Wednesday, 28 July 2010

John W's Moto Guzzi special

John and I met via Ebay last year - I bought a tasty tail piece/seat unit for my very slow Le Mans 2 project from him. We got chatting via email, you know how it goes, and it turned out we had loads in common and knew some of the same people and bikes. He then sent me a photo of a special he was completing, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted to get it into the mag at some point. Well, we shot it, and here's the bike - it's  a beauty and rides just as good.

Coming up exclusively in Issue Two of Italian Motor magazine....

Plastic fantastic and red all over

Flicking back through the posts made on this blog so far the other day, I saw that more or less most concerned motorcycles or cars that are red, Italy's favourite shade of passion. So I thought I'd dig out a nice Laverda for a good contrast - except this Laverda happens to be red too..

We got our hands on an RGS 1000 and we'll let you know what we think in Issue Two of the magazine.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tuscany, Italy, in June

I go to Italy often. I was over there in June for a few weeks. When I tell people I'm going out there, they say "ooh, lucky you, all that sunshine, have a lovely holiday!"

Well, this time round I was working, and while the weather in the UK was sunny and 25 degrees, Tuscany looked and felt more like a bleak, cold and wet Scottish mountain in February. Goes to show that they don't have all the best weather in the Mediterranean.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Back to the future

The great Hell for Leather site has posted studio shots of the Moto Guzzi V12 concept machines seen at last year's EICMA show in Milan, and an interesting interview with Terblanche and Galuzzi of Guzzi. Read up on the bikes at Hell for Leather here

I like the concept of the bikes generally, but as someone who enjoys plodding around on a 35 year-old Guzzi, doubt I'd ever be sticking my hands into the usually empty piggy bank to buy one. I can never understand why they don't just do a road version of the MGS-0 and save a few lira on research and development costs. Like most people passionate about Italian motorcycles I want Moto Guzzi to be around for another 89 years, but I just sometimes wonder if Guzzi's best years are behind them, not in front of them.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

I don't mind

I was intending to go to Italian Motorcycle Day at the Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum this Sunday to try and sell a few mags, have a chat with people and look at some Italian bikes - but actually, I've already seen Sammy ride his Gilera round the car park, so I'll stay in and listen to my old punk 45s instead like this two minute gem from The Buzzcocks that used to get played back in the late 70s time and time again on mine and my brother's old Phillips Stereogram. Ahh, I can smell the dust on the valves burning now...

If you're going, the museum's grand and there'll be a few of his Italian bikes worth seeing/hearing - all the info you'll need is here:

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yeah mate, go past that knackered washing machine, squeeze by the old wardrobe, and then you'll probably have to move that rusty old Fiat 500…

So we all know how it goes - the bloke in the barber shop who cuts your hair says he knows the brother of another friend who reckons that their next door neighbour says they've heard about an old motorcycle stashed away in a garage somewhere that's been there for years and years.

This is what happened to my good friend Antonio out in Italy....

About five years back, he was talking to a good friend of his, and this friend who worked for a family building firm in the 1970s remembered that back then there was an old Moto Guzzi Sport 15 stuck in the back of the large garage of the family residence, but he’d never heard any more of it since. Antonio convinced him to contact the owner, and the friend managed after several attempts to speak to the two sons of the owner who had died some years before. They made it clear in no uncertain terms that the Moto Guzzi wasn’t for sale. Unfortunately, one of the sons then also died, but Antonio remained on cordial terms with the other son, who after two or three years came to Antonio for advice (Antonio works in a bank). Antonio at that point had more or less forgotten about the bike in the garage (let alone see it), until after his meeting, he recived an email from the son, asking if he was still interested in the bike, and would he still agree (as Antonio had suggested in an earlier meeting) to emptying the garage to get to the bike and buy it?

One Saturday in August 2008, Antonio and two friends and a lorry turned up at the garage (60 square metres) and started to clean out beds, old fridges, beds, boilers, furniture. After the second lorry load of junk, and just past the Fiat 500, they could begin to see the Guzzi, which had started to see the light of day for the first time in 45 years, and Antonio, a passionate Guzzi man, was mad with excitement. Finally, by lunchtime, and to the curiosity of passers-by, they got the bike out, and Antonio transported it home. The Guzzi was rusty, the paintwork had blistered and the chrome peeled off or dulled beyond a shine, but it was unrestored and unmolested. Antonio says he had to do little work on the Guzzi. “I took the cylinder head off, and sorted out the exhaust valve which was rusted and seized, and cleaned the valve guide. The magneto and dynamo were checked over and repaired, chain and sprockets replaced, the rubber parts replaced as they had perished, and I installed a new wiring loom. Finally, I cleaned the Guzzi very carefully to conserve what had remained, and then coated it all with bees wax.”

The motor was left as was, and runs perfectly. On researching his Sport 15, Antonio discovered that it was built and registered in 1933 and sold in Rome to the Consorzio di Bonifica – the governent department that would drain marshes and reclaim land. It was then sold in 1937 to the owner who then abandoned it in his garage in the 1960s – so it’s had two genuine owners since 1933.

