Tagged: 850

Mark One: 1977 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

1977 Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans L Side

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.

1977 Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans L Side Front

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.

1977 Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans Dash

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 done
This 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.

1977 Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans L Side Engine

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.

-tad

1977 Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans R Side

 

Ahead of Its Time: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

1974 Norton Commando JPN Fairing Front

You’d be forgiven for not realizing that this very strange-looking John Player Norton Replica is, under the skin, a Commando: buyers didn’t know quite what to do with this at the time, either. It’s a bit of an evolutionary “missing link” in terms of sportbike design, effectively bridging the gap between earlier bullet-like dustbin fairings and modern designs as seen on the first-generation GSX-R750. Cutting-edge design unfortunately cuts both ways: while theoretically new ideas should excite consumers, manufacturers always run the risk that their revolutionary machines will actually alienate their core audience. Take the Pierre Terblanche-styled Ducati 999 for example: the bike was, in virtually every way, an improvement over the beloved 916 and the design was a complete departure for Ducati. The 999 is finally, grudgingly being accepted as a classic design but when new it was too much of a departure, too new, too alien to be the follow up Ducatisti were waiting for. And sales were disappointing.

1974 Norton Commando JPN R Fairing

The John Player Norton Replica suffered a similar fate. Named after the famous British tobacco company, the few made didn’t find an audience at first and some languished unsold for years. Keep in mind that the whole concept of collectable motorcycles is relatively new, and few people were interested in race-replicas or limited editions. On the upside, if the odd styling captures your imagination, this should offer no real challenge to ride and maintain: aside from gearing changes to take advantage of the bike’s improved top-speed potential, the bike is basically a stock Norton Commando.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Tank

It uses the 828cc version of Norton’s famous parallel-twin engine and four-speed box found in the 850 Commando. A short-stroke 750 was also available for buyers that planned to race their machines in the US, although I’ve never seen one come up for sale and I’m not sure exactly how many of the 200 total machines took advantage of this option.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Seat

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

Very, very nice John Player Special. These do not come up very often. Many, many more vintage motorcycle available…

The seller then goes on to list a number of other vintage machines they have available. Which is great, but a bit of that space could have been used to answer some questions about this machine: does it run? What work, maintenance, or upgrades have been done to the bike in question? Aside from the fact that it has 12,465 miles on it so we know it’s not been sitting its whole life, we’re left to guess. I’m sure the seller is probably expecting prospective buyers to ask appropriate questions. But although these are pretty rare, with just 120 shipped to the US, they’re not impossible to find, and many buyers want to do their initial research without having to reach out to the seller. It’d also be great to see some better pictures of this very distinctive machine, although the close-up shots do show some great detail and give a pretty good idea of the overall condition.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Fairing

Faster! Faster! Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando

1974 Norton Commando SC L Side

Introduced in 1967 and displacing 745cc’s with pre-unit construction that was rather unimpressive in specification, Norton’s Commando was a development of the Atlas and distinguished by its simple but effective “Isolastic” engine-mounting system that allowed for the needed increase in displacement without the associated increase in paint-shaker vibrations. The Commando’s rakish leaned-over engine was largely a visual update to the engine, although Norton also claimed an improved center of gravity and increased space for carburetors and airbox.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Engine

So for vintage biking fans, the Norton Commando has it all: decent power, classic good looks, a great soundtrack, and tons of aftermarket and community support. All it really needs is a bit more poke and something to make it just that bit more exotic so it stands out in a crowd.

1974 Norton Commando SC Dash

Kawasaki have gotten a lot of ink recently with the introduction of their supercharged H2 and H2R bikes. While there have been a number of production turbocharged motorcycles, supercharging generally seems to suit motorcycles a bit better: the performance is more linear and the plumbing is much simpler.

