With the layout pioneered by British maker Douglas, the longitudinally-mounted flat twin engine is a rare beast in motorcycling. That said, in the earlier years of the 20th century the layout became almost fashionable with a number of other manufacturers venturing down the same path including BMW, Brough, Harley-Davidson and the less well-known Italian marque Fongri, to name but a few.
Fongri was formed in 1910 in Turin, with the name being an amalgamation of the two founding partners, Fontana and Griggs. The first Fongri motorcycle, a vertically-mounted air-cooled single cylinder 4-stroke machine, was produced in the same year. With the ‘absence of vibrations’ and ‘balance of operation’ being prioritised, the second Fongri of 1913 was powered by an air-cooled horizontally-opposed 4-stroke twin placed longitudinally in the frame. A 575cc version with the same layout was introduced in 1919, and in 1925 there followed two new models, again with the same layout – a 500cc Speciale and a new 575 dubbed the Sport Lusso. The Speciale was a speedy racer, built in tiny numbers, and it was raced initially by founding partner Eugene Griggs, as well as one Tazio Nuvolari, who also happened to scoop 1925’s 350cc European Motorcycle Championship.
Despite the competition plates, the Fongri here is an 11hp 575 Sport Lusso air-cooled flat twin (engine no. 388) with a Fongri carburettor, a Fongri 3-speed hand-shift gearbox and a top speed in its day of 53mph. It comes with a copy of the bill of sale by French auctioneer Christian Plassart following its purchase in 2007 for €49,884 by an Italian collector. It is without question a very rare thing, described as having a beautiful patina and capable of winning at concours events.