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Brains Versus Brawn: 1977 Moto Morini 3½ for Sale

1977 Moto Morini 350 L Side

Today’s Moto Morini 3½ offers up classic Italian style from a forgotten brand. Or they would be forgotten, if it’s possible to forget something you never knew in the first place, and I’d expect that very few Americans have any idea the brand ever existed. A relaunch was tried a few years back, with the usual range of sporty nakeds and adventure-touring bikes. But they were never available in the US and while those bikes were throbbing and dangerous, they didn’t offer up anything new to buyers, except a nameplate with dubious cachet. Those bikes also seemed to lack the traditional Morini virtues as well, as the brand typically stressed handling over brute power.

1977 Moto Morini 350 R Side Detail

Motorcycling history is filled with bikes specifically built for the American market. They were often powered by newer, larger versions of existing engines and these updated powerplants were apparently intended to help us conquer the wide-open spaces of the West. There’s a reason Harley has the big bike market cornered here, and it stems from the kind of riding we do and the kind of roads we have, since many people have to drive quite a ways to find a twisty section of asphalt to enjoy. But either through hubris or simple economic necessity, Moto Morini never developed a bike bigger than the 500cc version of their 72º v-twin: the oddly-named “3½” was basically a 350 and would have been classed as a “middleweight” at the time.

1977 Moto Morini 350 Dash

Instead, they focused on handling, and Moto Morini twins are famously enjoyable to hustle through the canyons, with a surprisingly sophisticated rubber belt-driven camshaft, Heron-heads, and a six-speed transmission. In 1977, many bikes made do with just four gears, and that six-speed would have been a very exotic selling point.

From the original eBay listing: 1977 Moto Morini 3½ for Sale

For sale is a red and black 1977 Moto Morini 3 1/2 has 8,499 miles that has been well-maintained. This Italian sports bike in a great original bike in good condition with matching numbers. This bike is all factory stock down to the twin factory pipes, paint and all of the informational stickers applied by Moto Morini. This bike has a V-Twin engine, 344cc motor and a 6 speed transmission. Carburetors were recently rebuilt.  It is a low maintenance bike.

The exterior is red and black paint with hand pin striping.  The paint is in excellent condition with just one minor ding in the right hand side of the gas tank by the seat.  The black leather seat is comfortable and in excellent condition with no rips or tears.

This is a great bike to commute on, or blast around on a curvy road, or as a sport tourer. It is a great original bike in good shape.

1977 Moto Morini 350 R Side Engine

With less than 10,000 miles on the odometer, this is a pretty clean little motorcycle. Bidding is up to $3,750.00 and is very active, with the reserve met. Values on Morinis have seen a rise in the past year or two, but they’re still incredible bargains, compared to basically any Ducati and most Guzzis. This 3½ is stylish, sophisticated, easy to maintain, and a great choice if you’re looking to buy a classic Italian motorcycle and want something just a little bit different.

-tad

1977 Moto Morini 350 R Side

Champagne Taste, Beer Budget: 1975 Moto Morini 3½ Strada For Sale

1975 Moto Morini Strada L Side

Still the bargain of the vintage Italian biking scene, today’s Moto Morini 3½ Strada needs a bit of cosmetic work, but the price is in the ballpark and is said to run very nicely. With just 344cc’s and two valves per cylinder, you’ll need to make the most of the bike’s prodigious handling capabilities to keep up with bigger bikes on back roads but, like the RD400, these were famous giant-slayers in their day.

1975 Moto Morini Strada R Side Rear

The unconventional 72º v-twin was more compact than a 90º engine, and the smaller displacement meant that vibrations weren’t noticably increased. And while many machines still made do with a four-speed gearbox, the Morini’s six-speed part made sure riders could get the most from the bike’s 35-ish horses. The engine used pushrods to operate its valves, but the camshaft was driven by a toothed rubber belt, and the heads themselves were “Heron”-style, reducing manufacturing costs while allowing nearly 60mpg.

The bike came in two flavors: “Strada” and “Sport,” with the Sport being the sportier of the pair. The Strada came equipped with lower pegs and higher bars and a slightly lower state of tune for the engine.

1975 Moto Morini Strada R Side Engine

Period reviews found very little to complain about, other than the performance-per-dollar when compared to Japanese four-cylinder machines. But the Morini had vastly superior handling and that difficult to quantify Italian style that made it worth the cost then, and a complete bargain now.

1975 Moto Morini Strada Dash

From the original eBay listing: 1975 Moto Morini 3½ Strada for Sale

The bike has been in storage for many years (at least 15 years)  There is a workshop manual with the bike, there are some original tools.  the timing belt was just replaced and there is another new belt and the puller for the flywheel needed to replace the belt, with the bike.

It has a new rear chain. I went through the fuel system.    The bike runs beautifully, it has a 6 speed gearbox.  electrical system is good, system charges, Lights all work. new battery. the tires are very old.

