Like Lamborghini, Laverda began building something other than fast, race-ready exotics. In fact, both manufactured agricultural machinery prior to branching out into supercars and superbikes, respectively. In Laverda’s case, that experience building durable, rugged farm equipment translated directly into motorcycles like this 1969 750GT, and the Laverda parallel-twins were famous for being over-engineered, with five main bearings in the engine, and for using electrical components sourced from Bosch and Nippon Denso. Reliability and build-quality were considered to be excellent when the bikes were new.
Very early bikes had a 650cc displacement, but this grew to 744cc very quickly, owing to the expectation that the bigger engine would drive US sales. The bike weighed a little over 500lbs with fuel, and power was a very respectable 60hp for the 750cc version of the twin, with a top speed of over 100mph. The first Laverdas came to the US labeled as “American Eagles” instead of Laverdas, although many have been rebadged at this point. An American company that imported various bikes under a more patriotic brand, American Eagle had folded by 1970 and Laverdas were badged as Laverdas thereafter.
It wasn’t that long ago that Laverda 750s were going for less than $5,000. They weren’t easy to find of course, but their collectability was in a bit of limbo and you could pick them up for a relative song. These days, even the earlier, “American Eagle” branded bikes are commanding nearly double that amount. The later 750SF or “Super Freni” has a distinctive, hairy-chested 70s vibe, with blocky styling and some vivid colors. But the earlier bikes like this one look much more like an Italian Commando, with that mini tank rack and the set of Smiths-looking gauges instead of the later, green-faced Honda-looking items… If you’re tastes run to the classic, the earlier Laverda twins offer power and reliability, with a dash of British class.
From the original eBay listing: 1969 Laverda 750GT for Sale
This is a very early Laverda 750cc GT. Frame and (matching) engine number: 1392. The ownership lists this bike as a 1969 model, but according to Tim Parker’s definitive Laverda reference (the ‘green book’) the serial number makes it a 1968 machine. One way or another, Laverda started the serial numbers for their twins at 1000, and they made a handful of 650s before upping the displacement to 750 – so this is one of the first 350 to 400 Laverda twins made.
I’ve owned this bike for almost 30 years. The speedo shows about 8,000 kilometers, but it was a new rebuilt instrument when I restored the bike about 8 years ago and doesn’t correspond especially well with the speedo drive gear, so that has very little to do with how far the bike has actually been ridden. It probably hasn’t seen an awful lot of use, however. It had been a basket job for about 10 years when I bought it back in the late 80s. I finally got around to starting a frame-up rebuild on it about 10 years ago.
The engine was completely stripped down and rebuilt – new pistons and cams, clutch plates, as well as any bearings, gaskets and seals that needed replacement. As you can see, it’s pretty pristine on the outside, and it’s just as clean inside, too. Since the rebuild it’s averaged about 1,000 kms (indicated) per summer, with oil changes every fall before going back into heated indoor storage for the winter.
It starts on the first turn of the crank, idles very steadily and pulls crisply to 6,500 rpm all 5 gears without any fuss or bother. Message me and I’ll send you a link to see a short video on YouTube showing this bike being started from cold as well as a bit of running footage.
10:1 ‘SFC’-type pistons were installed when I did the rebuild, as the original 7.7:1 compression ratio was a bit too laid back for modern roads, in my opinion. In combination with the 30mm square-slide carbs and medium-profile cams, this gives very torquey low-end and mid range response. Unlike some of the hairier (for their day) later Laverda twins, this set-up revs up from idle very smoothly and progressively — and makes for easily manageable around town riding. But it’s happiest loping down secondary roads at about 3,000 rpm – with the ‘cutback’ style Laverda pipes producing a nicely rorty, but not overly antisocial exhaust note. If you take a look at my YouTube video, you’ll get the idea.
This bike is very clean, but it’s not a museum piece. Over the years, I’ve gone over it from front to rear, inside and out, and I’ve sorted out a number of the Achilles’ heels that years of experience has taught me to look out for on Laverda twins in general and on this model in particular.
The seller’s description is much more detailed than shown above, but well worth a read: he obviously knows the bike inside and out, and is happy to share details of the restoration and the bike’s history, something that always inspires confidence. He even offers up post-sale “technical assistance” which has to be a first! Basically, if you’ve ever wanted an early Laverda twin, this might be worth a serious look. Bidding is very active on this bike, with very little time left on the auction. But the Reserve has not been met at $7,900 so it’s obvious that the seller is well aware of the bike’s increasing value. With under 8,000 miles on the clock, there’s plenty of life left in this Laverda: some parts can be scarce, but most of what you need to keep them running should be available, and the basic construction is extremely durable.
