1972 Moto Guzzi Eldorado
The Moto Guzzi Eldorado was the biggest weapon in a snout-to-snout battle with Harley-Davidson
Wixom fairings and saddlebags were popular extras on the Eldorado
Ric Anderson & Richard Backus
Moto Guzzi Eldorado
Years produced: 1972-74
Total production: 15,000 (est.)
Claimed power: 64bhp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 116mph
Engine type: Four-stroke, overhead-valve V-twin
Weight (wet): 261kg (580lb)
Price then: $1,985
Price now: $7,500-$12,500
With a trail of hamburger that used to be his hide, retired California Highway Patrol trooper John Moraga bought and paid for the right to say whatever he wants about the Moto Guzzi Eldorado.
In 1974, on his 13th day of on-the-street training, Moraga was patrolling along the MacArthur Freeway in Oakland, Calif., when the driver of a pink 1959 Cadillac pulled out in front of him and jumped on the throttle like David Crosby on a Ho Ho. Moraga hit the siren, rolled the throttle and was somewhere north of 100mph when the bike went into a wobble that wrenched the handlebars from his grip and sent him sliding 317 feet along the pavement. He somehow avoided serious injury, but came home a few ounces lighter after the asphalt ate through his riding gear in spots.
So what’s his assessment of the bike that could have ended his life?
"I sure liked it," he says. "It was so clean and so smooth with that shaft drive; just a really nice bike. I just wish I hadn’t had such bad luck with it."
Moraga didn’t bump his head during the accident: There are several perfectly logical reasons he doesn’t hold a grudge against the Eldorado. For starters, he thinks his accident was an anomaly, possibly brought on by a rare factory defect or a bad spot of road — or a combination of both. And despite the accident, the Eldo earned Moraga’s respect by serving many of his colleagues faithfully for several years.
Another reason behind Moraga’s fondness for the machine is that it was a much-needed alternative to the Harley-Davidsons of the early Seventies.
"Harleys were absolutely terrible at the time," he says. "They broke down all the time, they leaked oil all over the place, the vibration was so bad you couldn’t keep your feet on the boards. Later, the FXR in the Eighties was a nice machine. But those old Electra-Glides were junk."
Although Moraga had a professional interest in the Harley-Guzzi war of the Seventies, plenty of civilians shared his take on the 850cc Eldorado. The pinnacle of a line that began with Moto Guzzi’s V700 loop-frame cruiser of the mid-1960s, the Eldo hit a vein of popularity in the United States after going snout-to-snout with Harley-Davidson for markets that had previously been the American manufacturer’s domain: Long-range motorcycle touring and law enforcement.
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