1974 Norton Commando SC R Rear

Simply: a supercharger is generally belt-driven off the crankshaft and works as an air pump to cram more fuel/air mixture into the engine than would be available at normal atmospheric pressure. Technically, a turbocharger is also a type of supercharger, but is driven by exhaust gas instead of a belt, meaning power is determined by throttle-opening and revs. Turbos are a great way to get “free” horsepower, but since turbos are driven by exhaust gasses, you have to route all that air from the exhaust to the turbo and back into the engine. Something that’s generally not such a big deal with cars, but often difficult and very inconvenient on a bike.

1974 Norton Commando SC Oil Cooler

This particular Norton 850 Commando is fitted with a period Drouin supercharger unit. Period tests saw north of 100hp, up from the approximately 60hp produced by the stock unit. Early versions used a side-valve carburetor that apparently leaked, so this later, fuel-injected setup should be a big improvement.

From the original eBay listing: Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando for Sale

A 1974 Norton 850 SC Commando with 13,669 original miles. A series of tasteful custom features adore this wonderful street bike. They include the following; Competition Fairing, Full instrumentation Package, Wickedly Beautiful Black Paint, Corbin Gun Fighter Seat, Carry On Tool Kit, Light Weight Front Fender, Back Dated & Vented Front Drum Brake, Custom Oil Lines, Twin Oil Coolers and the incredibly Rare Drouin Super Charger with Fuel Injection. 

The Drouin unit, Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit and the Instrument Package were after market item that could have been purchased in the 1970’s, through the Norton dealer. The Drouin Super Charger and the Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit are fully operational and produces amazing and quick 100 HP. The Fuel Injected Slide Throttle system was the very last iteration of the Drouin Super Charged series intake systems, therefore, being the most advanced and powerful. Upon riding this custom Norton there is sense of amazement in the additional torque and power that comes from the bike. It runs properly and smoothly. The shifting in precise and positive. The brakes are quite ample in bringing this bike to a halt. The tire have some age on them, but are quite usable. The fuel tank interior has been cleaned and sealed. 

The rear fender has some small dimples and a little discoloring. There is some very minor pitting on the wheels, a 1/8″ hole that had been drilled through the front, between the forks. Otherwise, this Norton 850 SC was shown recently at the prestigious “Riding Into History” Motorcycle show in May and was judged as a first runner up in the all Norton class, next to a very well known, twin engine Bonneville Norton. A spare Super Charger Drive Belt is included with the sale of the Norton, as well as an original Drouin Super Charger Manual.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Rear

Drouin superchargers are desirable period mods should add significantly to the performance and value of this bike. Bidding is very active at this point, with several days left on the auction. I’m thinking this would make for a possibly fiddly, but very rewarding motorcycle. I’d love to hear that classic British twin noise with a supercharger whine laid over the top!

-tad

1974 Norton Commando SC Front

Italian Muscle: 1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans I for Sale

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans R Front

The second Moto Guzzi of the week is this very nice, very original 850 Le Mans. These are often referred to as “Mark I” Le Mans, although that’s obviously a description retroactively applied to differentiate them from later bikes. Released in 1976, it was a logical progression from the V7 Sport in terms of styling and mechanicals. It featured the same basic frame and engine, but bored out to 850cc’s with bigger valves, carbs, and higher-compression, along with new, much more angular bodywork that still displays clear stylistic links to the earlier bike.

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans L Rear Detail

These changes gave 71hp at the wheel and a top speed of 130. It wasn’t the fastest bike of the period, but it was on par with the competition and included extremely stable handling in the mix. Sure it was quirky, and you can definitely feel the longitudinal crank’s torque-reaction in turns, but it’s easy to compensate for, once you acclimate, and has no negative effect on performance. And with that easily maintained engine and shaft drive, it was weirdly practical for an exotic Italian sportbike.

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Clocks

Many Guzzis of the period used a mechanically simple, but highly functional linked-braking system. A squeeze of the brake lever operates one front caliper. The foot pedal operates the other front caliper and the rear as well, with lockup prevented by a proportioning valve. Surprisingly effective, although many have been converted to more conventional setups.