A vintage luxury sports machine, the Ariel Square Four had, as the name suggests, four whole cylinders at a time when most motorcycles of the period had just one or two. Automobile components can get away with being heavy, but over-engineered solutions in a motorcycle application mean significantly reduced performance and, for years, four-cylinder engines weren’t compatible with twin demands of light weight and reliability. Inline fours can be tricky to package into a motorcycle, particularly when configured longitudinally, as was common before the Honda CB750. But the Ariel uses an interesting “square” format that features a pair of parallel twins, complete with a crankshaft for each. Not only did this solution offer up the power and smoothness of an inline four, the very compact design meant it could be squeezed into existing frames meant to house a parallel twin. No surprise, as the design was originally intended for BSA.
The first generation of Square Four displaced 500cc with a bump to 601 for increased torque, so riders using the bike as practical transport could more easily drag the weight of a sidecar around. That early overhead cam design had issues with overheating, as the square four configuration naturally has a hard time getting cooling air to the rear pair of cylinders. Suzuki’s later RG500 engine used liquid-cooling to get around this problem, but that was obviously not an option here.
The engine saw a complete overhaul in 1937 with a shift from overhead cams to cam-in-block and pushrods, but a big jump in displacement to 997cc. In 1949, the iron head became aluminum for a huge savings in weight and the version seen here is the final iteration, with four individual exhaust pipes, instead of the earlier pair of siamesed parts that make the bike look like it’s powered by a bulky parallel twin.
From the original eBay listing: 1957 Ariel Square Four for Sale
Up for sale is a restored Ariel Sq4 This bike was completely restored 10 years ago and sat in a collection for 5 years. I bought it and meet the person who restored it in Mass. He is good at what he does and the bike still shows very well. All the miles were put on by me, last being a 50 mile ride 2 years ago. The bike has been started and ran in the last few months. It will start right up and operate very smooth. There are no known problems. The restoration was both mechanical and cosmetic at the time. Buyer will be responsible for transportation from Pgh PA.
I’m assuming “Pgh” is Pittsburgh in this case. There’s very little time on this auction, with bidding up just north of $16,000 and the reserve not yet met.
So what’ll she do, mister? Well that nearly full liter of displacement gave 45hp and the bike weighed a surprisingly svelte 425lbs, so the Square Four could very nearly “do the ton.” But while bikes like the BSA Gold Star were about ultimate performance, the Square Four was about the way in which it delivered that performance, and the smooth relaxed power and sophistication was really in a class by itself from the bike’s introduction in 1931 until it was discontinued in 1959, a remarkable production run for any motorcycle.
Lots of sportbikes, even vintage sportbikes do many things well: handling is almost always part of the package. Many are very fast, some are reliable, and a few will even take you on long journeys in relative comfort. The Kawasaki Z1R TC does only one of these things, but it does so with such enthusiasm that it’s hard not to give it a pass on the others. In the 1970s, Kawasaki built bikes that seemed to be in-tune with the American Psychology of Going Fast that stressed straight-line speed over handling prowess, very much like musclecars of the era. Their H1 and, to a lesser extent, H2 two-stroke triples had power that easily overwhelmed their limp chassis and got miserable gas mileage, but that hardly mattered for folks interested in beating the car or bike next to them away from a stoplight. The four-stroke Z1R had acceptable handling and decent brakes, but slap a big, uncivilized turbo on there as seen on the TC and all that went out the window.
The Z1R TC was the first bike of the turbo craze that afflicted all of the Japanese manufacturers to a certain extent in the 1980s, a trend that was largely a dead-end at the time. Modern turbos are refined and smooth, giving us engines with durability, increased power when you need it and good gas mileage when you don’t, all with minimal lag. These characteristics are largely the result of modern fuel injection systems and the electronics that control them. Both of which are missing here.
Early turbo engines needed to have low compression-ratios so they wouldn’t explode when the boost was up, which exacerbated “turbo lag,” the delay between when you put your foot to the floor and when the power kicks in, a result of the turbo needing to time to spin up and begin generating boost and thus power. Turbo lag was notoriously tricky to manage in sports cars of the era and is even more challenging when combined with skinny tires, marginal handling, and the lean angles you’re looking at when riding a motorcycle aggressively.
