Cool cruiser

Moto Guzzi wouldn’t be around to­day had it not taken the gam­ble to tool up for their big ca­pac­ity V-twin which emerged in 1967 as the V7.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scays­brook Photo An­dre Deubel, Fiona Wolf and Jim Scays­brook

And the V7 it­self may not have lasted long had it not been en­thu­si­as­ti­cally adopted by law en­force­ment agen­cies in Italy and par­tic­u­larly USA. Of course, the Guzzi v-en­gine had its ori­gins not in a mo­tor­cy­cle, but in a three-wheeler de­signed pri­mar­ily for mil­i­tary and civil use; hence only 20hp at 4,000 rpm. With a bit of work, that ba­sic en­gine, re­duced from 754cc to 703cc, be­came the V7 which first ap­peared at the Mi­lan Show in late 1965. In the States, Moto Guzzi had a smart mar­ket­ing team at Mike and Joe Ber­liner’s off-shoot the Premier Cor­po­ra­tion, and leg­end has it that a cou­ple of V7s were sold to the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol for $1 each for the pur­pose of eval­u­a­tion. Eval­u­a­tion against the tra­di­tional Har­leys, that is. The men in uni­form lapped up the Ital­ian twins, which were bet­ter in vir­tu­ally ev­ery re­spect than the Mil­wau­kee iron, and sales rolled in, ini­tially from the Los An­ge­les Po­lice Depart­ment and soon from other states across the coun­try. Pretty soon the 703cc and the later 757cc ver­sions were tool­ing around ev­ery­where, be­decked with sirens, ex­tra lights, and spe­cial fit­tings for their worka­day use. Moto Guzzi claimed the mo­tor­cy­cle would cover at least 100,000 kilo­me­tres with­out need­ing ma­jor ser­vic­ing, and the shaft drive was cer­tainly a big fac­tor in this. Along with the po­lice mar­ket, the Guzzis found a grow­ing au­di­ence with the tour­ing set, and the af­ter­mar­ket ac­ces­sory trade leapt upon this as well. The 750 V7 Spe­cial was mar­keted in the US as the Am­bas­sador (Ber­liner’s choice of name, as was the El­do­rado) – a four speeder with plenty of torque and rea­son­able han­dling. The sales mo­men­tum that con­tin­ued to gather en­cour­aged Moto Guzzi to go a step fur­ther, punch­ing out the Am­bas­sador’s di­men­sions to 844cc via a longer stroke, higher com­pres­sion pis­tons, and with a 5-speed clus­ter sourced from the V7 Spe­cial added – hey, presto, the El­do­rado (mar­keted in Europe as the 859 GT) which took its bow in 1972. The en­gine mods re­sulted in a 4hp boost to 64hp, not huge on pa­per but very no­tice­able on the road. The El­do­rado sold well – re­port­edly around 5,000 a year for the three years of pro­duc­tion, at a time when Moto Guzzi des­per­ately needed the cap­i­tal. The 850 man­aged to eat into the mar­ket pre­vi­ously shared by two ma­jor play­ers; Har­ley-David­son and BMW, but the El­do­rado had sev­eral de­sir­able fea­tures that the mar­keters ex­ploited well. It was con­sid­er­ably lighter than the H-D, and faster than the BMW, and at $1,985 when it was in­tro­duced into the US,

cheaper than both. It also had shaft fi­nal drive – a most de­sir­able fea­ture for tour­ers that had been heav­ily ex­pounded by BMW. Shortly be­fore the model’s end – to be re­placed by the 850 T – the front end was changed with re­vised front forks and a sin­gle disc front brake. The sub­se­quent 850 T3 sported twin front discs and a sin­gle rear disc. Moto Guzzi had given plenty of thought to the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of the 850 in both worka­day (po­lice) and tour­ing modes. The mud­guards are deep and wide and do an ad­mirable job of keep­ing wa­ter away from the rest of the bike and no­tably the rider. The bat­tery is a sub­stan­tial 30 amp/hour job de­signed to eas­ily cope with the ef­fort re­quired to elec­tri­cally crank the en­gine into life. This oc­cu­pies a fair amount of midriff space, but there are still a cou­ple of tool­boxes for span­ners and other odds and ends.