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans R Rear Detail

The listing doesn’t include much detail about this bike, and the photos are a bit washed out so it’s hard to get a good idea about the paint, other than that it has paint. But the mileage is extremely low for a Guzzi and it looks very complete and well cared-for.

From the original eBay listing: 1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans I for Sale

Original paint.

Owners manual and tools, service records, clear title some minor scuffs and wear but too nice to restore.

They are only original once.

Only 6000 or so first-gen bikes were made from 1976 through 1978, but most that show up for sale have been well-maintained, and they’re pretty fundamentally rugged bikes. The starting bid is $14,999.00 with no takers as yet. That’s in the ballpark as far as Le Mans pricing goes, and I’d assume we’ll see some activity as we get closer to the auction close. Certainly there are prettier examples out there, but this one’s combination of low miles and completely original condition should make it pretty desirable to Guzzi fans.

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Fairing

The only real cosmetic downside is the American market front headlamp that has a projecting ring around it to meet US safety regulations. The Euro part had a much better-looking, flush-mount design. One of those things you’d probably never notice, until someone helpfully pointed it out to you. Then it’s impossible to un-see. Your mind pokes at it, like a piece of food in your teeth you can’t stop prodding with your tongue…

You’re welcome.

While the price is certainly not chump change, it’s hard to argue that the Le Mans isn’t still a bit of a bargain in the collector bike world, especially considering that it’s a bike you can ride anywhere and still get parts for, a reliable vintage Italian exotic.

-tad

1976 Moto Guzzi Le Mans L Side

Retro-Futuristic: 1974 John Player Norton Replica Replica for Sale

1974 John Player Norton R Side FrontWell, this John Player Norton Replica isn’t American, but at least it’s red, white and blue to celebrate the Fourth of July…

Of course, “John Player” wasn’t a person. This bike was from the era of motor racing when cigarette sponsorship reigned supreme, and John Player was actually the name of a British tobacco giant. Its bones are mostly stock Norton Commando, no bad thing considering the well-known performance potential of that bike. This example features Norton’s 828cc “850” engine and four-speed gearbox, although a short-stroke 750 was available for riders who planned to race their bikes in the US.

1974 John Player Norton L SideWith largely stock underpinnings, aside from taller gearing to capitalize on the bike’s improved aerodynamics, it’s that angular, bug-eyed fairing that was the main selling point. Or not, as was the case when new. It’s important to realize that the concept of collectible race-replicas and limited-edition bikes wasn’t really established in the early 1970’s. Old cars and old bikes were mostly just that: obsolete. No one was really buying them with an eye towards appreciating value since, in the early 1970’s, it hadn’t really occurred to anyone that might even be a thing. 1974 John Player Norton CockpitSo a bike with shockingly futuristic styling, with race-replica graphics and a much higher price, produced in limited numbers to seemingly stimulate collectors was an idea before its time, and these didn’t sell particularly well when new. Just 200 were believed to have been built, with 120 shipped to America. 1974 John Player Norton R Side EngineInterestingly, this particular bike is not an original JPL, but is a replica of a replica, built from kits available at the time the bike was new. It looks to be in beautiful shape, and might be a great opportunity to get a very striking machine for much less than you’d pay for the real thing.

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton 850 Replica for Sale

The John Player Norton (quickly abbreviated JPN) was introduced in late 1973 and reached the public in April 1974. Many people think it was put together by the race team, but only the production racers were built by the race team, not the John Players. In actuality, the JPN was either built at Andover, in a separate facility, or on the main production line at Norton’s Wolverhampton factory.

Most JPNs went to the United States. It’s believed that of the approximately 200 JPNs made, 120 were sent to the U.S. All factory JPNs (as opposed to home-built copies) were made in 1974, with the shifter on the right and 30mm intake ports. Tapered manifolds connected the ports to 32mm Amal Concentric carburetors. The front brake was a disc, the rear a drum. All factory JPNs had forged aluminum brackets on the back of the fairing. There are some copies floating around, but these have welded brackets.