And that was assuming the bike didn’t just grenade between your legs. Early test bikes were “built” with stronger engine internals, but bikes sold to the public only included these at an additional charge, and many went without what should have been a mandatory upgrade. Shopping online, you’ll find that they often have had significant engine overhauls, because of blown motors or smart owners looking to prevent hot, fast-moving engine parts from sharing space with vital organs…
From the original eBay listing: 1979 Kawasaki Z1R TC for Sale
I have decided to sell my dream bike of my younger years. If you know what you’re looking at and your youth was in the late 70’s and early 80’s this bad boy was likely on your wish list along with Farrah Fawcett and the Whale Tail 930 Turbo Porsche. Next to Farrah this was the wildest thing you could throw a leg over! What more could a bulletproof wild child ask for?
Make no mistake this bike was the things fantasies were made of and the tool required to make them come true. Much like the efforts that delivered the Shelby to Ford, Motion and Balwin cars to Chevrolet and the Hurst Hemi’s to mother Mopar, Turbo Cycle and Kawasaki teamed up to build a two wheeled rocket that would clean the clocks and wallets of whoever stepped up to the line against it.
This bike is all original with a copy of the original sales certificate registered in the archives of Turbo Cycle confirming this is the matching numbers motor and frame and truly one of the original 250 produced. All original manuals are included as are all original parts less the Warblo fuel pump that was long gone when I bought the bike nearly 10 years ago. The bike is shown with and currently runs a newer Mikuni flat slide and K&N air filter but the original Zenith carb and triangle air filter are included.
The bike is shown with the white tank emblems and shorter LTD shocks on the rear but again the originals are included and in excellent condition.
The bike has newer tires, battery and had one quality repaint years before I bought it with new original Molly Graphics. This is not a kit/clone or wanna be-it’s the undisputed real deal that any collector or museum would be proud to own and display.
The bike runs great and is a piece of styling art to behold. Mad Max would be proud to spool it up down under. When this old girl comes on the boost you better have your toes under the shifter and brake levers and a firm grip on the bars because just like when you hit hyperspace playing Space Invaders things are going to get blurry in a hurry. This thing is no game or toy-it is still scary fast.
While I had had the privilege of owning I have displayed it a many vintage / classic bike shows and was honored to be invited to display it at the AMA display and the Kawasaki featured marque display at Mid-Ohio Vintage Bike Days a few years back. The bike deserves to be on display and in the hands of a curator to insure this piece of history is enjoyed and around for years to come.
It’s not clear if the engine in this bike has had any serious work done from the listing, or if it had the upgrades installed originally, but it appears to otherwise be in excellent condition: many that come up for sale are pretty rough cosmetically, seemingly the fate of many Japanese bikes of the era. The seller is looking for $25,000 as a Buy It Now price, which is top-dollar, but these are certainly some of the rarest and fastest streetbikes of the era and have been steadily increasing in value.
It may have been built in 1960, but this Velocette MSS is, in many ways, a very nice 1930s motorcycle. A precursor to the evocatively-named Venom, the Velocette MSS was launched in 1935, although production was interrupted by the Second World War and didn’t start up again until 1954. Powered by a 495cc overhead-valve, air-cooled single with undersquare bore and stroke dimensions, the bike made 23hp and had a top speed in the neighborhood of 80mph.
Velocette was based in Birmingham and made high-quality motorcycles that featured innovative designs, with foot-operated gearshifts and the world’s first “positive-stop” mechanism for its four-speed box. Although earlier Velocettes did use overhead-cam engines, the MSS used simple pushrods to operate the overhead valves, but that cam was situated high in the head to keep pushrods short and the bike was otherwise of very high specification.
From the original eBay listing: 1960 Velocette MSS for Sale
Nicely restored MSS, runs good, motor strong. Recently ridden on 125 mile BSAOCNC Gold Country Ride, in the foothills east of Sacramento.
Speedometer reads faster than actual speed, may need a different speedometer drive. Some oil leaks, could be from primary case, would be nice to sort out. Not a show bike, a few nicks and chips in the paint, chrome not perfect. All in all a nice bike. All good with the electrics, headlight, taillight, horn, charging system working. Actual mileage is unknown, 1,228 currently showing on the odometer. Clear California title. Will include a copy of the owner’s handbook, good info on starting procedure.
The seller also includes a short video of the bike running. There hasn’t been much activity on this auction, but bidding is up to $7,600 with very little time left. Compared to modern machines, the power is very modest, but the spread of torque is broad and these are both comfortable and very durable motorcycles, with excellent handling and there is room for performance improvement: you could probably fit some parts from the Venom if you want more speed with the subtle, stock looks.
