Tag Archives: vintage Italian motorcycles

1970 Moto Guzzi Ambassador

This motorcycle has an odd cool factor. The bike I found on ebay today is an ex cop bike but you wouldn’t know it. This motorcycle is ripe for being a cafe racer or a very nice tourer. Right now, it is dead center. Perfect.

Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.30.34 AMThe Guzzi Ambassador truly is the do anything motorcycle. These bikes are stone reliable, steady as can be on the road and handle with perfect Italian precision. It is not as nimble as a Ducati of the time, but a Ducati of the time couldn’t take you across the continent as comfortably. The Guzzi Ambassador and Eldorado were the true work horses of the motorcycling stable, they would do the work but when you wanted some spirit, they were there for you. My former racing partner Steve Allen of Bevel Heaven a Vintage Ducati parts resource, had an Ambassador that he let me ride a few times and I loved it. This nice loping motor that had some spunk and the bike would go where you pointed it without wobbling, weaving or scaring the crap out of you.Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.34.15 AM

The bike I found today is worth the money the seller is asking. I don’t often feel that way. This motorcycle is beautiful and is ready to fly. It has been gone through top to bottom, front to back. You could either put a windshield and saddle bags on it and head across the country. Or…put a set of clip-on handlebars (better yet a set of Clubmans) a bikini fairing and a cool Cafe seat and have one of the coolest cafe racers around.

Click on the link below for a lot more info and a few more pictures

<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1970+Moto+Guzzi+Ambassador&icep_item=121993899146&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”&gt;Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.09.48 AM

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Screen Shot 2016-05-25 at 7.10.29 AM1970 Moto Guzzi Ambassador</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1970+Moto+Guzzi+Ambassador&item=121993899146&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”&gt;

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.15.30 PMMy old (not age wise…?) racing friend Steve Allen of http://www.bevelheaven.com owned an Eldorado…or maybe it was an Ambassador, either one it doesn’t matter, he loved it. My friends Eric and Ken (both are Bonneville Land Speed record holders) run a Guzzi streamliner at Bonneville and I have always lusted after one. I have ridden Eldorado’s , 850 and 1000 Le Mans and even a fairly newer California model. Loved ’em all. And so did the LAPD and the California Highway Patrol.  There is just something about a simple tractor motor put into a motorcycle fame that’s just wScreen Shot 2016-04-06 at 6.16.47 PMwonderful.

The Eldorado has a whopping 64 horsepower, a long chassis, a boat-load of torque and looks a lot heavier than it really is. Is it easy to ride? Oh yeah. Would you race  your buddy through your local canyon road? No. Would you take your wife or girlfriend (not both at the same time…) from Santa Monica to Nova Scotia…absolutely. The Eldorado was designed for long distance. Smooth easy loping motor, very predictable handling, great ergonomics…what more could you ask for? Smoother shifting and better brakes.

The Eldo is a bike that you really need to anticipate whats coming up. Shifting is clunky unless you’re slow and deliberate. It’s a long throw and takes a bit of getting used to unless you’re used to old bikes. The brakes…well, plan ahead. The brakes work fine but the 9″ drum is a bit weak if you’re used to modern disc’s . Give yourself plenty of time and distance and you’ll get used to it. Remember, the Eldorado is a traveler, not a Sportbike. The bike is most comfortable on the road between 65-80mph, after that  the handling or should I say ‘handling response’ becomes a little less than confidence inspiring, especially two up.  But still, it is a fabulous long distance mount

I found a really great one on ebay this morning that is truly a fly and buy bike.  It has been upgraded with a 1000cc engine kit, well maintained and the stock handlebars. This is a good deal. Besides riding around South Carolina this time of year sounds like a lot of fun.