Unfortunately, the JPN banked on a collector’s market that did not then exist. To most potential buyers, the fairing and twin headlights looked weird instead of fashion forward. Young men looking to lure the fairer sex objected to the lack of a passenger seat, while other buyers objected to the price tag. At $2,995 — $495 over a standard Commando — it was the most expensive production Commando. JPNs sat on dealership floors. To make matters worse, John Player Tobacco quit sponsoring Norton at the end of 1974. And that was the end of the John Player Norton.

This is an excellent example of one of these classic motorcycles- while it is NOT one of the original 200 built- it is an authentic replica of the JPN replicas in that Sprint offered the body pieces as a kit for sale back in that era  – this is one of those kits placed on a VERY LOW MILEAGE 1974 Commando – and while the tank underneath the fairing is a standard tank – we do have an extended matte finish tank (which needs to be fitted) and it will accompany the bike – all in all a great little collectible to take to rallies and show off to your friends!  Even the kit bikes are Rare as hen’s teeth and this one runs like a dream.

1974 John Player Norton DashThere are just about 8 hours left on this auction, and bidding is up to just about $6,000 as of writing. These are certainly odd-looking, a design from an alternate future that never happened, like a space rocket from a Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon” episode. But the Norton Commando underpinnings mean that parts are available, and a huge support community exists to keep them running and make them faster, so if you fancy something that will turn heads at your next vintage bike meet, this might be a great way to pick up a bit of history on the cheap.

-tad 1974 John Player Norton L Side

Low-Mileage Italian: 1977 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans R Front Fairing

Designed as a follow up to Moto Guzzi’s V7 Sport, the 850 Le Mans was much more evolutionary than a brand-new machine. It still used the famous Lino Tonti frame, as would many Guzzis up into the modern era. The engine too used simple changes to net more performance, including bigger slugs with higher compression, larger valves, and a set of 36mm Dell’Orto carbs. These changes gave 71hp at the wheel and a top speed of 130.

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans R Side Engine

Interestingly, comparison tests pitting the Ducati 900SS against the Le Mans suggest that the Guzzi actually had the revvier engine of the two, in spite of the pushrod architecture and generally low-tech design.

To slow things down, the bike used triple disc brakes that included Guzzi’s linked braking system: the foot lever operated the rear and one of the front brake calipers, with a proportioning valve to prevent premature lock up of one or the other, and the bar lever operated the other front disc. The system was simple, but worked surprisingly well, although many Guzzi owners have removed the system and replaced it with a more conventional set up.

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans Dash

Today’s bike is a very original, low-mileage example of the first-generation Le Mans. These early bikes are often referred to as “Mark I” bikes, but this is a later edition to the name since, at the time, Guzzi obviously didn’t know they’d be making a Mark II version!

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans L Rear Suspension

From the original eBay listing: 1977 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

This is a completely original and unmolested 1977 Moto Guzzi Lemans 1. This bike has only 10,206 miles on the clock. There have been no modifications to this bike and all parts on this bike are as it was delivered to the dealer in 1977. Every part and piece is as delivered from Italy, right down to the footpeg rubbers.

The turn signals have been removed and are still with the bike and will be provided to the new owner. This bike was owned by an ex Guzzi dealer who rode the bike for a few years and then stored it early in its life as he moved on to other bikes throughout his time as a Guzzi / Ducati dealer in Texas. He was very active in the Moto Guzzi club and treated and maintained all his bikes very well.

This is a rare chance to own an original, unmolested Lemans 1 with such low miles. I would doubt there are but a small handful of Lemans 1’s with 10k miles out there as most of these bikes accumulated serious mileage on them as they were and are a very robust motor.

This bike will make a fine rider as is, or a great bike for a full restoration. Paint is in decent shape for its age.

