1974 Moto Guzzi 850 Eldorado

Moto Guzzi rider Alan Comfort revived an unloved 1974 850 Eldorado, but no one will accuse him of having over-restored it.

Photos by Robert Smith

El Dorado was the legendary City of Gold of Spanish explorers: but it’s now thought the “golden one” was instead a person, a chief of the Muisca who was ceremonially adorned with gold. Either way, the implication that gold was plentiful in the Americas.

Whether or not Moto Guzzi named their 1972 motorcycle Eldorado in the hope it would find them a metaphorical empire of gold, the cycle certainly built a loyal U.S. following that the Mandello marque enjoys to this day. Much of the Eldorado’s commercial success relied on its being chosen as a police bike by the Los Angeles Police Department and California Highway Patrol.

The Eldorado is a direct descendent of Moto Guzzi’s 1967 704cc V7, imported into the U.S. by the Premier Motor Corporation, a division of the Berliner organization. The pot of gold Joe and Michael Berliner hoped to secure was a contract to supply motorcycles to America’s police forces. Anti-trust rules required forces to call for more than one supply bid, and as there was only one homemade motorcycle maker, Berliner proposed supplying European machines as an alternative. Berliner was the U.S. distributor for Norton, Ducati and Moto Guzzi, and so the company could theoretically have offered machines from any of these firms.

Photos by Robert Smith

Engine: 844cc OHV four-stroke 90-degree V-twin, 83mm x 78mm bore and stroke, 9.2:1 compression ratio, 64.5hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 116mph
Carburetion: Two Amal Concentric 930 carburetors
Transmission: Engine-speed dry clutch, 5-speed, left foot shift, shaft final drive
Electrics: 12v, contact breaker and distributor
Frame/wheelbase: Spine frame, dual cradle/58in (1,473mm)
Suspension: Telescopic fork front, dual shocks rear, three-way adjustable
Brakes: 8.7in (220mm) 4LS drum front, SLS rear
Tires: 110/90 x 18in front and rear
Weight (wet): 580lb (263kg)
Seat height: 31in (787mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 6gal (13.2ltr)/40mpg (approx.)
Price then/now: $1,985/$5,000-$13,000

In the early 1960s, the Commando-based Norton Interpol was still some years away, and Guzzi made only singles at that time. So the Berliners turned to Ducati. Their requests of the Bologna company famously led to Fabio Taglioni’s 1964 1,260cc V4 Apollo. While this mighty machine could easily meet police requirements, it proved to have rather more power and speed than was necessary — or good for the tires of the day. Faced with a large, risky investment in tooling for relatively small sales potential, Ducati’s then owners (effectively the Italian government) pulled the plug on further development.

2/17/2021 12:52:55 PM

I used to work in Milwaukee's only Berliner dealership in the early 1970's, and rode Motoguzzi's occasionally. We also sold Honda's. These were the days before Honda's Goldwing and CX-500 opposed motors. I was always amazed at the sideways torque of the Motoguzzi's, having worked only on the inline Honda's of the early 1970's. At a stop sign you had to make sure you had both feet on the ground!

1/7/2021 11:51:55 PM

All true, Ive had mine for 40 years and every time I ride it I think 'this is the last bike I'll sell'. I have the original Koni shocks on mine, still work fine, you could most likely get a rebuild kit from Ikon Australia. I put S & W 55lb fork springs in 35 years ago, they help firm up the front. Something similar may be found? Also, I found that a new TT100 4.25/85 x 18 on the front with a Metzeler Lasertec 120/90 x 18 on the rear handles very well. Must get her out for a spin......

12/31/2020 8:15:06 PM

love all Alan's bikes as they come up in the magazine or at local shows. As he knows, New Westminster Police here in BC also used the Eldorado. I still have some Eldo parts laying around so ill have to send him a note.

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