The miles are correct, it is missing the right side tank emblem, there is a dent in the gas tank and some rust at the very rear of the right muffler. ( see pictures)   The alloy ball end is broken off the clutch lever but the bike does not appear to have any road damage

1975 Moto Morini Strada Rear

The $3,450 Buy It Now price seems smack in the middle for Morinis right now. This one has some cosmetic imperfections, including the missing tank badge on one side and the dent along the top, but with such low miles and in running condition, it looks like this will just need a basic tune up and a new set of tires to be ready to go!

1975 Moto Morini Strada Tank Detail

These are uncommon motorcycles that provide a ton of bang for your buck, so if you’re a fan of Italian twins but your budget won’t stretch to a vintage Ducati, grab one of these unintimidating little machines and get ready for the spring riding season!

-tad

1975 Moto Morini Strada R Side Front

1980 Moto Morini 3½ Sport for Sale

1980 Moto Morini 350 L side

With even the unlovely Ducati 860GT and Mark II and III Moto Guzzis rapidly escalating in value, riders on the hunt for budget Italian exotica may finally be turning to Morini to get their fix.

Either because of a lack of development budget or sheer stubbornness, Morini never got caught up in the frenzy to develop larger machines for American buyers that afflicted… Well just about every other major manufacturer. They stuck with their middleweight philosophy that stressed handling and light weight, and the 3½ [344cc] was the little brother to their 500, but was in no way de-contented or stripped-down: it was a legitimate sportbike that could easily embarrass larger machines with an experienced pilot at the helm.

1980 Moto Morini 350 Dash

The 72º v-twin was compact and smooth, and made the most of its respectable 37bhp [in Sport form] with a rare-for-the-period six-speed gearbox. This innovative engine featured traditional pushrods, but used a toothed belt to drive the camshaft and featured Heron heads that gave excellent fuel economy.

This particular example features an angular full fairing that, until recently, I hadn’t seen before on a Morini. Does it work? Probably. Is it particularly good-looking? Well I’m not a fan, but if you love early 80’s Guzzis, this might be right up your alley. It’s likely easy to remove and reinstall if you ever intend to sell it.

1980 Moto Morini 350 R Bar

From the original listing: 1980 Moto Morini 3½ Sport for Sale

Offered for sale, a fully-sorted Morini 3 1/2 Sport (yes, a real Sport, has the “S” stamp on the engine, see pics). 

Was owned (we believe original owner) by a motorcycle collector who unfortunately cannot ride anymore due to injuries from a car accident, then acquired by long-time Italian motorcycle specialist in 2012. All issues sorted out and is now turn-key, unlike a couple other vintage Morini’s that have popped up here recently. Had posted this here a few times and decided to throw some more maintenance items at it before re-posting. 

Original paint and tires

Factory fairing and lowers

Modified mufflers with re-packable inserts.

Electric tach and starter working fine

Cracked red turn signal reflector, right rear, repaired poorly

Bike is being ridden daily, mileage may change. Just put 200 miles on last weekend, no problems.

The seller mentions that the starter is working fine, which is definitely notable, since it wasn’t exactly reliable, even when new. No worries though: the bike also featured a kick-start and that’s generally how people get them going these days.

1980 Moto Morini 350 Front

The listing also features a very nice video of the bike being started and revved.

These are popular bikes among fans of classics who like to use their bikes, and parts are available to keep these on the road. Honestly, these have always been hard to find, but prices have been almost embarrassingly low for far too long and are slowly on the rise. Grab one now and stash it in your garage, or show up at bike nights and impress with your eclectic taste.

-tad

1980 Moto Morini 350 R Side

1974 Moto Morini 3½ Strada for Sale

1974 Moto Morini 350 Sport L side

Wow, two Moto Morini 3½’s in one week! These are cool bikes and can be hard to find, although prices have stayed relatively low, in spite of their rarity, and offer a great value if you’re looking for a classic twin and want something unusual to ride around on.

1974 Moto Morini 350 Sport Dash

In case you missed the 3½ that was posted up here earlier this week, the number refers to the approximately 350cc displacement of this little v-twin from one of the forgotten Italian marques. Moto Morini is sort of still making bikes, but they’ve definitely gotten caught up in the “bigger is better” craze, and it’s probably much simpler to just buy one of these.

Their 1970’s bikes were sweet “middleweights”, with handling, class, and good fuel economy at a time when it wasn’t just the big boys that got some serious hardware. Morinis featured six-speed gearboxes, great suspension, and even an electric start. That generally didn’t work. But still…

1974 Moto Morini 350 Sport Kick Start

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Moto Morini 3½ Strada for Sale