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans R Side Rear

The original listing indicates that the bike, while in excellent running condition, hasn’t been used much and will require basic maintenance to the brakes to make sure they’re up to snuff. The seller also mentions that the clutch does drag a bit, and a new clutch will be included, along with a set of stainless brake lines.

The seat foam, a notoriously short-lived material, is original and in decent, although not perfect condition. What you see on these bikes is not a vinyl cover over padding, but a molded material meant to simplify production. Unfortunately, the foam quickly developed splits and very few bikes survive with their original seats intact…

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans Front Wheel

Overall, this a solid, unrestored example of the classic Le Mans and has the lowest mileage I can remember seeing on a bike that wasn’t a display piece. These bikes were extremely durable, long-legged sportbikes and many have accumulated the mileage you’d expect from such a useable machine, so this is a rare opportunity, if low-mileage is your thing. Bidding is up north of $10,000 with the reserve not met and several days left on the auction.

-tad

1977 Moto Guzzi LeMans R Side

Italian Thunder: 1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans for Sale

1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans R Side

The Le Mans, Moto Guzzi’s famous 1970’s superbike, was an evolution of their earlier V7 Sport, with restyled bodywork and a bigger engine. Introduced in 1976 to keep pace with competition heating up between Europe and Japan, the Le Mans featured the same Lino Tonti designed frame, but saw the engine punched out to 850cc’s. Chrome-lined cylinders, high-compression pistons and other standard hot-rod tricks gave 71hp at the rear wheel and a top speed of 130. While not the fastest bike of the period, it was rock-solid and stable, and could keep that speed up all day long.

1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Engine

Built around an unlikely powertrain that included shaft drive and a longitudinally mounted v-twin, Guzzi’s sportbikes still performed well and are famous for their durability: the two-valve, pushrod engines are easy to work on if you’re so inclined, but are oil-tight and very robust.

1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Dash

From the original eBay listing: 1977 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

6800 miles! All original except electronic ignition and Corbin seat, have original seat, still in pretty good shape. See pic. Paint is mostly good with small nicks and chips from 30plus years of life. Small scrape on front ferring. See pic.  I bought another ferring that was supposed to be “excellent”. Isn’t even fair. Will go with bike if you want it. I put on new throttle cables and foot rubbers a couple of years ago. Changed oil over winter. Runs and rides like it should. Might need a battery, its about 3 yrs old and sounds a little week. Your welcome to come see before you bid.

1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Rear

As you can see, there’s a small amount of surface rust on the front rotors, a few dings here and there, and that comfortable, if not original Corbin seat. Note that the seller does have the original seat. Interestingly, these seats are made of a closed-cell foam that did not hold up well to hard use, and few have survived from new. The bike also includes that ugly, but unfortunately original, US headlight ring that projects beyond the surface of the bikini fairing. It’d be my first order of business to fit a replica Euro-styled piece if this were mine.

Bidding is very active and the reserve has been met. It seems like, just a few years ago, these were selling regularly for $6,000 or so. This one is headed north of $10,000 with several days to go. Aside from a few minor cosmetic flaws, this looks to be a solid example of an iconic and very practical Italian sportbike.

-tad

1977 Moto Guzzi Le Mans L Side

No Haters: 1974 John Player Norton 850 in Denmark

1974 JPN L Front

In spite of all the race-replica motorcycles named after their riders like this week’s Eddie Lawson Replica Kawasaki, the John Player Norton was not actually named after a particular rider. It was named after the British tobacco company that sponsored Norton’s race teams and the distinctive looks effectively bridge the 1960’s half-fairing sportbike style of the Ducati Super Sport and the later, fully-faired GSX-R750.

1974 JPN R Side

For the most part, it’s a Norton Commando under the skin and features the same strengths and weaknesses of those bikes. The main changes were cosmetic, with the wild, twin-headlamp bodywork and solo-seat tail section. Road-going examples used Norton’s standard 828cc parallel-twin and four-speed gearbox, although an optional short-stroke 750cc version was available for US race classes.

