Readers reveal how to keep this ultra-rare groove Italian rocking
Styled by Massimo Tamburini, the Dart was Moto Morini’s death rattle – but a very handsome one
BMoto Morini, now part of the Cagiva empire, were desperate for a new model. It was 1988 and the clever, compact Franco Lambertini-designed 72-degree pushrod V-twin (from 1972) was nearing its sell-by.
It was a lovely little engine in the ’70s, but felt a bit breathless by the time the late ’80s rolled on. Morini were not the Castiglioni brothers first concern and were lucky to get the green light for the Dart instead of a corporate bullet (which eventually came in 1993).
The Cagiva tie-up enabled the factory to update the chassis, ie use a Cagiva Freccia C9 125 frame, and modify at least parts of the engine (ignition now Kokusan and starter system Bosch), and the styling treatment was nothing if not up to the minute in the jelly-mould mould.
Early bikes were 350cc, later machines 400s, though actually slower than the 350 versions. But in its fetching pearl white and blue livery it looked pretty cool. It would crack 100mph (just) and handled decently.and in the grand Moto Morini tradition it was pretty damned expensive: £3995, when a Suzuki GSX1100EF could be had for £3999, and a yamaha 350 Powervalve, the 350 benchmark of the day, for a mere £2549.
And that was its undoing. Plenty of Morini diehards (and there are more than a few) lusted after it, but could neither justify nor afford a Dart. Especially when it was not appreciably faster than a well-sorted 31/2 of whatever vintage.
The unsurprisingly poor sales of the Dart signalled the death knell for Morini, especially as their star engineer Lambertini decamped to Piaggio when his new engine designs were roundly ignored by the new management.
If you can find a Dart today you’ll have to pay in the region of four grand and you’ll really struggle to find body parts for it. Yet, it remains a striking motorcycle. Far prettier than the vaster, similarly styled BMW K1, way neater than a Ducati Paso and streets ahead style-wise of a first generation CBR600. Neat, nimble – but slow.
A happy chappie – and he has every right to be
Don’t be fooled by the ‘speed’ blurred hedge