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

Practical Sportsbikes (UK) - - Inside - WORDS HANS SEEBERG OLOGNA-BASED

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

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