Bird on a Wing: 1961-1974 Moto Guzzi Stornello

Comparing the Moto Guzzi Stornello with its single-cylinder rivals, the Ducati 125 Sport and Motobi 125 Sport Special.

  • 1961-1974 Moto Guzzi Stornello
    Motorcycle Classics archives
  • 1966-1967 Ducati 125 Sport
    Photo courtesy RM Sotheby's
  • 1968-1970 Motobi 125 Sport Special
    1968-1970 Motobi 125 Sport Special

Moto Guzzi Stornello
Years produced:
8.5hp @ 7,500rpm (1965 Sport)
Top speed:
70mph (claimed)
123cc (52mm x 58mm) air-cooled OHV single
4-speed, chain final drive
202lb (dry)/100mpg (claimed)
Price then/now:

Just as the Mini did in Britain, Fiat’s 500 Cinquecento, introduced in 1957, devastated the Italian motorcycle industry in the 1960s. With more than 500,000 motorcycles produced in 1959, the industry was coming off a record year and the future looked bright. Yet by the end of the next decade, famous names like Bianchi, FB Mondial, Rumi, Ceccato and Itom had either ceased motorcycle production or were absorbed into larger companies like Piaggio. Those that survived the decade (Moto Guzzi, Ducati and Benelli, for example) did so by producing sturdy and sporty small bikes for those still unable or unwilling to buy a car. This led to the increasing importance of the 125cc class: Guzzi’s Stornello (“Starling”) of 1961 perfectly fit the new market reality.

Better known for his race bikes, it was Guzzi’s Giulio Carcano who designed the modest Stornello. Yet while keeping production costs in check, Carcano nevertheless penned a proper motorcycle with a dual-downtube, open-cradle steel frame, dual shocks controlling the swingarm rear suspension and a hydraulically damped telescopic front fork. The chassis ran on 17-inch steel-rim wheels shod with 2.75-inch rear and 2.5-inch front tires. Brakes were single-leading-shoe front and rear, and approximately 5-1/4 inches in diameter.

The iron-cylindered 123cc (52mm x 58mm bore and stroke) 4-stroke single featured two parallel overhead valves in its light alloy head and 8:1 compression. With an 18mm Dell’Orto carburetor, the wet-sump engine produced 7 horsepower at 7,200rpm and drove a 4-speed transmission via helical gears. Sparks and 6-volt lighting were provided by a flywheel magneto.

Performance was competitive for its class with a claimed 63mph top speed while returning around 100mpg. A Sport version followed in 1962 featuring a new cylinder head with revised valve angles in a hemispherical combustion chamber, centrifugal oil filter, higher compression (8.5:1) and a larger 20mm Dell’Orto carb for 8.5 horsepower at 7,500rpm. Equipped with clip-on handlebars, a bum-stop seat and alloy rims, the Sport was good for a claimed 70mph. The standard model, now called Tourismo, continued unchanged.

The Regolarita offroad competition model was introduced for 1962. It made 12 horsepower at 8,000rpm and wore a high-level exhaust, braced high-rise bars and a single seat. The Moto Guzzi factory entered a team of 10 Regolaritas (125cc Stornellos, and 175cc and 250cc Lodolas) in the 1963 International Six Days Trial, taking the International Silver Vase and placing second in the International Trophy class. And while this was the last year of factory support, Stornello Regolaritas were popular with privateer entrants for the rest of the decade. A street version of the Regolarita with lights was produced from 1965 to 1967 in Europe, and sold in the U.S. as the Stornello Scrambler America.

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