Past Perfect: Moto Guzzi V700 Special

Moto Guzzi fan George Dockray builds a better Moto Guzzi V700.


| July/August 2012



Moto Guzzi V700

Moto Guzzi V700

In our back to the future world, everything old looks new again. Cool bikes from the past are hot, and retro has become the new “new.”

Some credit must go to Honda for their recasting of the classic British racing single with the 1989 Honda GB500. Triumph and Kawasaki picked up the theme with their retakes on the traditional British twin (Bonneville T100 and W650, respectively), and Ducati upped the ante with their Sport Classics. In Europe, Honda aped their iconic CB750 with the CB1100, and Guzzi’s flashback V7 Classics and Racers have recently been flying out of showrooms. All of this is well and good: The classic bikes of our misspent youths are re-created so another generation can enjoy them. Inevitably, though, these reprised rides lack what we misty-eyed geezer bikers are wont to call “character.” With fuel injection, liquid cooling, solid-state electrics, precision steering and suspension, the intimacy between man and machine has waned, the relationship more distant. The starting rituals, unplanned roadside maintenance and mysterious malfunctions are mostly a thing of the past. Some would applaud that. Motorcycles were ornery back then: Now, most have as much character as a dishwasher. So what if you could take a classic motorcycle, and without changing its soul, bring its reliability and functionality fully up to date — retaining its essential character while consigning any orneriness to the trash can?

That’s essentially what dedicated Guzzista George Dockray has done for the Mandello maker’s first V-twin, the 1967 model Moto Guzzi V700.

Three becomes two

Moto Guzzi’s 700cc V-twin (actually 704cc) traces its roots to the Mulo Meccanico, a three-wheeled, three-wheel-drive military vehicle designed to go just about anywhere. The rear wheels could be fitted with short tank tracks for extra grip, and the powered front wheel could literally almost climb walls. Guzzi’s Giulio Cesare Carcano designed the Mulo and its engine — an air-cooled 90-degree V-twin with overhead valves.

In spite of its rather industrial appearance, the engine found a ready home in Carcano’s next project. A touring motorcycle, it would be the largest capacity motorcycle Guzzi had ever built, all its previous road machines having been singles. Yet a growing awareness of the huge market for big bikes in the U.S. was leading several Italian companies like Laverda, MV Agusta and Ducati to build bikes in the 700cc-plus category.

One of the attractions in the U.S. was the huge market for police motorcycles, as anti-trust laws required police forces to garner bids from more than one supplier. It was in seeking to exploit this opportunity that Berliner Motor Corporation sponsored Ducati to build the then-outrageous 1,200cc V4 Apollo in 1961. (At that time, all proposals had to have an engine capacity of at least 1,200cc, roughly matching the 74-cubic-inch engine size of the Harley FL, then the enforcement branches’ mainstay.)

Steve Eevekiller
8/16/2012 10:55:05 PM

Oh, the myth of the mechanical mule! Seriously expected MC *not* to get it wrong by perpetuating this myth, but oh well. For the record, Carcano was FAR too busy running the Guzzi race team, designing & building the world-renowned otto cilindri to waste his time on the mechanical mule [a military development contract.] The engineer in charge of that project WAS SOMEONE ELSE. Yes, Carcano did go on to pen the motor for the V7, which is still with us to this day. While he may have lifted liberally from the mechamule project [which was by that time long dead], the new V7 motor was in fact a clean sheet design *with no parts commonality with the earlier engine.* I don't know who Robert Smith is, but it's clear he's done NO reading of the existing Guzzi literature by recognized experts like Ian Falloon, Mario Colombo, & others. Maybe he's a fan of Mick Walker's factually-compromised Guzzi books? Anyway, aside from the glaring faults, it was an enjoyable article: just ignore any part of it dealing w/ Guzzi history and enjoy the details of the builder's work.






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