This one looks to be in excellent shape, and is fitted with the road-oriented “850,” rather than the short-stroke engine, and is currently located in Denmark.

1974 JPN L Rear

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton 850 for Sale

This is a very, very cool bike.

Up for your consideration is a 1974 Norton John Player 850.  (It’s kind of like a Commando but my boss says don’t call it that…)

From the sales brochure:

“Limited production run of this eye-catching luxury machine for the connoisseur.  Powered either by the high torque 850 unit to provide outstanding flexibility for the highways or by the 750 c.c. short-stroke high output engine as a base for competition.  White fibreglass fairings give the same aggressive appearance as the machines which carried the Norton name to yet one more victory in the 1973 Isle of Man T.T.  This model offers the ultimate in exciting high performance motorcycling combining style with comfort, speed and safety.”

“Features Twin double-dip headlamps with halogen light units if required; high output alternator with twin zener diode charge control.  Rear set footrests, brake and gearchange pedals; clip-on handlebars.  3½ gallon (15 litre) steel petrol tank.  Access to flip cap through quick-release cover in the styling.  Access to steel oil tank by lifting seat panel.”

This bike comes from a good a respectable home where it has accrued only 12,198 original miles over its lifetime.

1974 JPN Dash

While somewhat awkward in appearance, the JPL has undeniable presence and is historically significant, an evolutionary step to the sportbikes of today. Approximately 200 are believed to have been made in 1974, their only year of manufacture. At the time, they were not especially desirable and were difficult for dealers to unload but this, as so often seems to be the case, simply makes them rarer and more valuable now.

There’s very little time on this auction, so move quickly if this strikes your fancy!

-tad

1974 JPN L Side

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III for Sale

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III Red R Side

I happen to be a big fan of the 70’s and 80’s Moto Guzzi LeMans series of bikes. While the shaft-drive, pushrods, and longitudinally-mounted engine may not read like the best recipe for a true sport bike, it could handle with the best bikes of the time, made competitive power, and made an ideal roadbike.

The different versions of the LeMans were not radical redesigns, but rather gradual styling and technological evolutions of an existing platform: the famous Lino Tonti-designed frame was used on Guzzis from the early 1970’s up until just a few years ago! Unfortunately this, along with the relative availability of parts, means that it’s pretty easy to fake various LeMans models, so be careful and do your homework before buying. There’s nothing wrong with a fake in theory, unless you’ve paid for the genuine article.

Twenty years from now, I wonder if the III’s won’t be rarer than the earlier versions, since they’ve been cheap for so long and are popular choices for Mark I-style conversions and hot-rod customs. They have all the higher-spec bits and have been really undervalued until very recently.

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III Red L Engine

The LeMans III was produced between 1981 and 1984, so this is the final year for this style. It represented a much more significant change to the platform, compared to the LeMans II/CX100 and featured the square cylinder head style seen on Guzzis of today. And while compression was decreased slightly to meet ever-growing emissions requirements, the LeMans III actually made more torque and horsepower due to improved manufacturing tolerances careful tuning that maximized available performance.

I’m still not convinced about the styling of that fairing from the front, but it was designed in a wind tunnel, and allows that huge dash to mount that white-faced tach. And we all should know by now how I feel about big Veglia tachs… The rest of the angular design has grown on me over the past couple of years and the LeMans III’s have been increasing in value of late.

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III Red Dash

This one isn’t in perfect shape, but looks good and should be easy to put right any details that aren’t.

From the original eBay listing: 1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III for Sale

 This bike sat in a barn for 15 years. Aprox. 39000 miles. I acquired it and got it running and clean up a bit. I am not a Guzzi guy so I have no interest in doing a full restoration even though it is the perfect candidate. What I have done to the bike,(Rebuilt the carbs with all new internals jets floats…, new air pods because thats what it had when I got it, throttle cables, ignition switch, glass wind shield, fuel valves/lines, spark plugs/caps/wires, new used instrument light strip, and new battery. The bike shows great and you could enjoy it as it sits or do a detailed restoration. Runs great, starts right up in freezing cold. I have horns with it but they are not hooked up. I do not know if they are original. Also have a box of parts with some type of plastic deflector, vacuum hose and starter cover. The bike seems to be all original except for the air pods but I am not an expert.

