Words by Oliver Hulme photography by Gary Chapman
FINDING A TRULY practical classic is something of a hunt for the holy grail. If you’ve grown up with modern bikes with refinements like electric starts and brakes that work, then finding something you are going to be able to live with narrows the field considerably.
If you’ve decided to avoid Far Eastern products, for whatever reason, the choice narrows even further.
However, the Italians continued making middleweights when the British had gone the way of all things.
In the late-1970s Moto Guzzi came up with a smart little sports tourer which today is a great option. Moto Guzzi, who had developed their mighty 850 and one litre V-twins in the late 1960s had also been making their 500cc Nuovo Falcone singles which stayed on sale until 1976, their longevity partly down to the orders from the Italian police and military.
The big flywheel single was out-of-date by the time Alessandro de Tomaso took over Moto Guzzi that year and, recognising the demand in the Italian home market for a 500, Guzzi engineer Lino Tonti was told to come up with something new. He took a look at the big V-twin, and to all intents and purposes, shrank it.
Tonti created an updated three-quarter-sized version of the 850 bottom end to produce a 90-degree, wet-sump, overhead-valve V-twin with a dry single-plate clutch, five-speed transmission, shaft drive, electric starting and electronic ignition.
Borrowing heavily from the heron head technology developed by Moto Morini, the new engine had flat cylinder heads, with the combustion chambers inside the piston and the pushrod-operated valves at 90 degrees to the head.
Read more and view more images in the May 2019 issue of CBG – on sale now!