Click on the link below for more info and pictures




1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado

<a target=”_self” href=”http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?icep_ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1973+Moto+Guzzi+Eldorado&icep_item=201555350176&ipn=psmain&icep_vectorid=229466&kwid=902099&mtid=824&kw=lg”&gt;Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.42.34 PM


Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 6.42.16 PM1973 Moto Guzzi Eldorado</a><img style=”text-decoration:none;border:0;padding:0;margin:0;” src=”http://rover.ebay.com/roverimp/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?ff3=2&pub=5574881880&toolid=10001&campid=5336495545&customid=1973+Moto+Guzzi+Eldorado&item=201555350176&mpt=%5BCACHEBUSTER%5D”&gt;

1974 Benelli 250 2C

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.23.54 PMA number of years ago I came home late at night to a motorcycle sitting in my driveway. I was wondering who came to visit. Nobody sitting on the front porch waiting for me, nobody sitting on the back patio and I didn’t recognize the motorcycle. Upon closer examination of the motorcycle I realized it didn’t get here under it’s own power. Somebody dropped this somewhat rusted, parts missing piece of junk in my driveway. What do I look like, the motorcycle version of Sanford and Son? Well, if you look inside my barn, that’s not too far off.

The bike was a 1974 Benelli 250 2C. No key, seat cover rotted out, tires rotted, side covers bungee corded to the rotted seat, no air filters…the list goes on and on. Oh, and the front tire was pretty much flat. Pushing that bike 100 feet UP my driveway to my barn was not fun…even if it is only a 250.

Two days later I get a phone call from my oldest friend in the world (time wise not age wise) ” Hey, do you like the bike?” The bike was left with him 10-15 years ago, it sat outside next to his house (much to the dismay of his wife) all that time. He knows I collect old motorcycles so…you’re beginning to see the picture.
I was in the middle of two other projects and decided I didn’t want to take this one on. So off to ebay it went. Now, I regret that decision.Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.54.56 AM

Here’s the thing about the Benelli 250 2C, it didn’t have the exileration of the Benelli SEI, the feel of the Tornado, heck it was not much faster than the Yamaha RD125! But…the 2C had all the right stuff and I mean all! I’m saying this next part second hand..when the guy that bought my Benelli picked it up (for a mere pittance). loaded it into his van said to me ” yeah, it’s not as fast as any Jap two stroke that’s for sure, but no Jap two stroke can match this bikes handling”. From there he schooled me on all the various parts the 2C had right from the factory…amazing. I wanted take the bike back, but… Off he went into the sunset basically telling me I was an idiot to sell this bike. I shlepped back into my shop and went back to work on a Honda CB350.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 7.55.36 AMI found a nice 250 2C on ebay this morning. It is in much (I mean MUCH) better condition than the one I sold. It is a runner, good runner as a matter fact, just needs a little cosmetic help…nothing major. This is one of those bikes than can easily embarrass a bigger bike on a tight twisty road.
Click on the pics below for pictures and info. This motorbike has FUN written all over it!!!

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Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 2.19.23 PM1974 Benelli 250 2c

1970 Moto Guzzi Ambassador

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 7.56.22 AMMy old friend and racing partner Steve Allen of BevelHeaven.com (vintage ducati parts) used to own a Guzzi Ambassador and loved it. Knowing me as he did, he wouldn’t let me ride it…I don’t blame him. However, I did convince his wife one day that while he was working on my Ducati it would be okay that I took the Guzzi to run a couple of errands. What a motorcycle! It was completely stock and ran beautifully. Having ridden British twins forever and Italian twins for a few years the Ambassador was a pleasant surprise. The somewhat gentle side to side rocking of the motor while idling and the definite torque twist when accelerating was a wonderful new feeling. But what really got me was the general smoothness of the ride. It is a motorcycle that instead of going Coast to Coast in 3 days, you’re going to want to take your time and really enjoy “The Ride”.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 7.50.41 AMIn 1968 Moto Guzzi upgraded their V700 to 750cc to get more of the American market, you know us Yankees, Bigger is better! In 1969 Guzzi set out to prove how good this motorcycle was by setting a number of speed records in both the 750 and 1000cc classes. Top speed for the stocker was 115mph, not bad for the time. But…what happened was that Police departments all over, including here in the USA, liked the reliability, the good handling and the overall strength of the bike.

