Low Miles, Low-Buck Exotica: 1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport for Sale

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport L Front

For those of you who thought Italian exotica were far out of reach, check out this very nice 1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport.  Postwar Italy saw a boom in two-wheeled motorcycle manufacture: the population of a country devastated by war was eager to get back to work and was hungry for cheap, stylish transportation. Obviously, many manufacturers of scooters, mopeds, and motorcycles came into existence and quickly disappeared during this period, but a few survived into the modern day, or have been resurrected, like zombies in Armani suits.

1980 Moto Mornini 500 Sport Dash

Moto Morini was one of the latter, a company that actually began before World War I, then faded after a purchase by Cagiva in the late 1980’s, only to be brought back again during the late 90’s as a sort of brutish Ducati rival, a shame considering their earlier history of making smaller-engined sporting machines. In fact, Morini’s insistence on not catering to the American market by creating larger-displacement bikes may have sealed the company’s doom: the 500 Sport shown here was as big as they got.

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport R Side

But don’t let the relatively small engines fool you: these are serious sporting machines with revvy and sweet v-twins that made useful power and returned excellent fuel mileage, capable of embarrassing much more powerful machines in the corners and on the brakes. With a very rare for the period six-speed gearbox and a compact 72° engine with a rubber belt to drive the cam and Heron heads, Morinis were technologically advanced, brains-over-brawn machines.

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport L Engine

Of course, no Italian bike of the period would be complete without some sort of mechanical foible. In Morini’s case, it was the fitting of a kickstart lever as well as a generally useless electric start. While it is possible to find bikes with the electric starter in good working condition, they’re far from reliable and most Morini owners seem to just ignore them when they fail and use the kick start.

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport L Rear

From the original eBay listing, which includes more of the seller’s history with the marque than of the bike itself: 1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport for Sale

I was witness to the entire history of this particular machine from when it left Herm Baver’s (Herdan Corp.) Dealer/Distributership to the present time. Sometime in the early eighties I bought my 1980 3 1/2 Sport Morini from my friend Jason who was a real Morini fancier and who had bought a number of machines from Herm. I was living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at the time and my neighbor Ira, who was riding an old Triumph Bonnie then, liked my 350 Morini enough that he bought this 500 Sport from Jason soon after. Both these Moto Morinis, it should be noted, had only the mileage registered that’s required to ride them from Port Clinton, Pa (the home to this day of Herdan Corp.) to Jason’s house in Greenwood lake, N.Y. They were barely broken in.

Anyway, the city’s a tough place to have a really nice motorcycle and Ira was never comfortable leaving it any- -where so he sold it to an Englishman I’d sold some other bikes to and went back to his old Bonnie. Soon after, John, the Englishman, went back to Jolly Old leaving the bike with me and here it jolly well is(still in Ira’s name) ready for a new “la Strega” transfer (included with the bike) on the saddle tailpiece and probably a set of tires, as the mint originals are maybe getting a bit wooden after 34 years. Aside from that there’s a hairline crack in one of the side covers and a scratch at the back of the tank near the saddle (see photos). Otherwise it’s the thing of beauty “time capsule” you see here.

Funny, I’ve been referring to my Ducati as “la Strega” since I got her. For those of you not fluent in Italian, “Strega” translates directly as “witch”, although my Italian buddy also reliably tells me it’s also used as a synonym for “bitch.” In either case, probably not the best nickname for such a fun little bike! The seller doesn’t include all that much detail regarding the actual maintenance history, but you can probably infer from his background and the cosmetic condition that it’s been pretty well cared for.

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport Clocks

These bikes have been climbing in value for a while now: 7 or 8 years ago, when I was bike shopping for budget Italian machines like this, they could be had for $2,500, if you could actually find one. They are typically well-loved, but also generally well-used and patina’d bikes in keeping with their low-cost exotic status. But this may be the very nicest example I’ve seen for sale, although perhaps that’s just the really nice, high-resolution photos talking!

Bidding is active, but the reserve has not been met at just over $4k with about six days to go on the auction.

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport L Side

The Morini name may not have the cache of Ducati or MV Agusta, and their smaller-displacements and slightly forgotten status has kept prices comparatively low. The bikes are reliable, and maintenance parts are generally available for them if you don’t mind doing a bit of research. If you’ve always fancied a classic Italian, but thought they were out of reach, keep an eye on this one!

-tad

1980 Moto Morini 500 Sport L Front Close

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