Guzzis on the green

When­ever I am in Ade­laide it’s a great op­por­tu­nity to visit the team of clas­sic bike en­thu­si­asts at McLaren Vale, the rolling vine­yard coun­try south of the city.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos Jim Scaysbrook

Tony Moris­set, a se­ri­ous col­lec­tor him­self, usu­ally or­gan­ises a bunch of peo­ple who bring along their bikes for me to check out, and this visit had a dis­tinctly Moto Guzzi theme. In fact, vari­a­tions on a theme; four of the big trans­verse 90º V-twins in civil­ian and po­lice guise, as­sem­bled on the lush lawn ad­ja­cent to the his­toric Ox­en­berry Farm Wines es­tate and res­tau­rant, owned by two of the clas­sic chaps, Michael and Filippo Scarpan­toni. The en­gine was largely the work of Guzzi’s fa­mous en­gi­neer Guilio Car­cano, cre­ator of the com­pany’s all­con­quer­ing Grand Prix bikes. With the fac­tory’s pull­out from GP rac­ing at the end of the 1957 sea­son, Car­cano was free to work on other projects, al­beit more pro­saic than the fab­u­lous rac­ers. We can thank the Ital­ian po­lice for the very ex­is­tence of the big v- twin Moto Guzzi, for it was con­ceived in the 1950s as a power unit for light cars and var­i­ous mil­i­tary uses, the mar­ket for large mo­tor­cy­cles hav­ing col­lapsed, par­tic­u­larly in Europe. Up to this time, the Ital­ian po­lice had re­lied on the ven­er­a­ble Fal­cone sin­gle, but the depart­ment called for ten­ders to re­place these, and Moto Guzzi was de­ter­mined to mount a suc­cess­ful bid. In­deed, the com­pany’s fu­ture de­pended upon it. In a four-way con­test be­tween Gil­era, Benelli, Laverda and Moto Guzzi, it was the lat­ter who won the con­tract. So while the cara­binieri em­barked on com­pre­hen­sive test­ing of the pul­sat­ing 703cc twins, the buy­ing pub­lic, what re­mained of it, clam­oured for a civil­ian ver­sion. How­ever it was not un­til 1965 that one ap­peared – the V7 – and then only for

ex­port (US) mar­kets. The lo­cals fi­nally got their V7 in 1967. Within two years, the en­gine had been en­larged to 757cc to ap­pear as the V7 Spe­cial, while US mar­ket ver­sions were mar­keted un­der names like Am­bas­sador, El­do­rado and Cal­i­for­nia.

Ini­tially, the V7 se­ries mir­rored the rather ro­bust po­lice styling, but in 1971 the svelte V7 Sport ap­peared, ini­tially with a drum front brake, and from 1974, twin front discs. Also in 1971, the en­gine grew fur­ther, to 844cc, ap­pear­ing as the 850 GT in Europe and as the El­do­rado in USA, with an ex­pand­ing range of ac­ces­sories and op­tions. Even­tu­ally the en­gine be­came 948cc and gear­box ra­tios in­creased to five, and there was even an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion model, the V 1000 I Con­vert of 1975, which fea­tured a 2-speed auto made by Sachs in Ger­many.

Ev­ery mo­tor­cy­cle that left the fac­tory in Man­dello del Lario was tested for at least 80km be­fore be­ing crated and dis­patched. That this ba­sic en­gine de­sign still pow­ers the Moto Guzzis of the 21st cen­tury is tes­ta­ment to the sound­ness of the orig­i­nal de­sign, and there would cer­tainly be no mo­tor­cy­cles bear­ing the fa­mous name to­day with­out it. So here in McLaren Vale we had a quar­tet of early ‘seven­ties models rep­re­sent­ing po­lice, tour­ing and sport­ing themes. The first of these to face the OBA cam­era was the 1973 850 El­do­rado that did ser­vice with the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, and is owned by Michael Clarke. It was largely the in­sis­tence of the US im­porter Ber­liner that saw the V7 en­gine stretched to 850, a move deemed nec­es­sary to com­pete with the Amer­i­can pub­lic’s ap­petite for large ca­pac­ity v-twins. Although aimed at sales to US po­lice forces, the El­do­rado was also avail­able in civil­ian form. The early models used the tubu­lar steel dou­ble cra­dle chas­sis with a sin­gle 48mm back­bone tube, but this soon gave way to the lighter frame used on the Sport frame de­signed by Lino Tonti. Michael’s model re­tains the spring sad­dle and other po­lice ac­cou­trements like the spa­cious pan­niers and ra­dio box mounted on the rear mud­guard. Still in place are the po­lice flash­ing lights, but to sat­isfy lo­cal reg­is­tra­tion re­quire­ment, an ig­ni­tion switch now sits where the siren was once lo­cated. Next up we had an­other of Michael’s Guzzis, a green 1974 850GT, which uses Amal Con­cen­tric carbs in­stead of the Dell’Or­tos on the po­lice model. Re­plac­ing the sprung sad­dle is a very plush look­ing dual seat, and in place of the giddy ar­ray of lights sur­round­ing the mas­sive speedo in the po­lice dash­board is a pair of con­ven­tional Veglia in­stru­ments;