It’s been a little while since I’ve seen a Laverda SFC for sale. They are some of the most desirable sportbikes of the 1970s, homologation specials that were quite literally race bikes with some road equipment tacked on. Basically: cut a hole in the fairing for an off-the-shelf headlight, bolt on a speedometer, and stick an awkwardly-angled taillight on the solo-tail section, complete with curved lower edge to accommodate a number-plate…
Voilà: instant road bike!
Of course, many never saw the road at all, and lights, signals, and other equipment were quickly boxed up to prep the bikes for race-duty. Or display.
Sold in limited numbers between 1971 and 1976, the Laverda SFC took its name from the enormous front drum brake seen on earlier models. SFC literally stands for Super Freni Competizione or basically, “super-braking race bike.” Later bikes like this one did feature dual discs, and I’m sure those stop very nicely but, like the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, there’s something about those huge aluminum drums found on early 70s Italian sport bikes… But from the seller’s listing, it looks like much more than just the brakes were updated on the later bikes…
The basic Laverda parallel twin made for a pretty good foundation for racing. It wasn’t particularly light, but the bike was stiff and very stable, ideal for endurance events. And the engine featured five main bearings for exemplary durability, as the bike in stock form was fairly under-stressed. Stuffed full of factory high-performance goodness, the SFC made 80hp while retaining the standard bike’s rock-solid handling.
From the original eBay listing: 1974 Laverda 750 SFC for Sale
The example offered here is an excellent example of the US series 1974 Laverda 750 SFC and comes with a known and documented history. Although it has been slightly modified from original, with a smaller European taillight, Verlicchi twin cable throttle, and no turn signals and reflectors, the sporting soul remains intact.
The late 1950s and early 1960s was not a great time for Italian motorcycle manufacturers. As Italian industry was heavily protected and imports restricted, motorcycle manufacturers survived in a false world where most of their products were consumed by the domestic market. When domestic demand collapsed so did much of the Italian motorcycle industry. Laverda struggled during this period but Massimo Laverda saw a way out, and that was targeting the huge American market.
Massimo was a motorcycle enthusiast, already aware of the move to towards motorcycling as a means of fun and enjoyment instead of basic transportation and was convinced the future lay in large capacity, more sporting machines. Knowing he didn’t have the resources to develop an engine from the ground up, and not wanting to emulate obsolete British designs, Massimo looked at what Honda was doing. Honda released their 305cc CB77 parallel twin “Super Hawk” for 1961 and as this overhead camshaft unit construction engine with horizontally-split crankcases was already proving considerably reliable, Laverda essentially enlarged and strengthened the Honda engine, initially creating a 650, before releasing the 750 in 1969. In long distance endurance racing during 1969 and 1970 the 750 S and SF established Laverda’s reputation for robustness and exceptional all round performance and for 1971 Laverda created the 750 SFC (C for Competizione). The bright orange color scheme of the factory racers became an SFC trademark. Although it was always a limited edition model, even after 1973 when the factory stopped racing the 750 twin, the SFC continued, incorporating many of the developments learnt from three successful years of racing. The 750 SFC was thus a true racing machine, built to the highest standards, that could be ridden on the street and a limited edition replica of a successful factory racer. Few components were shared between the SFC and regular SF, and only in 1974 did production exceed 200 a year.
For 1974 Laverda released an updated 750 SFC, primarily for Italian 750cc production-based racing, one of the leading domestic racing categories. Success in 750 racing was seen as very important publicity and the updated 750 SFC differed considerably in design and concept to the earlier drum brake versions. It was now substantially different to the 750 SF and designed with 750 class production racing in mind rather than endurance racing. Incorporating many developments of the 1973 factory bikes, the 1974 750 SFC was one of the outstanding sporting machines of the era. With its low frame and sculptured looks the 1974 750 SFC was also a styling triumph. There was also a specific US version this year but while these North American examples were slightly different in equipment the engine and chassis specifications were the same as the European model.
Just 549 of these were made over the short production run, making them very desirable. This example looks to be in excellent condition and is being offered up by a seller who’s featured regularly on these pages, as he often seems to have very rare and very interesting motorcycles available. There is still some time left on the auction and bidding is up north of $37,000 although the reserve has not been met which is no surprise, given the condition and rarity of this SFC.