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III Red Tank

Ooh look: videos! http://youtu.be/tYG_ILgtmL0  ,http://youtu.be/bR4RaFwiTKY

All-in-all this is what looks like a very solid example. I actually prefer the LM III in white, but you certainly can’t go wrong with a classic red Italian sportbike.

Vintage Guzzi sportbikes really are great classic bikes. They can do big miles, handle as well as anything from the period, sound amazing, require minimal maintenance, and are a breeze to work on. With those heads sticking out in the breeze, even serious top-end work is simple, and shaft drive means you won’t need to worry about keeping a chain lubed up during nasty weather.

-tad

1984 Moto Guzzi LeMans III Red L Side

As Seen on TV: 1974 Norton Commando

1974 Norton Commando R Rear

Aside from rakish good looks that embody the best of the era, this particular Norton Commando appears to have had a bit of a brush with television fame, having been built by a shop that featured on Café Racer TV. While café racers in general have become a bit cliché of late, they still have a classic look and style that I think will endure well past their brief second moment in the sun. Unlike stretched out, chrome and candy-flamed choppers, café bikes hark back to a nostalgic era and, aside from the occasional example sporting below-the lower triple clamp clipons, they are actually rideable.

1974 Norton Commando Dash

Differences between Nortons of this period are largely down to relatively minor cosmetic details: they all featured the 828cc [“850”] parallel twin, although some models were more highly tuned than others. And all featured Norton’s interesting “Isolastic” engine mounting system.

As Nortons increased in displacement to keep pace with their competition, the vibrations of the compact, but not particularly smooth, parallel-twin became an increasing problem. Dominator and Atlas riders simply lived with the increasing “character” of the powerplant, but by the time the Commando came around, Norton felt the 750cc engine would need something more than the relative sponginess of the human body to absorb vibrations.

1974 Norton Commando L Rear

The most obvious options were unacceptable: rubber-mount the controls and reduce feel or redesign the engine and bankrupt the company. So Norton chose a middle route: they mounted the engine, transmission, and swingarm on a system of rubber bushings. This solution works very well, although it needs to be set up carefully and maintained in order to work correctly: worn Isolastics can cause scary handling problems.

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Norton Commando

Up for bid is my 1974 Norton Commando 850.  This bike was originally restored by The Classic Bike Experience (featured on Cafe Racer TV) in Essex, Vermont approximately five years ago.  This is the original “GUS” bike that got everything started for CBE.  There is a complete written documentary of their restoration of this particular Commando located on the Classic Bike Experience’s website under the heading CBE Cafe Bikes. 

I purchased “Gus” in October 2009 from Jack and Nick.  Since purchasing, I have changed/upgraded several things more to my liking.

I have the original Amals, the original coils, and the original bronze clutch plates.  

I have put approximately 1600 gentle two lane country miles on this bike since the original CBE rebuild five years ago.  I don’t know how I managed to leave that information out of the original listing, but it is definitely information that needs to be in the listing…

I have tried to make this bike as reliable as a 40 year old motorcycle can be.  It generally starts on the first or second kick.  It gets attention everywhere it goes.  I have started avoiding gas stations with other motorcycles and crowds because I know I will be stuck there talking to people.

1974 Norton Commando L Engine

Starting bid is $10,000 with no takers as yet and only one day left to go. That’s a pretty penny for a Norton Commando and perhaps the seller is attaching a bit too much value to the “celebrity” status of its builders, but I’m still sort of surprised there’s been no interest at all. This is a very nice example with thoughtful upgrades, meticulous maintenance and documentation, and a visual record of the build itself.

Seems worth it to pay a bit extra for such a nicely put together machine.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando R Side