Exotic Motorcycles: The Morbidelli V8

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Photo by Kel Edge
"What might have been" is the common refrain for all exotic motorcycles that almost made it into production. Still modern-looking more than a decade later, the Morbidelli 850 V8 was designed to be the ultimate touring bike.

Morbidelli V8 Motorcycle

Years produced: 1997
Total production: 4 (including prototype)
Claimed power: 120hp
Top Speed: 150mph (249kph)
Engine type: 847cc four cam, water-cooled V8
Weight: 440lb (200kg)
Price then: $45,000
Price now: Who knows?
MPG: Does it matter?

Ask any two-wheeled techno-freak for a short list of the most exotic motorcycles ever made, and it’ll surely contain the mid-1950s Moto Guzzi V8 500cc GP racer, as well as the 1980s Honda oval-piston V4 NR500/750 — a V8 by any other name, with its 32 valves and eight connecting rods.

But there’s another multi-cylinder maxi bike for the checklist: the Morbidelli V8. Specifically, the Morbidelli 850, a sports tourer that was on the verge of starting production in 1998 after a decade of development. Unfortunately, after the first three customer bikes to meet a strong order book started making their way down the handbuilt production line, the bike was disappointingly cancelled.

Two-wheeler achiever Giancarlo Morbidelli’s life story is a classic rags-to-riches saga worthy of Hollywood, an archetype of the breed of self-made men from humble backgrounds who turned provincial Italy into the mainstay of the country’s economy in the 1960s and 1970s.

Morbidelli was born in 1934 into a family of farmers, and started work at 16 as an apprentice fitter in a factory making woodworking machinery for the furniture industry, one of the two engineering specialties of his hometown of Pesaro, on the Adriatic Coast just south of Rimini. The other? Motorcycles. Morbidelli started his own woodworking company in the late 1950s, but applying his innate technical brilliance after hours to tune locally built Benelli and Motobi bikes to a succession of race victories was his relief from the punishing days spent building Morbidelli Woodworking Machines into the industry world leader it would become by the 1980s. MC 

Order the July/August 2006 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the Morbidelli V8, including riding impressions by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 

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