an elec­tronic tachome­ter and a speedo which reads to a slightly op­ti­mistic 240km/h. This ma­chine was sold new by Junc­tion Mo­tor­cy­cles in Ade­laide in July 1974 and Michael is only the sec­ond owner.

Bill Turner’s 1973 850 El­do­rado also has a po­lice his­tory, do­ing ser­vice with the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol, be­fore be­ing pri­vately im­ported to Ger­ald­ton, West­ern Aus­tralia. How­ever in its orig­i­nal life, rather than chas­ing felons down free­ways, this one was used mainly for pa­rade du­ties, and was hence fit­ted with spe­cial ra­tios in the dif­fer­en­tial more suited to low speed run­ning, and which lim­ited top speed to around 100km/h. When Bill ac­quired the bike he re­placed the crown wheel and pin­ion with a higher ra­tio to re­store the Guzzi’s high­way cruis­ing speed. VHB30C Dell’Or­tos carbs are fit­ted. Although Bill has re­placed much of the po­lice fit­ment with more prac­ti­cal gear, in­clud­ing the dual seat, the po­lice dash­board with its col­lec­tion of warn­ing lights is still in place.

Con­trast­ing with the trio of beefier models is Bill’s V7 Sport, dat­ing from 1973, which was im­ported from USA. Most of the V7 Sports im­ported into Aus­tralia were green, while the US bikes had a wider colour choice in­clud­ing black.

This model made its de­but as the Te­laio Rosso (red frame), per­haps the most de­sir­able and soughtafte­r of all the ‘seven­ties twins. Up front is the same dou­ble-sided twin-lead­ing shoe front drum brake on the other three bikes, which re­placed the ear­lier sin­gle-sided ver­sion. The si­lencers are the cor­rect ‘shark grill’ Si­len­tium types – highly prized by re­stor­ers. A ma­jor dif­fer­ence on the Sport is the frame, with the bot­tom rails set higher to al­low the ex­haust pipes to be tucked in for bet­ter ground clear­ance. The han­dle­bars are a unique ‘clip-up’ style which mount di­rectly to the stan­chions of the Ce­ri­ani front forks and al­low vir­tu­ally un­lim­ited ad­just­ment; up, down, back­wards or for­wards. It was a de­light­ful set­ting in which to view a very tasty ar­ray of mo­tor­cy­cles – all sim­i­lar yet sub­tly dif­fer­ent – and all of which played a role in en­sur­ing the sur­vival and pros­per­ity of one of the most fa­mous and ven­er­a­ble mar­ques in mo­tor­cy­cling his­tory. Thanks to the own­ers for pre­sent­ing these bikes, and to Michael Scarpan­toni for his hospi­tal­ity and the ex­cel­lent lunch that fol­lowed the photo ses­sion. A highly rec­om­mended lo­ca­tion!

The badge of of­fice. Cock­pit view. Oblig­a­tory run­ning boards. 1973 850 El­do­rado.

Own­ers Bill Turner (left) and Mick Clarke with their ex-po­lice 850s. LEFT & BE­LOW 1974 850GT. RIGHT Amal Con­cen­tric carbs in­stead of the usual Dell’Or­tos. Veglia twin in­stru­ments. Rock­ing pedal gear change – very Ital­ian.

Let there be lights! ABOVE & BE­LOW Bill Turner’s 1973 850 El­do­rado fit­ted with Dell’Orto VHB30C carbs.

Frame on the Sport is much slim­mer with high bot­tom rails. LEFT & ABOVE Bill Turner’s 1973 V7 Sport. Si­len­tium ‘shark grill’ si­lencers.

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