When Moto Guzzi designed the new Ambassador they gave it a longer wheelbase, changed the steering head angle and braced it, a bigger gas tank (6.1 gallons), better lighting, and now had a separate speedo and tach. Basically it became a great long distance tourer. Cops liked it because it was strong and reliable could carry all their equipment and you know what…same goes for travelers.Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 7.51.28 AM

I found one on ebay this morning that is one of those, fly in, buy it and ride it home. It’s in beautiful condition and according the seller a good runner. Strap a duffle bag on the back and enjoy your summer vacation on a Moto Guzzi Ambassador.
Click on the optics below for more pictures and information about this bike.

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Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 7.54.56 AM1970 Moto Guzzi Ambassador

1976 Moto Morini 3 1/2

Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 8.33.12 AMThere are motorcycles that have a smile factor, a giggle factor and then there those that have a HIGH giggle factor. The Moto Morini 3 1/2 is in the latter class.

In the 60’s and 70’s Italian motorcycles were generally described as quirky, temperamental, unreliable and too expensive. Having owned Italian motorcycles of that vintage I have to say…yep. But, along with those less desirable attributes came personality, soul and performance that made you put up with what you didn’t like about the motorcycle. The sound and the feel when you started up an Italian Single or Twin (when it started…) woke you up from the inside out. Looking at Sophia Loren couldn’t give you the same feeling. Well, maybe.Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 8.45.46 AM

A few years back my Ducati Darmah was part of a Vintage Ducati exhibit at The Moto GP race at Laguna Seca. I met Chris Hammond who was there with a beautiful Ducati 750 SS. While we were talking he was telling how much he liked his SS but his favorite bike and the one he rode the most was his Moto Morini 3 1/2. His enthusiasm was just overflowing. I have loved many of my motorcycles but, compared to Chris I had nothing. He had more pictures of his 3 1/2 in his wallet than he did of his wife and kids!Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 7.53.41 AM

The 3 1/2 was designed by Franco Lambertini who came to Morini from Ferrari. The engine design was unique for it’s time. Not that it was a V-Twin but how the internals worked. There is more information online that if you’re interested you research it yourself. It is very interesting. The 3 1/2 came out in 1973 but didn’t reach America until 1977 it was immediately compared to the very popular Yamaha RD350. An easy comparison to make. The RD was quicker but the Moto Morini had the handling. When I finally got the chance to ride one I fell in love. I understood my friends enthusiasm. Handling is precise, intuitive and easy. The motor has enough power to keep you entertained and was easy on your wallet when came to fuel up. I see it as a very good around town bike but come Sunday, find the tightest twistiest canyon road you can and put bigger bikes to shame and giggle your way by them. This motorbike is one of the highest giggle factor rides I have ever had.

I found a nice one on ebay this morning. It needs some love, but bikes this vintage generally do. It has not been restored, it is a runner. The seller says it starts on the first kick. It will start on the first kick once you get the hang of it. A big thing there, make sure the battery is always fully charged…makes life a lot easier.

Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. If you’re looking for a really fun and very unique motorbike, this could be your next ride.

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Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 7.46.24 AM1976 Moto Morini 3 1/2

1977 Ducati 860 GT Cafe

Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.43.58 AMMy first introduction to Ducati motorcycles was in 1981 while living in New Mexico. A small dealership on Rio Grande Boulevard (yep, just across the street from the river) Rissman Motors, was just a little hole in the wall but I had to stop in just to see. In the showroom sat two of the most beautiful motorcycles I had ever seen. A Ducati 900SD Darmah and the MHR (Mike Hailwood Replica). The replica was much more expensive but I thought the Darmah was far more beautiful. Over in the corner of the shop sat a very lonely and a bit dusty copper colored 860GT.

The reason it was in the corner…it was the ugly duckling of the Ducati family. The Copper headed stepchild.The Darmah and the MHR were basically the same bike but designer Giugiaro somehow DFU’d on that particular bike. Too angular and the shape just didn’t work.Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.40.45 AM

The 860 motor, a square case Bevel drive 90 degree L-Twin is a wonderful machine. I finally bought the Darmah I lusted after somewhere in the mid 90’s and became intimate with that motor thanks to help from racing friends Steve Allen (www.bevelheaven.com) and Trevor Dunne of Ducati Santa Barbara (www.ducatiofsb.com). The Square Case motor may not be the fastest in Ducati’s history but it has the torque of an Italian locomotive. Are there Italian locomotives?

