AGV Helmets History
AGV was founded in 1946 by Gino Amisano and his two partners as a manufacturer of saddle covers and light helmets for racing cyclists. During its first year the new company shifted its target market from bicycles to scooters, making saddles and backrest pads for Vespas and Lambrettas. Soon thereafter Gino left his partners to follow his own path and doing the work of three increased sales from 20 saddle covers per week to 700, with just one employee. During this time he met Luciana Morando, whom he married in 1947. She was immediately brought into the company and later became a driving force behind AGV.
The first AGV motorcycle helmet was created in 1947. Amisano had seen that motorcycle racers, who were somewhat better equipped in the early street races of the post-war recovery, protected their heads with leather berets. The luckier ones had Cromwell “pudding basin” helmets made in England. Amisano immediately saw expansion opportunities for his fledgling company and he quickly moved into the motorcycle helmet market.
The first AGV motorcycle helmet was made of leather, formed over a wooden mold, then removed and oven dried for an hour at 122° F and painted once firmed up. These helmets were completely handmade, with production initially being limited to five per week. Amisano was a true pioneer in helmet design, and had the luxory of experimenting with many materials, since tests and standards were still unheard of in those years. As Italy worked tenaciously to rebuild its economy after the war, so also did Gino and Luciana to build AGV. They practically lived in the factory, arriving at seven in the morning and often staying there until after midnight. Innovations flowed over the next few years – both in technology and marketing . . .
The first iteration of the modern Italian helmet, being made of fiberglass, emerged in 1954. This lead to the creation of a model known as the 160, which continued to use the classic pudding-bowl shape with a criss-cross inner harness that secured the helmet to the rider’s head. It was a great success. The first racer to use one on the track was Carlo Bandirola riding for the Italian motorcycle manufacturer MV (Meccanica Verghera) Agusta.
In 1956 the first AGV jet helmet went into production. This new helmet was based on the helmets being used by jet fighter pilots and offered greater protection as well as eye-catching modern lines. Its launch at London’s International Motor Show in the winter of 1955 caused quite a buzz, which jumpstarted production. In 1958, AGV became the first company to use a motorcycle race as an advertising resource. Amisano had banners hung around the most photographed bends, emblazoned with the company name and products: AGV, helmets and saddles, Valenza, Italy. The word was getting out there.
A decade later a deal with Giacomo Agostini was inevitable; the motorcycling world champion could only be crowned wearing an AGV helmet. The first contract was signed in 1967 and worth three million lira to the Bergamo superstar, who became the first racer on Amisano’s books. Agostini had his classic pudding-basin helmet painted in his own colors - white, red and green - with a chequered band along the bottom and the MV logo on the front. His victories on Count Agusta’s 350cc and 500cc motorcycles brought the AGV brand to increasing prominence worldwide.
About that time Gino Amisano saw the first full-face helmets that had come out in America. He immediately decided to launch them in Italy starting, of course, with motorcycle racing. But he hadn’t anticipated the suspicion with which the full-face helmet would be greeted. While helmet technology was experiencing years of rapid progress, motoring has always been traditional and wary of change. Older riders claimed in interviews that full-face helmets were far from safe since they obscured one’s vision and impeded one’s hearing, and that true bikers should - when it comes down to it - bear the scars of their crashes on their faces. But eventually Amisano prevailed and the first professional rider to wear a full-face helmet – an AGV – in an Italian race was Alberto Pagani, racing at Imola in the Nations GP in September of 1969.
The AGV full-face helmet’s first outing was an out-and-out success and from 1971 there was a full-face boom as they went into mass production. First there was the X-80 and then the X-3000 which, following Agostini’s advice, featured a sculpted chin bar that enabled the rider to get right down on the tank for the straights, while also being recessed at the nape of the neck to allow greater freedom of movement. During this period AGV was also the first manufacturer to make a two-color fibreglass full-face helmet.
In 1974, there was a historic duel between Agostini and Kenny Roberts, both Yamaha works riders on 750s. Agostini won in front of a crowd of more than 100,000. Gino Amisano was quick to see that the future of motorcycle racing lay in these events and was able to get his helmets on the fastest riders. He subsequently became friends with Checco Costa, and became a sponsor of races, not just riders. He was a partial sponsor of the 1974 race and principal sponsor the following year, which went down in history as the “AGV Imola 200 Miles.” Throughout the years, many events, riders and pilots have decided to associate their name with AGV: Giacomo Agostini, Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Johnny Cecotto, Angel Nieto, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Fausto Gresini, Niki Lauda, Emerson Fittipaldi, Randy Mamola ,Luca Cadalora and most recently Valentino Rossi and Marco Simoncelli . These collaborations have brought AGV more than 130 titles and a place on the world moto stage.
AGV’s history is a story of racers, enthusiasts and passion. After having been owned by a Belgian investment fund for some years, the company is back in Italian hands - those of Lino Dainese, President of Dainese S.P. A. who bought AGV on July 30th of 2007. 'The combined companies present a challenge which carries many responsibilities, but it also creates infinite opportunities for AGV and Dainese together. Our team is committed to bringing new value and prestige to the legendary AGV name.' -- Lino Dainese