fully appear in the UK until 1974, with the first of a four-model range being introduced to a market place hungry for stylish and fast 50cc machines. The Superquattro, introduced in the December of that year, was the baby of the road going range, being a similar style but a slightly lower specification than the more expensive Olympique model. There are no hard and fast sales figures upon which to base any facts but the Superquattro was not as popular in the UK as the more racy looking Olympique with its twin silencer exhausts, or the trail styled, Cavalcone models, the Cross and Super Cross. The Olympique also came in several variants, with either four or five-speed engines, depending on what arrived from Italy, and conventional or clip on bars according to which model you bought. The Italian market also got a five-speed, Supercinque while a year or so after the initial models landed in the UK, the Hombre, an enduro styled machine, was also added to the line up.
The amount of Malaguti machines sold into the UK would have been far outweighed by the onslaught of the Yamaha FS1E and Suzuki AP50 that appeared around the same time as the Italian range. This means that the Superquattro is a rare machine to stumble across these days and few are seen compared to the hordes of Fizzies and gangs of Garelli’s witnessed at the many shows in the UK.
One of the countries leading moped protagonists, Ian Ritchie, restored this machine after acquiring it in a part exchange deal with a scruffy AP50 Suzuki. The Malaguti was in generally good order and a few weekends tidying it up saw the bike looking something like we see it today. Having seen little use the bike is still wearing the original, and hard to find these days, Ceat tyres, plus a pair of Malaguti embossed handle bar grips.
With a chassis little different to Malaguti models of the 60’s, it is left to the bodywork to create a 70’s image, which it does, but nothing like as effectively as the Fizzies, AP’s and Garelli’s from the period. Every where you look around the Superquattro there are references to the models 60’s origins, with little in the way of electrical niceties and a very basic construction techniques used throughout. No such luxuries as a battery or even autolube, this means nothing electrical works until the engine is spinning and oil has to be added to the petrol making long journeys an exercise in planning. You either carry a bottle of oil around or hunt for garages that sell it and take potluck. Back in the 70’s most petrol stations had a two-stroke dispenser where you could add a squirt into the tank for every half-gallon of petrol you had bought. You had no way of knowing the make or the quality of the oil, it was potluck that it was even oil really.
The suspension too is basic, the front forks possess no damping action other than internal friction, and rely totally on the weight of the rider and bike to keep the springs under control. The rear shocks do feel a little more sophisticated and offer some subtle damping but even so we are not talking advanced suspension thinking by any stretch of the imagination. Starting the engine is carried out either by bumping it off or by kicking the pedals backwards. This action engages the starter Bendix and the motor should spin up sufficient to start it. After this process the pedals are largely redundant and allowed to swing free, their only other task in life appearing to be bruising the odd shin or getting in the way at a crucial moment in the bikes operation. According to the owners manual you can disengage one pedal so that it sits 180 degrees apart from the other and, by putting the engine into first gear, pedal the Malaguti instead of using the engine. Quite how you are supposed to do this without feet fouling the footrests, rear brake and gear change levers, is beyond me, but they were required by law, so are present.
Once on the move the tiny Malaguti provides a firm ride and, size apart, the red machine doesn’t feel at all like a moped. The buzzy engine is rigidly mounted in the steel frame and this makes the bike vibrate throughout rev range, the bars and footrests are mounted solidly too and these vibrations find there way to the nervous system as if there are being inputted directly. The higher the engine revs the higher pitch the tingle, it’s a bit like a rev counter, without the dial readout.
The bike is a small and compact one, however, this makes fitting on to it a tough for all but the smallest of folk. It is a good job there aren’t any pillion footrests because there wouldn’t be anywhere to sit comfortably behind the rider. In the machines Italian homeland, it would have been the norm to have your latest catch sit sidesaddle on the back, helmet less and with her skirt blowing in the wind, but in the UK this would have been a no no, both with the law and the lifestyle. All we were bothered about in the UK was top speed and with this Malaguti there is barely enough room to get down into a racing crouch without falling off the back of the seat.
The super short 1150mm wheelbase is 10mm more abrupt than the FS1E, and a whopping 30mm less than the AP50. These sizes are verging on mini bike proportions, making manoeuvring the bike no harder than just thinking about it. At speed, the Malaguti is very light on its wheels, the slightest undulation or fault on the road surface gets the otherwise well behaved machine moving about like a lap dancers bum on payday. That basic suspension does little to keep the wheels in touch with terra firma once the going gets tough. The springs in the forks do an adequate job of firing the forks back down once they have been bumped up, but with no control over the speed that they do this, the tyre can get overcome with excitement and start making for the verge to have a breather.
Thankfully the rear end isn’t so lively, having both wheels try this stunt would make for a very interesting ride.
Cornering hard on a smooth surface is a pleasure but watch out for weight distribution as sitting too far back does make the front so light you can move the bars quite a way from left to right without affecting the trajectory of the bike. Bar inputs need regulating at all times due to the light weight, the slightly nudge has the Superquattro tipping in and this process is only stopped by another push on the outer bar. Having more loose change in one pocket than another would make it ride permanently lilting to one side.