Sadly, the 860GT,the GTS and the GTE were no match for the for the Big Four from Japan. The CB750, the Z1, XS650 and GT750 all were faster than the 860 and considering that America was into speed and horsepower numbers at that time…well no wonder that one old dusty 860 was sitting in the corner. The 860’s top speed was just a touch over 100mph while the others were all pushing 125mph and more. What the 860 had that it’s Japanese counterparts didn’t was handling.

The 860GT was a perfect platform for customizing. I found a beauty on ebay this morning. Tasteful in all respects. Everything about this bike is right. I love the original Euro shift pattern (means its on the right…which does take a bit of getting used to…I have had on occasion downshifted instead braked! The bike has a very Vincent look to it and the motor is unadulterated. This is a beautiful bike and should be just wonderful to ride. It actually is making me now wish I hadn’t sold my Darmah.

The owner / seller of this bike somehow took an Italian ugly duckling and transformed it into a beautiful British swan.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. And the picture at the top of this page, really makes the 860 GT look a lot better!

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Screen Shot 2015-03-03 at 7.32.20 AM1977 Ducati 860GT Cafe

1973 Harley Davidson Sprint

Picture 11I really love different (some may call ‘weird’) motorcycles. If there is something unique about it, I find it really interesting. Granted, riding friends I have had over the years have always questioned my taste in motorcycles but occasionally I have converted a few from ‘mainstream’ to a little left of center. Lucky for them?

A bike that has always interested me is the Harley Sprint. I love small displacement motorcycles, I believe they offer the highest giggle factor your money can buy. I have traveled a good portion of the Western United States on a Honda 350 and still have four of them. I’ve had singles, twins; four strokes and two strokes…I love ’em all. But why I want a Sprint is beyond me…maybe it’s because it’s just weird enough.

I have written plenty of times about the ‘Italian’ Harley’s so I won’t do it again and besides there is so much info on the net that you can learn more than you ever wanted to, and waste a whole day that you are supposed to be working, just going from website to website and still not really care all that much. Unless, you dig those ‘un-Harleys’…like me.

The Sprint is definitely one of those cult bikes, you either love it or hate it. Compared to its competition at the time; the Honda CB350, Yamaha R5, Suzuki X6 and Kawasaki Samurai, it was slow, heavy, only had a 4 speed transmission, the kickstart lever on the wrong side, and until 1973 was kickstart only, and on top of all that it would vibrate the fillings right out of your teeth. But at that time, what Harley wouldn’t?

But, here’s the thing, these bikes have become really popular in Vintage Flat Track and Roadracing. Why, because there are still plenty of parts available (because they are popular), and in their classes, quite competitive.Picture 13 Most everybody that raced the Sprint 250 and 350 back in the day, got their racing parts from Europe, not here. The Motor Company was working on building their mid-size bike business, not racing mid-size bikes. Sadly, in the late sixties and early seventies it was all about horsepower baby! Mid-size bike sales were declining and Harley just didn’t fit into that market no matter how hard they tried.

However, I still think the weird looking, good handling, slow, horizontal cylinder Italian Harley is a very cool bike.Picture 12

I found a really nice Sprint 350SS on ebay today that would take (it appears) so little to be rideable. Bought at an Estate sale, a complete bike…looks to me that all you have to do is the basics…Clean it up,(and by that I mean you need to pull the bike apart…not ‘restoration’ apart, just clean all the electrical connections and oil lines…) change all the fluids, a pair of new tires, a new battery and really, you’re good to go. Well, there are some mods you can make that will really make this ‘Un-Harley’ really fly and embarrass many bigger more modern bikes. The Sprint’s are a lot of fun to ride and wherever you go, people will gather around.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a pretty neat bike at a pretty good price.

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Picture 91973 Harley Davidson Sprint