Moto Guzzi V-850

15 Feb 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Moto Guzzi V-850
Moto Guzzi 850 California

V-850 Eldorado 1972

by Marty Ray

This Moto Guzzi (pronounced Goot-tsi. think about it, you already know how to say pizza, right?) is an Italian 850cc V-twin motorcyle, with the engine mounted side to side unlike other V-twins like Harley, Indian, Vincent HRD, J.A.P. or modern copies of them. This puts the two cylinders out in the cooling airflow. The body work is very attractive, I think, but is somewhat dated for the year it was made, with a fat tank, deep fenders and the toolboxes on both sides.

This is not a high performance speed machine, rather, a heavy smooth (for the period) cruiser. That being said, race machines were built based on this frame and engine and did respectably well.

Mechanically it has many driveline features that are more like a car than a motorcycle. The engine crankshaft is parallel to the long axis of the machine, and drives a car-like clutch, gearbox, and drive shaft. It has a 17 lb. flywheel, reputedly because the Italian police like to go very slowly in parades! It has a car-like ignition and distributor.

Electric starting is by a 12V Bosch starter motor that could be on a small car engine, and has a starter solenoid like car starters. In between the two cylinders, high up, sits a belt-driven Bosch generator (dynamo) that looks just like one from a Volkswagen, and the 12V battery is probably physically larger and has twice the voltage that many VW bugs had. The double-ended shifter can be operated by both heel and toe.

The wheels have elegant alloy rims by Borrani, the same company that makes Ferrari wheels. It has large drum brakes front and rear.

For a while, around the time this machine was built, V-750 and V-850 Moto Guzzis were used by the Los Angeles Police Dept. the California Highway Patrol, and various other American police departments. In this role they replaced Harleys, and it seems that today this is one of the few other bikes that riders of Harleys will acknowledge.

When I visited Italy recently, the police there are still making almost exclusive use of Moto Guzzi machines in their work, and as a result you see them everywhere. The only other police bike you will see there is the BMW R-1100 RT as used to some extent by the Carabinieri, an elite military style police force. In Italy, Moto Guzzis seem to occupy a similar position to Harley in the USA as a heavy domestic cruiser made by an old established company.

As far as I could tell they do not seem to have the subculture of bikers that we have. Of course there are much newer machines now, but even on the most modern models Guzzi has still stuck with the same style of engine and driveline that you see on this old Eldorado. It’s a very robust design!

This machine traces its ancestry to a 3 wheeled, 3 wheel drive military tractor that the Italian government had built in the early 60s, which used a similar motor. In the mid sixties the Italian government sponsored a contest to create a new police machine to replace the Moto Guzzi Falcone 500s they had used for years. This contest was based on very vague specifications for things like minimal service for 100,000 km.

Many companies entered the competition, but Moto Guzzi blew them all away with a new and radical design and a newly designed V-twin motor and thus the V-7 (700cc) was born. The model you see here is a similar-looking but somewhat updated version of the V-7, with a larger size engine with a ribbed case, 5 speeds (cinque marche) instead of 4, a different rear end, and other mechanical differences. Cycle parts and body work were almost identical.

All these early machines had a loop style heavy frame, which was later much redesigned to improve performance– one of the products of this redesign was the famous V-7 Sport, probably the most collectible Guzzi.

On my trip to Italy I visited the Moto Guzzi factory in the town of Mandello del Lario on Lake Como in northern Italy. I got a nice surprise discovering the wonderful area of Lake Como. A long narrow lake shaped like an upside down Y, it is surrounded by beautiful scenery and lovely towns. Menaggio, Belaggio, and Varenna were all wonderful to visit, and the ferry boat service makes it easy to get around and across the lake.

Near the bottom two ends of the Y are Como and Lecco, two larger towns.

I made two visits to the factory, the first to see the museum and the second a tour of the factory where they have been building Moto Guzzi machines since 1923. The museum was an amazing collection of examples of all their models, plus experimental one-offs, a whole room of engines, and more. The tour showed a very modern factory layered on top of an antique facility, and I got to see things such as their famous wind tunnel.