Racebikes tend to have an unmistakably spare aesthetic, a mechanical pragmatism sadly hidden behind often garishly-painted plastics. And the endless march of progress sees older machines facing obsolescence continually updated, evolving to meet the threat of newer, faster machines. That’s the case with this 1972 TD-3, the last of Yamaha’s air-cooled, two-stroke production racebikes before the TZ series was introduced. Yamaha actually pulled their factory 250cc World Championship machines out of competition after 1969, but the smaller machines were well supported by incentives and popular among privateer racers.
The TD-3 replaced, naturally, the TD-2 as Yamaha’s production 250cc racebike. Introduced in 1971, the bike featured a new dry clutch, lightweight frame, and six-speed gearbox. Slightly less oversquare bore and stroke of 54mm x 54mm matched the 247cc of the previous bike, with revised inlet and transfer ports to increase power. Producing almost 50hp, with just 231lbs dry to drag around, the TD-3 was plenty quick, with a top speed of over 140mph, depending on gearing and, of course, the rider’s weight…
From the original eBay listing: 1972 Yamaha TD-3 for Sale
This is a 1971 or 1972 Yamaha TD-3. The production racer years of production were not very accurate, but the TD-3 replaced the TD-2 in Motorcycle Grand Prix racing in 1971. By 1973, the TZ came out, which was a TD-3 with liquid cooling. This is a beautiful race bike which I raced for about 10 years. From about 1997 to 2006. I won the WERA Mid-Atlantic Championship with this bike in 2002. I have the trophy as proof! After 2002, work got in the way of racing and I could only participate in 3-4 races a year, so I was not able to garner enough points to be a contender, but the bike was very competitive. In 2006 I started the season, I only did a pre-race practice at Summit Point and decided to hang up my leathers. I had gained too much weight so that I did not fit comfortably in my leathers and was too heavy for a 250 class bike anyway. But, I had prepared the bike for the season in 2006 with new race compound Avons and I had put in next size new pistons and had lowered the ratios with a slightly smaller pinion as I felt that I was not getting enough power out of slow turns and my top speed was as high or higher than the Honda 4-stroke 350cc twins that were the main competition. Note: This was and probably still is a WERA Vintage 2 class race bike. The motor has chrome cylinders and the rebuild consists of installing the next size pistons and rings. I have a new pair of pistons and rings for the next size which I will include. A set of pistons and rings for this bike probably go for a pretty penny these days, if you can find them. This bike was racing relatively recently, so there have been class legal improvements made that the original race bikes did not have. It has a Penton PVL magneto ignition system which replaced the original Hitachi system, which I think I still have laying around. The bike does not need a battery. It has Works Performance rear shocks and an Italian Laverda SF front drum brake (Super Freno or Super Brake in English) and additional frame gusseting (to stiffen it) compared to the original. You will see a “MyLaps” lap timing transponder on the left fork leg which I think can be assigned to a new racer. The TD-3 has a dry clutch which you can see in the photos and a new set of friction discs were installed in 2006 and are unused except for a practice lap. As with most racers, the oil pump has been removed and it runs on mix. I have always used Silkolene Castorene. It will need a carburetor cleaning as the mix in the bowls will have varnished up, but it is out of the box ready to race. I have notes regarding jetting and the last jetting was for high humidity summer racing in the Mid Atlantic region. It has been stored in a dry trailer.Mileage is unknown but an estimate is 10 laps at 3 miles for 6 average races a year = 1,800 miles plus practice = 2,500.
While it is sad to see consumables being… consumed, it’s also great to see machines designed for racing actually being raced, instead of hidden away in garages. Racing a vintage motorcycle is obviously more about the sense of community and history than outright speed, since there are much cheaper ways to go fast. But if you’re looking to spend some time on track and like to tinker, a machine like this could be a lot of fun.
Everything sounds beautiful and exotic when spoken in French or Italian, especially if you don’t understand the language. I mean, couldn’t Bidet be a luxury water-fountain manufacturer? And don’t Quattroporte and Benelli Sei just roll off the tongue? What’s that you say? Quattroporte just means “four doors” and Sei is just Italian for “six”? Well that’s disappointing… So basically, today’s Benelli Sei 750 is the epitome of “truth in advertising”: a motorcycle from Benelli that displaces 750cc and has six cylinders.
It sounds way less sexy when you put it that way.
