Historic Motorcycle Brands
Cagiva was founded in 1950 by Giovanni Castiglioni in Varese, Italy, originally producing small metal components. Giovanni’s sons, Claudio and Gianfranco Castiglioni entered the motorcycle industry in 1978. After structural and ownership changes, Cagiva was repurchased by Castiglioni’s son in 2009, but the brand was phased out in 2012.
1986 Cagiva Elefant 650 Izaakb
‘Cagiva’ is a portmanteau derived from the founder’s name, ‘Giovanni Castiglioni’ and the town of Varese: CAstiglioni GIovanni VArese.
The Castiglioni boys were into racing, so the first Cagivas were two racing motorcycles ridden by Gianfranco Bonera and Marco Lucchinelli. The production bikes were built in a purpose-designed factory, purchased from Aermacchi/AMF-Harley-Davidson.
Success was immediate and by 1979 the company reached an annual production of 40,000 motorbikes, with eight models powered by two-stroke engines ranging from 125cc to 350cc.
Many of the Harley-Davidson-owned models were continued in production as Cagivas, and the off-road motorcycle division was improved and expanded, eventually producing its own race-winning WMX series of moto-cross motorcycles.
French ArmyT4 – David Monniaux
The T4 350cc off-road bike, was bought by Italian and other armies because of its manoeuvrability and power.
In 1983 Cagiva sourced Ducati four stroke V-twin engines from 350cc to 998cc and entered the sports bike market.
Cagiva bought a troubled Ducati in 1985, but retained the Ducati brand that was famous in export markets. Ducati motorcycle production continued in Bologna, while the Varese-built Cagiva Alazzurra, Bluewing and Elefant were introduced, featuring Ducati engines.
Cagiva also made strategic buyouts of Moto Morini in 1985 and Husqvarna in 1987.
Cagiva motocross bikes were known for their powerful engines and innovative features, such as the MX line that had one spring in the front forks with a damper in the other fork controlling rebound and compression.
1989 Randy Mamola – Rikita
Cagiva had been campaigning in Grand Prix motorcycle racing since the 1970s, but success was a long time coming. Randy Mamola was its lead rider from 1988 to 1990, achieving Cagiva’s first podium result.
In 1991, Cagiva signed former world champion Eddie Lawson (Steady Eddie) to its team and he claimed the company’s first victory when he won the 1992 Hungarian Grand Prix.
John Kocinski also won a Grand Prix on a Cagiva GP500 (C594) and finished third in the 1994 world championship.
In 1990 and 1994 the Italian rider Edi Orioli won the Dakar Rally, on the Ducati-powered Cagiva Elefant.
Cagiva 750 Elefant Lucky Explorer Dakar – Stahlkocher
In 1991, Cagiva also bought the trademarks for the MV Agusta brand.
In 1996, Cagiva accepted an offer by the Texas Pacific Group and sold the Ducati and Moto Morini brands. In 1999, for strategic purposes, the company was restructured. MV Agusta Motor become the main brand, comprising Cagiva and Husqvarna and, in 2000, production of the Cagiva Roadster ended.
In 2008, Harley-Davidson bought MV Agusta Motor, the parent company of Cagiva, thereby regaining some control of its old Aermacchi factory.
In October 2009, Harley-Davidson put Cagiva up for sale. In August 2010, Cagiva was bought back by Claudio Castiglioni, the son of the founder and former owner.
Cagiva Xtra Raptor – MIke Schinkel
In 2012, production of larger-engine-capacity Mitos ended. Increasingly stringent environmental emission requirements and the concentration of resources on MV Agusta’s F3 were cited as reasons.
The last few 125cc Mito SP525s produced were white in colour, and personally signed by MV Agusta CEO Giovanni Castiglioni, thus ending the legacy of the Mito.
The last Cagiva-branded bikes were Raptor and Mito 125cc models. The Cagiva brand is no longer active, with production focussed on MV Agusta.