The Moto Morini 3 1/2 Sport

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Moto Morini 3 1/2 Sport
Claimed power:
39hp @ 8,500rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 100mph (claimed)
Engine type: 344cc, air-cooled 72-degree V-twin
Transmission: Six-speed
Weight (full): 145kg (320lb)
MPG: 60mpg (claimed)
Price then: $2,100
Price now: $3,000-$6,000

Call it the little V-twin that could. Call it expensive for its day, and maybe even unusual. You’d be right on all accounts. The Moto Morini 3 1/2 Sport may not be for everyone, but for those with an affection (or an affliction, as the case may be) for Italian motorcycles, the Sport is a bike we’ve all coveted at one time or another.

Every Italian bike has its quirks and the naysayers who notice them, labeling the bikes as unreliable, problematic, finicky and sometimes downright lousy. But Italian bikes have a sound and a feel all their own, and, as Italian bikes go, the Morini is both coveted and forgotten at the same time.

Beginnings of the Moto Morini 3 1/2 Sport
By the end of the 1960s, Moto Morini had established itself as a quality motorcycle manufacturer, with good racing successes with their single-cylinder GP machines. Then in 1969, Alfonso Morini, the company’s founder, passed away. The company continued on under the lead of Gabriella Morini, Alfonso’s only daughter, and soon became known for their V-twins. Franco Lambertini, an engineer from Modena who came to Morini from Ferrari, was the designer of Moto Morini’s masterpiece V-twin. His first 350cc engine, a longitudinal 72-degree V-twin, featured a toothed belt driving the camshafts and a multi-disk dry clutch. The engine made its way into a new prototype motorcycle, which debuted at the Milan show in 1971. The 3 1/2 Sport was born.

The Moto Morini 3 1/2 V-twin engine was unique in its use of “Heron” combustion cylinder heads, a first in the motorcycle industry. The Heron design principle uses cylinder heads with a flat face and parallel (as opposed to inclined) valves, with the combustion recess formed in the piston crown. The overhead-valve 3 1/2 used a toothed belt to the camshaft, a multi-plate dry clutch and electronic ignition.

The Moto Morini GT (or Strada) first went on sale in Italy in 1973, and received rave reviews for its performance, power output and low fuel consumption. In 1974, Morini launched the Sport version, which featured a shorter saddle, lower handlebars, an increase in maximum power from 36hp to 39hp @ 8,500rpm and a claimed maximum speed of 100mph. The Sport featured a 230mm (9in) single-leading-shoe front drum brake for 1974-1976, but from 1977 on the front wheel was slowed with a 260mm (10.2in) single Grimeca disc.

Lane Campbell
6/30/2011 11:37:41 PM

I bought my Morini from Lance Weil in Southern California in 1976. It was my little sweetheart, especially in the mountain swervery surrounding La-La-Land. You don't need straightaway speed in terrain where there are few if any straight stretches of road. In this environment, the Morini routinely humbled machines in the 900cc-1000cc class by running away from them in the quick change-up esses. I remember one time up around Big Bear, I was with about a dozen guys on much bigger, theoretically faster bikes. I'd keep having to stop and wait for them. One time in particular, I waited about a half hour, was beginning to worry if somebody had crashed and was getting ready to backtrack, when the rest of the mob showed up, hopping mad at me. Seems when I blew through the little town(?) of Fawnskin, I woke up the burg's only cop, and was out of sight before he could get moving. So he busted all of them instead. Bummer...

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