Of course, when you’ve just produced an exotic, inline-six motorcycle, giving it a fancy name probably isn’t necessary: the bike speaks for itself. And that’s exactly what Alejandro De Tomaso intended: when the bike was introduced, it was meant as a statement to the Japanese “big four” that the Italian brands could compete with them on every level. Not completely true, of course, but at least in terms of engineering extravagance it was accurate.
The early 750cc bikes were superseded by a 900cc version in 1978 that looked basically identical, only with more displacement. Styling is relatively conservative, although that fat engine sitting across the frame shouts the bike’s intentions loudly enough, with a wall of exhaust headers that helps create one of the most exotic noises in motorcycling. You might be tricked into thinking the cylinder count would give it a car-like exhaust note. The reality is a ripping noise that’s impossibly smooth and electric, head-turning in a way that the styling is not.
From the original eBay listing: 1977 Benelli Sei 750 for Sale
A Six cylinder Italian work of art, one of the three or four of the best sounding motorcycles in the world and one of the most coveted collector motorcycles available today. This example has been with the same owner/mechanic since 1979.It was loved, taken care of, and ridden until 1995 when it was professionally and meticulously restored by him from the ground up,mechanically and visually,work including a complete engine overhaul with all new parts as well as a full restoration of chassis and all ancillaries. As noted in photos, the motorcycle will come with a complete new 6 into 6 exhaust system, as well as a new seat cover and stock turn indicators. Documentation and photos accompany it. The bike has since been ridden sparingly by the same owner from 1996 till 2016 and shows 16000 miles on the clock (800 miles a year),which was zeroed after the restoration in 1995. It still looks and drives like new and will be a great addition to any collectors or enthusiasts garage. These motorcycles have been climbing in value right through the last few years and show now signs of slowing down. They rarely come up for sale and are almost impossible to find with this kind of record and history since new. I purchased it only a short time ago with the intention of keeping it indefinitely in my collection but as life and timing inevitably goes,a one owner Vincent Black Shadow that I have been trying to buy for ten years has eventually been offered to me by its original owner and in order to buy it,I sadly have to sell the Benelli and two other motorcycles in my collection. This motorcycle is not and will never be for the bargain hunter or time waster out there so please don’t waste your time or mine. If I don’t get the price that it is worth or very close to it, I will just have to pick another one of my motorcycles to sell in its place. This is a genuine opportunity for an intelligent and savvy collector or afficionado who is looking to buy a Perfect Benelli 750 SEI,don’t miss it and hate your decision later,both financially and emotionally. Thank you for looking. Like a boss.
Yes, the seller actually included “like a boss” at the end of the listing.
Introduced in 1972, years before the similarly-spec’d Honda CBX, the Sei was never really produced in great numbers, although they do show up on eBay from time-to-time, often in slightly-abandoned condition, which is interesting because very nice CBXs show up for sale all the time. No big surprise though, since the Sei is a pretty expensive bike to maintain and source parts for. Many probably needed maintenance and were just left to rot when owners found out what service and parts were going to cost. I think they’re a bit like 80s Alfa Romeos used to be: interesting and exotic, but expensive, difficult to maintain, and not really worth all that much. They languished in obscurity for a long time, although prices seem to be on the rise now.
This particular example appears to be in very good shape both mechanically and cosmetically, although that cracked tachometer face would really annoy me, and the seller mentions a complete cosmetic and mechanical restoration. That’s very reassuring, although that Buy It Now price of $17,000 seems pretty ambitious, even for a bike this nice.
Phil Schilling was an ex-racer most famous for being the editor of Cycle magazine and for his involvement in the creation and racing of the classic hot-rod Ducati named Old Blue. But as with any good motorcycle enthusiast, his tastes were varied, and apparently this bright yellow Norton Commando production racer was built to his specifications.
Norton’s old-school approach to motorcycle construction may not have been cutting-edge at the time, but means that they’re relatively simple to work on, many parts are interchangeable between models [see: Triton], and plenty of the reliability issues can be addressed with updated parts or regular attention. And while many bikes at the time boasted more advanced specification and design, Nortons were fast, powerful, and handled well.
A steady increase in displacement to keep Norton’s power competitive with rivals and appeal to US buyers meant unacceptable levels of vibration. Parallel-twins are extremely compact and far simpler to manufacture than v-twins, but they do tend to vibrate more when not fitted with modern luxuries like engine counter-balancers. By the time the Norton twin was punched out to the race-legal 745cc likely found in this bike, vibration was enough of an issue that a solution was needed. Instead of rubber-mounting the bars, pegs, seat, and anything else that might interact with the rider, their innovative Isolastic system used a system of rubber mounts to insulate the engine itself. It works great when properly set up but, like all rubber bushings, they need regular attention: worn Isolastics can mean scarily unpredictable handling.