Lo­cal leg­end

Our fea­tured model, An­dre Deubel’s 1972 El­do­rado, is such a stun­ner that Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tors JSG used it as a back­drop for their re­cent launch of the all-new Cal­i­for­nia and El­do­rado 1400 mod­els. An­dre was born in Ger­many but has lived in Aus­tralia for 20 years to pur­sue his ca­reer as a cin­e­matog­ra­pher. “I lit­er­ally tossed a coin to de­cide whether I would work in film or be­come a mo­tor­cy­cle me­chanic,” he says. Film won, and he has since worked on fea­tures, doc­u­men­taries and tele­vi­sion com­mer­cials, but his pas­sion for bikes re­mains undi­min­ished, with a nice col­lec­tion of Moto Guzzis that in­cludes a Pe­riod 4 racer based around the V7

that Jack Find­lay rode at the 1972 Imola 200. His El­do­rado was a US model that came to Aus­tralia in 1985, but at that point the fun be­gins. “When this guy brought the bike in from the US, he pulled it com­pletely apart – right down to the bare frame – and never did any­thing with it. I bought it as the bare frame and all the rest in six milk crates. I paid $1,000 per milk crate, but th­ese 850s are now quite rare. The ear­lier 4-speed­ers are more plen­ti­ful and cheaper, but they’re not as nice to ride. Th­ese are the best ‘rides’, with the five speeds – the four speed was a re­ally clunky gear­box. I have also mod­i­fied the front forks to im­prove the damp­ing and used pro­gres­sive rate springs. Ikon made up some shocks for me with a black body and chrome spring, so all of th­ese things com­bined re­ally make for a sur­pris­ing ride! You wouldn’t be­lieve how this thing han­dles through cor­ners, and once you get on the cam with a bit of air flow­ing through you

can feel how it wants to go. I think it has 70 horse­power at the crank, and that’s good for an old ’72 tour­ing bike.”

Un­der the front tim­ing cover is the belt-driven Bosch gen­er­a­tor, with the camshaft below that, gear-driven to the crank, with the oil pump at the bot­tom, also gear-driven. For cost sav­ing, later mod­els went to chain and ten­sion­ers in the tim­ing chest. The ar­range­ment keeps the weight, and cen­tre of grav­ity, as low as pos­si­ble.

“For the re­build, I worked from the crank up­wards. I bal­anced the crank but left the ca­pac­ity at 850, and I ported the heads my­self with some help­ful ad­vice from Sprint­car leg­end Ivan Walker, who also bal­anced the cranks for me. I changed the carbs from 29mm to 30mm square slides and matched the in­let ports to suit and also re­shaped the ports. The ports from the fac­tory are shock­ing – the cast­ings are very rough with a hump in the in­let tract. When all that is cleaned up they flow a lot bet­ter, es­pe­cially with the hot cam that Barry Jones in Mel­bourne made for me.

The old bar­rels have chrome plated bores and when the chrome flakes off it goes all through the en­gine and does a lot of dam­age. The bar­rels were wrecked so I re­placed those with Gi­lar­doni Nikasil plated bar­rels which are avail­able off the shelf in Italy.”

“A cou­ple of ex­tra things that I changed; nor­mally there are two ex­tra cables run­ning from the chokes on the carbs to a lever on the han­dle­bars and it doesn’t look very nice, so I got rid of this choke mech­a­nism and con­verted the Dell’Or­tos to the in­di­vid­ual tog­gle mech­a­nism just by drilling them out so you can put the plungers in – much neater. Nor­mally the twist grip has a sin­gle ca­ble run­ning into a split­ter box un­der the tank but it is stiff and not very smooth in op­er­a­tion so I con­verted it to twin cables, still with the cor­rect look­ing To­maselli 2C type twist­grip.” An­dre also changed the air fil­tra­tion sys­tem from a bulky dry pa­per unit that sits in a metal box in front of the bat­tery, to a smaller but more ef­fi­cient K&N unit. “It’s hid­den away so you don’t see it any­way, and this one works bet­ter.” He has also com­pletely mod­ernised the elec­tri­cal gad­getry, with a dig­i­tal reg­u­la­tor and re­lays on most other com­po­nents. He also re­placed the wiring har­ness. “I wanted to use this bike, not just look at it, so I wanted to be sure the electrics were per­fect so I didn’t get stuck miles from any­where.” The paint­work was done in New­cas­tle by Al­lan Ed­wards, with the orig­i­nal swirling pin stripes on the tank, mud­guards and the pan­niers. For­tu­nately the orig­i­nal chrome plat­ing on the fuel tank was quite OK and did not have to be re-done – al­ways a tricky and costly ex­er­cise. The 22.5 litre tank is a very sen­si­ble size for a tourer, ca­pa­ble of over 300km be­tween fuel stops. The bags are ac­tu­ally an orig­i­nal item by Wixom Brothers in Cal­i­for­nia that were sold through US Guzzi deal­ers. “To me, the bike looks like

