Real Classic

Long-Legged and easy

As well as rorty sportsbike­s, Mato Guzzi are famous for their touring twins. Nolan Woodbury sets out on a journey

- Photos by Nolan Woodbury, Nick Adams, Chris Spaett, RC Rchive

Moto Guzzi, as you may have noticed, celebrates its centenary in 2021. Over the decades Moto Guzzi has demonstrat­ed many outbursts of brilliance, not least the T series of touring twins which carved the company's most profitable classic niche. With sleight of hand and great ingenuity, Lino Tonti's V twins ranked impressive­ly in each of the 1970s main street segments: sports, touring, and roadster.

Praised for its mechanical simplicity and the occasional dose of visual seduction, few motorcycle­s could better absorb the daily thrashing from streaking across miles of tarmac. The admirable qualities of the T series machines generated local and internatio­nal contracts. Although Mota Guzzi wasn't alone in pursuing the police bike business, those sales had a significan­t influence on the direction of developmen­t during the 1970s and early 80s.

Decades earlier, the Italian factory had grown its reputation by crafting streamline­d GP champions, singles, and a vast range of utility vehicles. When the market steered and Guzzi didn't, sales slumped. Needing a fresh design and then crafting one, Italy's promising newv7 and everything else at the House Mandello was nonetheles­s circling the drain in 1967.

Yet their machines were deemed worthy by the feds, so Guzzi was taken on by a group of investors called SEIMM. With police and civil orders waiting, the new twin was drafted to serve as the single before it; a foundation for municipal use. Eventually that

V twin motor became the brand's signature engine helped by hiring Tonti, who supplied Guzzi with the competitiv­e talent it needed to survive. In 1972, the arrival of Benelli's Alejandro De Tomaso as directing owner added style to Tonti's sizzle, and Moto Guzzi began its comeback.

A scan through 1973's big bike competitio­n was likely a daunting task for Guzzi's new boss. Even dismissing the Japanese, looming increases from rival Euro makers would demand a response. While settling in to his new office, De Tomaso was no doubt comforted to see civilian V7 twins and police models flowing to destinatio­ns all over the world. Fully confident the Benelli and Guzzi prototypes would keep his machines a hot topic among the press he looked to engage, De Tomasa forced Guzzi to once again look ahead.

History shows that this was just in time, as powerful new engines and improving road networks encouraged a global movement that accelerate­d past previous speed limits. With riders routinely zooming past the ton loaded with accessorie­s, it was agreed that Tonti's Sport platform was best suited to the task And so the foundation­s of the T series of Guzzi's heavyweigh­tv twins was laid...

850T 1973 75. 844cc, 4451b, 118mph

Perhaps Mandello's most important transition model, Guzzi's touring roadster is a clever melding of the 850 GT and V7 Sport models. Some alternatio­ns and additions were made to the Sport's basic platform for its new touring role; a larger 6.6 gallon tank, deep saddle, long stainless fenders, angled safety bars and restyled tool boxes. From the tourer came 850cc, but in the Sport pattern with crank mount alternator and Tonti's tubes running between the cylinders. Also note the chain which replaced helical timing gears, and pushed out pushrod tunnels to allow an 88mm bore.

Cast with threaded bosses to fasten the handlebar and many other future components, a wider 195mm top and bottom set of fork yokes was fashioned. At a glance you'd think the Sport's jewelled dash and forged hangers were swapped straight over (I did) yet the 850's pegs are fixed, and the clocks mount to the upper clamp. Netting a similar forward lean, the first 850T fit a low rise handlebar later used on the sport touring SP1000.

Superseded by the triple disc T3 in less than a year, the T's twin 18" Borrani WM3 wheels, single Brembo disc and rear drum combo were short lived. Installed without its upper shrouds, the entire fork assembly was essentiall­y lifted from the last 850 GT, but its 2Is back brake (now with cush drive, fitted hereafter) was unique to the 850T. Factory records show 2700 plus 850T civilian units were produced. Most were registered in 1974/75.

Drawn for De Tomaso by auto stylist Paolo Martin, the new model impressed with its suitabilit­y and natural ergonomics. Stretching 58" between axles, the 850T measures 2" longer than a T140 and 2" less than a period Ducati. Narrow and sportsbike stable, the

850 twin is smooth and zippy going up through the ratios. Its peaky punch proved entertaini­ng, and many were stripped for racing. The finish (salmon red, green or otherwise) was originally highlighte­d by stripes of reflective Mylar, sourced from Japan. Failing to find another supplier when shipments for the T3 stopped, tanks were later patterned by pinstripes.

In some markets, sales started slowly and the new owners only took delivery of their 850Ts after dealers dressed them with big touring mudguards, high pull back bars, fairings and matching hard luggage. In this guise, carrying maximum loads and throttled hard across dusty stretches of desolation, Guzzi's 850T earned its stripes.

In the engine room, developed from the GT, a forged, one piece crankshaft drives higher 9.5:1 compressio­n pistons in a hard chrome plated bore. This proved to be the model's greatest shortcomin­g, followed by its modest single disc and sensitive rear drum. Generally, all of the roundhead 750 / 850 twins (except the Le Mans) used a chrome liner which in time would lift, then flake into destructiv­e shards. Double trouble for these early'filterless' crankcase models, but those 850Ts produced in unison with the T3 were upgraded with 1975's oil filter system. By now, most afflicted engines will have been stripped and sorted.

That was the only real flaw of an otherwise successful machine, one which introduced a new midrange cam to Guzzi's standardis­ed 41 / 36mm intake/ exhaust valve diameters shared for decades on all 850 and 1000cc touring engines. Marelli's excellent dual point ignition stashed its coils under the fuel tank, sending sparks to a mixture atomised by Dell'orto 30mm carbs. Unlike the 850GT there was no air filter, just a hollow rubber airbox. Connecting the head pipes with studs instead of threaded collars, early brochures show the 850T wearing what must be a 7505 system in bright chrome. Mostts use the angled header common to the touring engines; this joining an H pipe crossover fitting into seamed Lafranconi mufflers. Shared with both the Sport and 850 GT, the Guzzi's dry, dual plate five speed routes power via shaft to a finned rear drive holding tall 8/37 gearing. Following T bikes used a lower 7/33 ratio.

VI000 CONVERT 1975 84. 949cc. 5501b. 120mph

At the risk of disrupting the timeline, Guzzi's two speed, 1000cc Convert or 'Guzzimatic' is often listed before the 850 T3, thanks to Guzzi's marketing schedules. The factory certainly built loop frame 850 automatics for American testing in 1973 or before. My factory

contacts suggest the auto was squarely aimed at police and escort riders, and Ing Umberto Todero remembers it as an 'American idea➤ Moto Guzzi's new flagship boasted 1000cc, integral braking, and a host of standard features including luggage, new, straighter and larger protective safety bars, screen, steering dampener and airfoils to disavow any notion of speed induced wobble.

One definition of luxury involves ►

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 ??  ?? An Intercepto­r for the USA
An Intercepto­r for the USA
 ??  ?? 1975 Guzzi Convert, a view from above. Observe the remarkable dash panel and the aero winglets
1975 Guzzi Convert, a view from above. Observe the remarkable dash panel and the aero winglets
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 ??  ?? And then, along come the Convert, truly rodkol forltstlme
And then, along come the Convert, truly rodkol forltstlme
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