From the original eBay listing: 1971 Norton 750cc Production Racer for Sale
The ex-Phil Schilling 1971 Norton Commando 750cc Production Racer, Fully Documented, to AMA 750 Spec, 1 of 1!
Frame #: 145102 Engine #: 145102
Its innovative vibration-beating Isolastic frame enabled the Commando to prolong the life of Norton’s aging parallel twin. Launched in 1967, the model was an instant hit with the motorcycling public, being voted Motor Cycle News ‘Machine of the Year’ for five consecutive years. A true ‘skunkworks’ project, the Production Racer was introduced for 1971 and hand-assembled at Norton race manager Peter Inchley’s famous ‘Long Shop,’ a hangar at the old Thruxton air base. A homologation special built for little more than one season to qualify for various 750cc road racing series, the street-legal ‘Proddy Racer’ was the fastest/quickest Commando made, capable of 130mph as delivered with a list price double that of standard Commandos. Credit for the performance goes to the blueprinted engine, meticulously assembled with high-compression pistons, factory 3S racing camshaft, ported cylinder head, larger valves and polished internals, good for at least an additional 10bhp over an assembly-line Commando. Handling likewise was improved upon thanks to test rider Peter Williams, also an excellent development engineer, who could simply throw open the hangar doors and commence to hot-lapping the adjacent Thruxton race circuit. It certainly did the bike’s credibility not one iota of harm when Williams and co-rider Charlie Sanby took a Production Racer to victory in the 1970 Thruxton 500 endurance race.
While records aren’t definitive, it is believed that fewer than 200 Production Racers were made, perhaps as few as 120.
The example on offer here, is a tad more special than the average, incredibly rare Norton Proddie Racer. The bike was built for Executive Editor of Cycle magazine and famed racer, Phil Schilling. A great collector of classic machines, Schilling sensed the collectability of the Norton, so had Peter Williams personally build him the ultimate iteration of the ultimate Commando.
The engine is much wilder than that of the standard Production Racer, with a host of trick parts. The engine was built to the same specification of Williams’ AMA750cc Class Special with Norvil ‘Triple S’ cams, high 10.25:1 compression pistons, big 32mm Amal Concentric carbs and twin megaphone exhausts. A Quaife five-speed gearbox replaced the standard item.
Fork sliders and internals have been reworked for superior damping, while the swingarm bushing was totally revised, and the arm itself was lengthened. A 6-gallon gas tank replaces the standard Production Racer item.
The bike was extensively tested by Peter Williams on the Thruxton track before delivery in August of 1971.
This amazing piece of Norton history is accompanied by a letter from Norton Villiers’ Chairman, R. D. Poore to Cook Nielson at Cycle magazine discussing the delivery of the “Schilling Norton”, original spec sheets from Norton, and the magazine article, scans attached to the listing.
I have confirmed the factory records, which say that Engine/Frame number 145102 was recorded as a racer, dispatched to Berliner, the US distrivutor, on August 4th, 1971.
This irreplaceable historically significant bike has been on static display in a very prominent collection of high-end motorcycles, and, as such, some re-commissioning will need to be undertaken before returning to the track.
There’s very little time left on the listing, with a Buy It Now price of $29,000. That’s obviously huge money for a Norton Commando but, if the seller is to be believed, this is a one-of-a-kind motorcycle and would easily cost that much just to build a replica, ignoring the historic value. It’s tough to put a value on such a rare machine but, with no offers yet, this one might be priced just a bit too high. Certainly, the link to Schilling is pretty cool, but collectors seem to value actual race history and that may be affecting the sale on this one. Hopefully, the right buyer will find and prep this bike for some vintage racing. It’s what Phil would have wanted I’m sure.
After the unpopular, Giugiaro-designed 860GT, Ducati’s more practical sibling to the Super Sport got a makeover into the more conservative 900GTS. The engine was largely the same, but looks were changed from the radical, forward-thinking lines to something less threatening to hidebound Ducati enthusiasts. It was still considered a bit of a let-down in terms of looks but, like all Ducatis of the era, prices are steadily rising. It’s a shame the striking 860 never caught on, but the 900 is still a very classic, handsome motorcycle, and the beating heart of the bike is still Ducati’s classic, bevel-drive L-twin.
