Fast but Fragile: 1985-1987 Moto Guzzi V65 Lario

Learn about the fascinating history of the Moto Guzzi V65 Lario.


  • Power: 60hp @ 7,800rpm (claimed)
  •  Top speed: 119mph (period test)
  •  Engine: 650cc 8-valve air-cooled OHV L-twin
  •  Transmission: 5-speed, shaft final drive
  •  Weight: 433lb (wet)
  •  Fuel Capacity/MPG: 4.7gal/39mpg (est.)
  •  Price then/now: n/a/$2,000-$5,000

By the mid-1970s, new  owner Alejandro de Tomaso had consolidated Moto Guzzi’s finances and market position with solid sales of 750cc/850cc street standard and sport bikes. But seeing opportunities in the mid-size market, he also planned a new motorcycle series starting with a tax-friendly 350cc bike for Italy, within a range that could be grown to 750cc. 

deTomaso turned to designer Lino Tonti to create a lighter, more modern, and less expensive motorcycle while retaining the familiar longitudinal V-twin layout. Tonti responded with a new design that echoed existing full-size Guzzis, but was much better suited to mass-production. And with the Mandello plant already at full capacity, frames would be made at Maserati in Modena, powertrains at the old Innocenti plant in Milan, with final assembly at Benelli in Pesaro — all deTomaso owned.

Conceptually, the new Guzzi engine followed the existing “big block” twins, but was also new from the ground up. The crankcase split horizontally, unlike the big twins’ one-piece block. Drive to the camshaft was by chain, operating pushrods to the overhead valves. These ran side-by-side in the flat, Heron-type cylinder heads, with combustion chambers in the piston crowns. The clutch used a diaphragm spring and single plate, driving bevel primary reduction gears to a 5-speed gearbox. Crucially, the oil filter was now accessible without removing the sump.

The frame was essentially a downsized version of Tonti’s own V7 Sport chassis with removable lower rails, except that the alloy “cardan” swingarm pivoted in the gearcase, not the frame. This allowed the entire drivetrain including the back wheel to be dropped out of the chassis for major overhauls. Rear shocks were three-way adjustable while the 32mm front fork was not. The middleweight twins ran on 18-inch allow wheels (at first) with triple disc brakes. The result was a lightweight, compact motorcycle with moderate performance and excellent handling.

The V35 and 500cc V50 were revealed at the Cologne show in late 1976 and were well liked by the motorcycle press. They evolved through several styling and powertrain upgrades intended to boost sales; but despite this, the recession of 1981, design compromises and poor build quality meant modest sales and plenty of warranty returns.

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