Possessing only four gears, there are some holes in the peaky power delivery provided by the piston-port, Franco Morini engine. The usual Italian moped technique of mercilessly revving the guts out in every gear before throwing another ratio in, usually just before the power plant goes bang, is required to keep the tiny engine on the boil all the way through the four-speed box. It can, at times, feel as if a ratio is missing between second and third, as the spacing is too wide to keep the engine happily buzzing away. This does vary, according to the incline of the road and the angle of the wind, basically the slightest thing that could sap any power from the poor little Morini engine will do so with immediate effect. Once the revs have dropped out of the power band, the engine grabs your attention with a hollow exhaust note that refuses to raise itself any higher without a cog down or handfuls of clutch. Sometimes fully opening the throttle to create a rich mixture for the engine can yield some recovery from a bogged down situation, this is never as effective as stomping down on the gear lever to get the engine buzzing up where it belongs. Once the piston is merrily bouncing off the cylinder head all is well and the power starts to develop again, until the next time that is.
High revs are also required just to get away from a stand still, the tall first gear needing a well-controlled clutch hand to get away in the chip shop GP without embarrassment. The Malaguti, like most Latin machines, needs to be revved and is quite difficult to potter about on.
With a top speed in the higher forties, thankfully, the brakes do work well but take some getting used to after the efficiency of Japanese mopeds. Squeeze the front lever and you are rewarded with a mild grab, almost as if nothing is really happening, leading to a sustained stopping feeling all the way down to a standstill. The single-leading-shoe, drum brakes just need a little heat in them before they wake up that’s all. The rear brake takes less waking up once the foot lever has been depressed the stopper leaps into action, adding to the consumption of kinetic energy considerably and is required for all but the very mildest of stopping experiences.
The Malaguti range lacks so many social graces when viewed alongside the more civilised offerings from the far east. You can drive an AP or FS1E without even thinking about power bands and gear ratios. The electrics generally work, headlights excepted, without the engine running and they have proper kick-starts and auto lube systems on the later models. Even so the Italian way of doing things is still attractive while also maintaining a level of coolness. With so many fizzies and other common machines around having a bike like the Malaguti back in the 70’s would guarantee instant stardom and individuality.
Malaguti and Franco Morini
Antonio Malaguti, a famous Italian bicycle racer began producing cycles from his small Bologna factory in 1937. After the Second World War, he grafted a small two-stroke engine on to a cycle frame to create the first of many moped designs. In 1958 a real turning point happened in the fortunes of the Italian firm when they fitted the German Motor Expressewerke 50cc engine into a very moped looking chassis to create the Express. This model was a great international success and was soon followed by more conventional looking, low capacity machines.
Many more powered designs followed and Malaguti quickly established a name, which they still have today, for building quality motorcycles and mopeds. Three years after the German powered Express was released, Malaguti turned to an engine manufacturer a little closer to home. Franco Morini began making power plants for other bike manufacturers in 1954 and in 1961 the first of Malaguti’s machines to be driven this way, the Super Sport, was seen. This used a 48cc three-speed engine and had a lot of features that would be seen in Malaguti models throughout the next twenty years
The Franco Morini name is synonymous with a host of 50cc machines from Italy. Many famous names were to be found on petrol tanks but, looking a little further down revealed they were powered by the engines produced by Franco Morini. AIM, Aprilia, Bianchi, B.M., Chiorda, Cimatti, D.M.T., Italjet, Italtelai, Italvelo, Itom, Lem, Malaguti, Motobecane, Moto Gori, Moto Meteora, Moto Müller, Moto Villa, Negrini, Omer, Oscar, Peripoli, Rivara, S.W.M., Tecnomoto, T.G.M., Titan, and Ufo, all used the Franco Morini engine in one form or another.
The company still makes engines for the Italian motorcycle industry, powering everything from automatic scooters to superbikes.
Malaguti Superquattro Specifications
- Engine: air-cooled single-cylinder piston-port two-stroke
- Capacity: 49.93cc
- Bore & stroke: 39mm x 41.8 mm
- Compression Ratio: 9.6:1
- Carburetion: Dell’Orto SHB 19mm
- Max Power: 6.2 bhp @ 8500rpm
- Torque: 2.7ft-lb @ 7500 rpm
- Ignition: contact breaker
- Transmission: four speed wet clutch chain final drive
- Frame: steel tube “duplex” twin loop cradle
- Suspension: 28 mm telescopic forks twin shock oil damped
- Wheels: 2.25 x 18 2.50 x 18
- Brakes: 120 mm single-leading-shoe, front and rear
- Wheelbase: 1150 mm
- Weight: 63kgs
- Fuel capacity: 7.5 ltr
- Top speed: 45 mph
Malaguti Superquattro Road Test Gallery