Although Ducati’s entire range of modern motorcycles feature their signature “desmodromic” actuation system that uses cams to both open and close the valves, only top-of-the-line Super Sport models used it prior to the Pantah engine. So although the GTS does have a set of tower-shafts and bevel-gears to drive the overhead cams, it makes do with a set of ordinary valve springs to close the valves. Impact on performance is negligible and the bike still put out 65hp and plenty of midrange torque.
From the original eBay listing: 1978 Ducati 900GTS for Sale
Today we are proud to offer this beautiful vehicle for your consideration. This is a terrific addition to any enthusiast’s collection. This Ducati is completely original and has been locally owned for the past 38 years in heated garages. Every electrical component such as headlights brake light, Turn signals and horn perform. New tires along with new rims and wire wheels. Fenders and tank are original and without any dents. Electric start is immediate. This bike with the Conti exhausts sounds identical to the SS. It has amazing torque. Included are the following 2 bar end mirrors (new), 2 new chrome valve guides (current ones on bike are rusty), manual, tool kit with under seat compartment. A few service records are included. This vehicle is running properly. It performs wonderfully, whether you’re in-town or on the open highway, and exhibits excellent road manners at all speeds. This is a great previously owned vehicle. Overall the vehicle is very straight. The condition of the paint and body, is in overall good shape, see photos. This is a rare opportunity to own a legendary 900cc Ducati!
Originality is very important to many collectors. As they say, “It’s only new once!” And although this Ducati is a little rough around the edges, it has tons of character and appears to have been well-maintained, even though the cosmetic aspects have suffered a bit from the ravages of time. The missing side-panels might be difficult to replace, although pattern parts should be available if you spend some time browsing the interwebs. The fact that all the basics work is key, considering that bidding is only up to $8,350.00 with the reserve met. Bidding is active, but if the price stays reasonable, this could prove to be an excellent candidate for a “rolling restoration,” a bike that you can either ride as-is or work on a bit at a time to make it look brand new.
Moto Guzzi’s follow up to their successful V7 Sport was this, the 850 Le Mans, often known these days as the “Mark I Le Mans.” It used a hot-rod version of their earlier longitudinally-mounted v-twin engine, with bigger, high-compression pistons, bigger valves, high performance carburetors, cast-aluminum wheels, and a more modern, very chunky look that would set the tone for Guzzis through the 1980s. The style is really hard to pin down to a particular era, with the jutting cylinders and minimal style looking like something very 60s or 70s while the angular bodywork has more of a 1980s style.
The hot-rod engine put out 71hp at the rear wheel and made for a genuine 130mph, which wasn’t top-of-the-class but very competitive during the period. But unlike the equally fast but fiddly-to-maintain Ducati 900SS or the wobbly-handling and under-braked Kawasaki Z900, the Le Mans offered up Guzzi’s classic recipe of durable shaft-drive, stable handling, and midrange grunt. And Guzzi was forward-thinking in terms of safety as well: the Le Mans featured their simple but effective linked braking system that was used up until the 1990s. The front brake lever operated one front caliper, while the foot pedal used a proportioning valve to distribute power between the second front and the rear caliper. The Le Mans is definitely an acquired taste, with the noticeable shaft-drive effect, but is a very rewarding bike to own.
From the original eBay listing: 1977 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale
I have had the pleasure of owning this bike for the past 15 years.Upgrades:
- Lafranconi competizione mufflers
- Koni rear shocks
- Progressive front springs
- Gaman seat
- Torozzi rear sets
- Harpers outsider kit with deep sump
- Braided brake lines
- gaskets, bushings and rubber
- K&N filters
- Frame up paint in 2003 – held up well
- documentation of work doneThis bike runs and looks great! It handles likes it on rails, brakes with the best of them and has tremendous acceleration and power. Time for someone new to enjoy this fine machine.
Bidding is up to $10,000 which, frankly, seems to be on the low side for these. I can remember when, just a few years ago, they were selling for about half that… Happily, the bike even features the European-style bikini fairing with the flush-mount headlamp. American units had an ugly, jutting unit that projected out beyond the curve of the fairing, looking more like a train headlight than something that belongs on a sleek sportbike. If you’ve never noticed how ugly the American version is, I apologize in advance: its’ one of things that, once seen, can never be unseen… This may not be the original part, however, since most I’ve seen feature a bright orange vertical “safety stripe” for improved visibility. Not sure how effective it is, but it does look cool. The stepped seat is also a non-standard item, which is no surprise since the closed-cell foam originals rarely survive.