an early ‘six­ties de­sign, not ‘seven­ties. It has a sort of art deco feel to it.” “The brakes weren’t that good, al­though they had a lot of weight to stop, but I had Dave Blis­sett ma­chine the drum and fit the shoes to suit, and then Con­wire made up a much stronger brake ca­ble to the right length and that im­proved the brak­ing enor­mously. Once you’ve got a few ex­tra horses out of the en­gine it shows up the han­dling, so that way the sus­pen­sion and brak­ing im­prove­ments make this bike re­ally ride­able. The muf­flers are orig­i­nal Lafran­coni but th­ese are the ones the po­lice had in the States. They were more free-flow­ing than the ‘pea-shooter’ muf­flers which had quite a small out­let, and for an ex­tra bit of noise I took the baf­fles out as well.” An­dre be­gan the restora­tion in late 2011 and fin­ished it in May 2014, and it has since won Best Guzzi at the 2014 Guzzi Rally, Best Ital­ian Mo­tor­cy­cle at the Du­cati Concours, and again best Guzzi at the 2015 Guzzi Rally. An­dre is now di­vid­ing his time be­tween work­ing as a cin­e­matog­ra­pher and restor­ing/cus­tomis­ing old loop frame and Tonti frame Moto Guzzis for a liv­ing. He can be con­tacted via email: an­[email protected]

In the sad­dle

My ride on the 850 was brief, but enough to con­vince me that this is a well-sorted mo­tor­cy­cle – the prod­uct of a fas­tid­i­ous and knowl­edge­able owner. The po­lices­tyle sin­gle sad­dle, which An­dre favours as much for looks as for practicali­ty (“I don’t ride with a pil­lion, so why not, and I think it is more com­fort­able than the dual seat”), is – well – firm, but it is nicely con­toured and holds you in po­si­tion. Twist the ig­ni­tion key, car style, (no but­ton here) all the way around and the en­gine bursts into life and im­me­di­ately set­tles into a very reg­u­lar chuff-chuff at revs that barely reg­is­ter on the tacho. “That ig­ni­tion switch is my most favourite fea­ture on the whole bike,” An­dre says proudly. “At the time, Guzzi was still a govern­ment owned fac­tory and they pulled stuff from ev­ery­where. This ig­ni­tion switch came from a Fiat 500. There’s al­ways a bit of va­ri­ety with the Ital­ian stuff from this pe­riod and some bikes came with a lit­tle rubber starter but­ton on the han­dle­bar.” Rock the gear lever back and first gear en­gages au­di­bly, slide out the clutch and with min­i­mal revs, the Guzzi glides away. An­dre’s ‘tuned’ Lafran­coni mega­phone muf­flers emit a very pleas­ant rasp, and I take his ad­vice and let the revs rise to­wards the ‘red line’ of 6,500 be­fore chang­ing up. From 5,000, the en­gine be­gins to re­ally sing – ev­i­dence of An­dre’s at­ten­tion to port­ing and the warmed up camshaft – and we’re soon mo­tor­ing along at a pleas­ant lick, al­though the route is blighted with speed bumps and other ur­ban nas­ties. The front sus­pen­sion copes well with the traf­fic-calm­ing devices, and the front brake is more than ad­e­quate to haul down the bike’s 260odd kg. The gear­box re­ally is quite pleas­ant to use, not at all clunky as you may ex­pect with a bigfly­wheel job like this, and I quickly set­tled into the ride. The han­dle­bars are a bit on the high and mighty side, but that’s the na­ture of the con­cept. Sur­pris­ingly, noth­ing seems to scrape as I cranked the Guzzi through the cor­ners, and ex­tra ground clear­ance is one rea­son why An­dre opted to fit larger sec­tion 120 tyres. He also reck­ons the stan­dard sec­tion tyres look too small un­der the vo­lu­mi­nous mud­guards. All too soon the ex­pe­ri­ence was over, but I can see how An­dre found no is­sues what­so­ever in jump­ing on the 850 in Syd­ney and rid­ing to Mel­bourne (and back) for the Moto Guzzi Rally just a few weeks pre­vi­ously. This is a com­fort­able, well-man­nered mo­tor­cy­cle with plenty of power and re­fined man­ners.

ABOVE An­dre Deubel’s 1972 El­do­rado, is such a stun­ner that Aus­tralian dis­trib­u­tors JSG used it as a back­drop for their re­cent launch of the allnew Cal­i­for­nia and El­do­rado 1400 mod­els.

Ev­ery­thing is in place to take a dual seatbut An­dre prefers the solo sad­dle. Tim­ing chest is a fea­ture of the front of the en­gine. Lafran­coni muf­flers make sweet mu­sic. Snappy side cov­ers hide theelectri­cs and air fil­ters.Ig­ni­tion switch sits un­der neat hinged cover. Wixon pan­niers were made in USA and sold through Moto Guzzideal­ers.

Ready to roll. Lo­cally made Ikon shocks look the part. Front brake has been metic­u­lously fet­tled and works well. 30mm square slide Dell’Orto carbs re­place the orig­i­nal 29mm.

ABOVE Orig­i­nal owner’shand­book. BELOW An­dre aboardhis El­do­rado.

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