At the in-factory test track I was offered the chance to drive a brand new V-11 Sport around the track. This was a very cool feeling! In the factory service shop (Assistenza Clienti) the men working there rummaged around in their many cabinets of literature and gave me a priceless factory parts book for my machine!

It was just one more example of the generous spirit and passionate enthusiasm of the Italians in every aspect of life!

By chance I met up with a local motorcycle club Moto Club Erba, who were having a rally and show, and ended up showered with gifts again. I was also able to visit Hubertus and Barbara Escher from Germany, who have a business (see below) selling Guzzi bikes, parts, and accessories, and have a house in the village of Dorio on Lake Como.

I got started on Moto Guzzis as a result of meeting my friend Westley. He had several of them and I was impressed with their construction. After some searching I found this machine in essentially the shape you see here, but much work has been done. It was running when I bought it but the clutch was bad, so it could not be road tested.

I replaced the clutch and various seals in the gearbox and engine. The wiring harness really needed replacing, and had been heavily modified in the past. I was unable to buy a replacement wiring harness, and so took the original and laid it out on a big board, and removed the covering while tying it up with quick ties.

Moto Guzzi 850 California

Then I carefully removed all the modifications, replaced all the defective wires and connectors, and rewrapped the harness. The seat is new, bought from Escher, my star source of low priced parts (www.escher.de/ escher@t-online.de) in Germany. The prices are half or less compared to the USA, and while it’s helpful if you speak German, it’s not necessary. The rear fender was cracked and needed to be welded and repaired.

I’ve replaced the fuel petcocks and fuel lines and done various tuneup and carb work. Various cables and other parts have been replaced, and it is now a running and functional machine. A kind of disaster happened during replacing the clutch, when I broke off a tubular boss on the gearbox rear cover which was critical to the operation of the external shifter linkage. At first I tried to weld this back together, but it later broke off again.

Finally my German source found me a NOS gearbox cover and I could make a proper repair, but it meant removing the engine/gearbox again.

Some time ago I got the valve covers and the engine front cover polished. There’s a lot more to do for bodywork, there are small dents in the tank (which is aluminum!) and various defects in the paint and pinstriping, the front forks need to be rebuilt. One gauge had a silly flower sandblasted onto the glass face (previous owner syndrome??), but I did a dashboard restoration recently that eliminated this along with two non-original holes in the dash itself.

There’s unfortunately a dent in the rear rim. Various items need rechroming. My German source found me a set of real Italian metal police saddleboxes which I think will go nicely with the setup.

I first saw this style of box mounted on a Carabinieri V-7 machine in the Moto Guzzi museum, but then noticed that some police are still using the same boxes today. The boxes came with a specially made frame to support them, it bolts right on to the machine. You can see it in the photos below.

The towels taped to this frame temporarily are simply to stop people from cutting their legs on the projecting tabs for mounting the boxes.

I located at long last an original factory fairing, which I thought I never would find. This is also shown in the recent photos here. It installed so nicely, just made to fit.

I also got from my friend Westley, a 4 leading shoe front brake (the holy grail of classic guzzi parts!), along with various related as well as new old stock parts, including a crankshaft and rods and a pair of rare sidecover screws with bakelight knobs. The NOS engine parts will come in handy when I want to rebuilt the engine.

Recently I have been working on a rebuild of a front end, with a new wheel with the new brake, new fork tubes and bushings, and refinished fork upper shrouds- when all the parts are ready I will do a swap on the bike. At the moment however I have been working on the cylinders and heads. All I really wanted to do was to replace what I thought were leaking base gaskets. Even though the bike ran fine, this turned up broken rings and worn cylinders, along with valve problems.

So I have now replaced the cylinders and rings, and am proceeding with head work. I’m hoping the engine will run much better after this.

Moto Guzzi 850 California
Moto Guzzi 850 California
Moto Guzzi 850 California
Moto Guzzi 850 California
Moto Guzzi 850 California


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