For collectors and modern motorcyclists, the phrase “Italian motorcycle” conjures up images of sleek, exotic, motorcycles with shrieking engines and fragile beauty. But in the aftermath of World War II, there was a real need for cheap, reliable commuter motorcycles and Moto Guzzi, like many other manufacturers of the period, were there to provide practical transportation with the inevitable dash of Italian flair.
Moto Guzzis of the period were often named after birds, and the Airone or “Heron” makes for a great vintage ride today, with reliability and a broad spread of power from the 250cc four-stroke single that was surprisingly smooth, owing to the significant mass of the striking externally-mounted flywheel. Introduced in 1939 and produced until 1957, it’s also an incredibly long-lived model.
Famous for their reliability, many Guzzis were also used in police and military applications, and this particular bike appears to be one such machine.
From the original eBay listing: 1955 Moto Guzzi Airone for Sale
Very rare and well sorted 1955 Moto Guzzi Airone military model. This is a wonderful 250cc 4-stroke single-cylinder classic Italian motorcycle. It starts easily, idles well and runs strong.
This particular machine is totally stock, original and correct (including the military items – leg guards, luggage rack and more – which I have taken off but will go with the motorcycle to a new owner) other than the Mikuni carb and pod air filter, new battery, and replacement tires.
A few years ago, after a long search for an Airone, I purchased this machine out of long term storage. I spent time and money going through it mechanically – while leaving as much of the original cosmetics as possible – to get it to run well. I replaced the broken Dellorto carb with a new properly jetted Mikuni and sorted out the electrics and charging system.
It is possible this is only Moto Guzzi military Airone in America – making it an unusual machine for collector or rider.
I replaced the badly damaged muffler with a correct one that looks right on this bike, installed a new clutch throwout bearing, a new battery and rewired the magneto kill switch to a small button on the handlebars. I added an in-line oil shut off valve to eliminate the notorious sumping issue.
I unbolted the unnecessary military parts from the motorcycle to lesser the weight so I could compete with it in the Moto Giro USA, where it was a strong competitor.
This classic Italian sport/touring machine features Clubman handlebars and Tomasselli-style levers (front brake and clutch) matched tool boxes and a handy center stand. Good usable tires with little wear, good battery, good charging system, light work, horn works, suspension works.
Although these were relatively popular in Europe, very few made their way to the US, likely owing to the American proclivity for big-displacement vehicles suitable for crossing wide-open spaces. Ex-military machines can be a bit of a gamble, often having led hard lives. But Guzzi’s rugged construction is a definite asset here, and I really like the matte green paint and practical look of this bike.