I bought this bike (for the second time) in 1994. Took it apart to fix some minor oil seepage in 1996, replaced seals, and didn’t put it back together until 2010 or 2011. Reassembled and briefly ran it to make sure I hadn’t lost any parts, then took it back apart intending a full restoration. Tore it back down. Had frame and pegs, engine mounts, etc powder coated. Painted tank and side covers (not a professional job, I’d rate it a good 5 foot paint job). Intended to replace pistons (useable, but not great) with Sport and also Sport cam. Changed my mind and put it all back together. Too many projects, too few resources (time/money), so I’m selling this to finance other projects. Last week, I put oil in it. It has a small weep at shift shaft. May be due to seals sitting dry since 1996 or maybe I dinged it putting it together. Put gas in it the other day thinking I’d fire it up and set the timing, but then thought I’d better not. I DID NOT clean the sludge trap in the crankshaft. After this many years idle, I think it would be too risky to run without doing so. Also, the timing belt looks good but is at least 20 years old. It has good compression and spark,and shifts through the gears but I won’t run it without doing those 2 things. It needs fork seals and wipers. I intended to replace the fork tubes. They have dings between the triple clamps. I suspect someone used a pliers on them at one time. The kickstart lever needs to be rechromed. Wheels are very nice for their age. To the best of my knowledge, mileage (in kilometers) is accurate. Has both the Strada and Sport seats, some spares I’ve picked up over the years, the few special tools needed for engine overhaul, and all three manuals- service, parts, and engine overhaul.

1974 Moto Morini 350 Sport Parts

I realize that modern discs do a much better job stopping you, but there is something really appealing about the huge front drums on old Laverdas, Guzzis, and Morinis.

While this bike does need some work before it’s ready to demonstrate the handling for which it is so well known, the seller appears to be representing the bike fairly. He mentions a “reasonable” reserve, so this might be a great chance to find out if those cool Heron-style heads really are interchangeable front and rear! Bidding is at just under $1000 with the reserve not met yet. I’d say that, if you have a couple grand burning a hole in your pocket and some space in your garage, you should keep an eye on this one!

-tad

1974 Moto Morini 350 Sport R Rear

1976 Moto Morini 3½ Strada for Sale

1976 Moto Morini 350 R Side

For the “bigger isn’t always better” crowd: here’s a nice little Moto Morini 3½ Strada!,  It’s a very cool little machine that you won’t often see coming the other way, has excellent period handling and braking, decent reliability, big horsepower, and can be had for peanuts!

Okay, so I may have been kidding about the “big horsepower” part.

But when people stop to ask you about it, you have all sorts of interesting technical tidbits you can mention.  Like the unusual 72 degrees between the cylinder banks.  The six-speed gearbox.  The Heron-style heads that were also found on some period Jaguars and the smaller-displacement Moto Guzzis of the time.  The fact that the bike has both an electric start and a kick-start lever.  Actually, from all accounts, you should just pretend the electric start isn’t there, since it’s pretty far from reliable.

1976 Moto Morini 350 Rear

Considered a middleweight when it was introduced in 1974, the 344cc motor was a bit short on oomph, but long on gas mileage.  And, as you’d expect from a twin, made nice chunks of usable power, right where you need it on the road.

And while we’re on the subject of that motor: can I tell you how annoying it is that these guys didn’t just call their bike a “350” like everyone else?  Getting word processing software to do “3½” is annoying, so I just copy/paste that bit every time I write about one of Morini’s little twins.

1976 Moto Morini 350 L Rear

From the original eBay listing: 1976 Moto Morini 3½ for Sale

Moto Morini 3 1/2 Strada 1976. Cafe Racer . One of the best Italian bikes with legendary handling. 350 cc V twin engine sounds and runs to make you smile every time you ride. Bike has new Tachometer and Speedometer due to Speedometer failure. New Tires ,YSS adjustable shocks, mirrors, battery etc. Total mileage 8876 miles. Original shocks and Speedometer included.

I really like these little machines, and I’m glad they’re still very affordable.  This one still has a few days to go, and the Buy It Now price is set at $6,500, a bit on the high side.  But with low mileage, you’re sure to get your money’s worth back in weekend fun and backroad scratching.

-tad

1976 Moto Morini 350 Front

Reader’s Ride: Moto Morini 3½

Moto Morini 3 L Side

Today, we a have a cool reader’s ride from Charlotte: a very clean Moto Morini 3½ for sale.  Click on the link for the original Craigslist post.  Morini is very much the forgotten Italian marque: they never had much of a presence in the US, since they never really made a big-bore machine to compete in the North American market, and their smaller machines never had quite the cache of a Ducati or Moto Guzzi.

Moto Morini 3 R Side

The 3½ was a classy little machine blessed with world-class handling and returned excellent fuel mileage, although the 344cc 72° V-twin’s provided fairly unimpressive power.  The overall look is simple and classic, but the motor contains some interesting technology: it featured a six-speed transmission, belt-driven cams, and “Heron” heads that have a flat underside and parallel valves.  Combustion in a Heron-head engine occurs in the concave surface of the piston top.

This relatively unusual configuration was also used in the small-bore Guzzis and provided simplified manufacturing and impressive fuel economy.

Moto Morini 3 Dash

The 3½ was introduced in 1974.  I’m not sure what year this particular example is: it appears to be an early, drum-braked model, as later versions had a single or optional dual-disc front.  The seller is asking $8,500 for this rare little machine.

-tad

Moto Morini 3 L Side Rear