I covet Antonio’s unrestored Sport 15 and would state that if I had to choose just three all-time favourite Italian motorcycles to sit in my garage, his ’33 Sport 15 would without a shadow of a doubt be one of them.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Lammy special grabbing air

This is Paolo hoisting his Lambretta Li 180 special high at the drop of a hat. Yeah, it's got a reinforced clutch and you need it to do this. Paolo's a great bloke, has a very interesting shed, and he looks like an Italian version of Charley Boorman. We like Italian scooters very much at Italian Motor (got a '52 Vespa 'faro basso' in boxes in the shed - another, er, project) and so it's probable that Paolo and his tasty special will be in Issue Two.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

What can be better?

I got to borrow a friend's 1971 Ducati Scrambler, the 350cc version, on a trip to Italy. When you come from somewhere like London like me, and a country like the UK where it rains a lot (though not recently it has to be said..), you grab the opportunity to ride around in the countryside with a deep blue sky above you and a shining sun warming you up - with both hands.

The Ducati is ideal for such excursions and what fun - single cylinder torque, burbling exhaust noise and comfy upright riding postion. You can wheelie it, go across dirt tracks and fields, go up hill and down dale, then pull over and enjoy the view. Life is good on days like that.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

miniscule but mighty Morini Special

My mate Loreno in Italy is a genius when it comes top building bikes from scratch - check out the Maserati Rospo in issue one of the magazine, that's his handywork, built because the bloke he built it for couldn't find an original.

Loreno also built this Morini special, from scratch. Using a knackered old Morini Corsarino that had been virtually destroyed since the late '60s by generations of teenagers, this beautiful machine came to light. Loosely styled looks-wise on the Morini 175cc Settebello single cylinder that was raced by privateers in late 50s/early 60s Italy (including some geezer called Giacomo Agostini who started his career on one), a Morini 'Settebello 50cc' never actually existed as an official factory model, as it's probable that it would have sold like hot cakes. Morini came close, very close, with the Corsarino Sport 50 ZZ.

Loreno chose to adorn the special with a 22mm Dell'Orto with remote float bowl, Fontana front brake, massive Veglia white face rev counter and Marzocchi front end from a 350 Aermacchi. The finished result is the bollocks, as we say in London where I'm from. I rode it a year or so back; fast - 60mph fast, furious and deafening, as only a small Italian race motorcycle can be. We'll put it in the magazine sometime soon....

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Ducati Dos in Uno does go

Two unpromising wrecks become one stunning Ducati creation, with spares to spare... Radical Ducati of Madrid built this Ducati 48 Sportiva stroker because they could, and it's a beauty - see the feature in issue one of the magazine.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Guzzi Saucy Street Scrambler

This Guzzi spotted over at Otto Nero looks fantastic, really well thought out and nicely put together with a dash of Husqvarna. Don't know what it'd be like off road and I'd wanna put a bash plate over the sump if it was mine, but makes a super saucy street scrambler. I'm tempted to go this sort of direction with my Le Mans 2 project, which is currently going in no direction whatsoever...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Forza Florio!

Florio Monti is one of the most incredible people I have ever met. He's almost 90, and still goes out jogging every day - no wonder he still fits into his leathers that he bought back in the late '40s. He drove trucks for Piaggio during WW2, and was constantly held up at gunpoint by either German SS units or Italian partisans whilst out delivering in the hills surrounding the factory at Pontedera.

He raced motorcycles and scooters, and was a works rider for Gilera, Piaggio (check the photo of him riding a Vespa Sei Giorni down a mountainside) and Perugina, and rode a Laverda 100 as a privateers in events such as the Giro d'Italia and the Milano Taranto - he's still got the number tabards to prove it. he tuned his bikes, using tricks like lightening the pistons as shown above. Those were the days when these events were tough, dangerous races on tough, dangerous broken up dirt tracks that passed for roads, not like the corporate sponsor-fest re-run tourist events of today. You rode for 24 hours virtually non-stop, you pissed into your leathers, and were lucky not to be taken out by stray dogs or hay carts in the middle of the night. If you finished, it was an achievement - winning was a miracle. Florio ran a bike shop from the same workshop where his dad had set up fixing motors back in 1902 - the ancient tiled floor shows 110 years of wear.

Florio still rides his bikes today and I was honoured to have him as part of my motorized convoy to the church when I got married last year.

More on Florio in a future issue of the magazine.

38,673 cc

14 double star radial cylinders with reciprocating pistons, 146 x 165 stroke x bore, 1000 bhp at 2,200 rpm, and a grand total of 38, 673 cubic centimetres - that's the spec for this 1936 P.X1 RC40 motor made by Piaggio in 1936, and used on bombers and fighter bombers. Piaggio Aero made aeroplanes and other things from metal years before they came up with the Vespa, though their aeronautical heritage could be seen in the scooter's design.

This motor is on display at the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, and the museum is definitely worth making the time to go and see.