Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lovely to look at. The Moto Guzzi 750S3

This Guzzi S3 is on eBay right now and has prompted a bit of a geek-fest on the Guzzi owners' club forum. When did Guzzi start chrome plating bores? It matters because if the plating's going, going or gone you could knacker the hard-to-find round barrels. Not difficult to check by lifting the head on the OHV Guzzi, but is it necessary?

Geek that I am I had to check...Ian Fallon's book (which Ivar de Gier proof read and he assures me is the most accurate English language Guzzi reference) says "The ...1974...850T..as usual at that time had chrome bores" Then later on "Nigusil (replaced chrome) from 1980...used for the SP (Spada)..(and the) T4". All my books refer to Nigusil (Guzzi's patented silicone/nickel bore plating) but I'm sure mags at the time spelt it Nickasil which suits English (if not Italian - no K over there! Hence Chianti red wine, not Kianti..)

So it seems from at least 1974 (ie just after de Tomaso's take over) to 1979 Guzzis had chrome bores, then from 1980 on Nigusil/Nickasil. But there's something else I can't get a definitive answer on - the S3 was basically a sleeved down T3 (certainly same engine cases with the sump filter and a T3 camshaft) so I guess it had a chain drive to the cam (gears were used on the V7 Sport). The swan necks had gone by the S3 too, but the original owner of this bike fitted them anyway. Good man.

Lovely as the S3 is to look at (I painted a 400/4 this colourscheme in the 70s!) it was really the start of de Tomaso's cost cutting. Heavier and less powerful than the Sport, contemporary road tests struggled to get much over 110mph out of the S3, a good 10mph less than the Sport. The seller's looking for offers around £8500 which looks value when you realise only 950 were made, but really a Sport or Le Mans is worth the extra. If you've got it. Unless you already have a Sport and Le Mans, and want the set. The S3 wasn't a bad bike, it just wasn't as great as its predecessor and was up against the new Ducati 900SS and BMW R90S. But at least it kept the sporting V-twins coming out of Mandello, and with pleading from genius Lino Tonti, de Tomaso was persuaded to make amends with the Le Mans. More info in back issues of Benzina.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Free Moto Guzzis

This weekend (19/20 May) Guzzi dealers across the UK are staying open to let folk try the new-and-improved V7. I rode a 2011 version around the Circuito del Lario last summer (story in Benzina, out in mid June) and was quietly impressed. Just like a torquey, brand new Monza with proper quality control - which is what it is. New one is supposed to be better (aren't they always?) and looks smartest in the economy Stone matt black paint. Guzzi are really pinning their hopes on the bike, complete with rather arty video and a photo exhibition and ad campaign (which includes the images here) with Scott Pommier

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Can't buy me love

Ex-Ducati racer Carlo Saltarelli's motorcycle collection threw up a few surprises now that the prices are on view via RM auctions Monaco results. Smaller bikes made less than you might think (585 Euros for a 500 Desmo Sport, and the same for a four stroke 125 Cadet, though like all prices there's a further 17% buyer's premium which is subject to VAT ) probably reflecting the cost and hassle of getting the bikes from Monaco to wherever you call home. But 2340 Euros for a 600 Monster looked plenty, as did 6-9000 Euros for 450 Scramblers. But against 13,000 Euros for a 350 Desmo maybe they're cheap.

Surprises were the 750 bevels; a nice GT (estimate 12-15E) made a whopping 38,000E, and a square case 750SS (estimate 15-20E) went for 32,000E. Someone clearly has mislaid the Ian Falloon/Mick Walker section of their library. Some of the race bikes, despite great provenance, failed to match those figures proving that collectors still value original mass produced bikes above bikes with genuine history. Sorry, but they're idiots. Even more bizarre was the 30,000E paid for the 450 racer (above) that appears in all the Ducati books. That's more than a genuine SCR factory racer. Luckily I don't have the money to worry about such things, but I will point out (again!) that two years ago I was telling anyone with the cash to buy 750F1s, then readily available for £5-7,000. And now North Leicester Motorcycles want £18k for the one below, having already achieved £15k for a lesser bike.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Laverda Moped for Sale

On eBay today is this Laverda moped. Fun for 5 minutes... You might get great mpg, and the crew who ride Laverda 98's down to Italy for charity are heroes, but not for me. Folk claim they'll do 40+mph (Classic Bike claim this month a Cucciolo will do 45!)but I've never seen tiddlers do much more than 30 on a speedo I'd trust. Friends had new Garelli Rekords back when they weighed 8 stone dripping wet, and a following car speedo never troubled the 45 mark. Meanwhile the Garelli clocks were touching 60; no that's how to keep your customers satisfied

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Never mind the bhp...where did mpg go?

Couple of folk approaching their full motorcycle licensing entitlement have asked me what bike they should get, and surprisingly all are looking at classic middleweights that cost more than a nearly-new modern equivalent. So what's going on?

First up is that a Morini 350 or Honda 400/4 looks like a manageable motorcycle, rather than the alien hover-scooter look modern Japanese "nakeds" seem to go for. The cool young things admire the Davida/Belstaff/Lewis Leathers look, and with a few exceptions (Hinckley Bonneville, Guzzi V7) there are no new bikes that complement that sort of image.

Second though is the monster prices we're paying for fuel. I filled up at £1.39 a litre last night - well over £6 a gallon. Gone are the days of riding with a fiver inside your boot for fuel. Yet the V7 I rode in Italy last summer struggled to get near 50mpg even ridden gently around Lake Como, despite having no more performance than a 500 Imola of 30 years ago that would easily top 55mpg. "Emission regulations" was the excuse offered by the Guzzi dealer who rented it to me. Really? My far more heavily regulated Fiat 500 is at least as economical with petrol as the V7, and will still top 100mph.

The motor industry must love this - in the name of saving the planet we must build more vehicles using ever more exotic materials (platinum for the catalytic converter, lithium for the batteries) and making everything heavier in the name of safety and cabin space. But at least the cars are getting more economical - the Austin A35 I learnt to drive in amazed my father with its 30-plus mpg which I thought it was appalling given there was no discernable acceleration. At the time my 400/4 would mange 45-48mpg even when thrashed as only a teenager can. In fact it seems to me that every motorcycle over 250cc I've ever ridden has done 40-something mpg. Maybe this was fine and dandy in the days of cheap fuel - yet these days sub 40mpg seems acceptable in the name of absolute bhp.
I started to thing about this when I was running a 450 Desmo on the Giro. Hammering after the big bikes it would still happily top 60mpg. Ditto an MV Agusta 350 Sport. So I dug out some period rod tests, which confirmed these are typical fuel consumption figures for these motorcycles, not the result of my aged, limp wrist. Yet back in the day nobody commented that performance middleweights were giving the sort of mpg normally associated with Japanese two-stroke 125s. Instead the testers grumbled that the bikes weren't as fast as 400 two-strokes. But that was then, this is now. If motorcycling wants to attract new blood (which it's been claiming it wants to since at least the mid-1970s) the industry needs to build what buyers want, and right now that means motorcycles that look the part and are cheap to run. How cheap? Well the Guzzi Lodola 235 that Richard rode through the Dolomites in the latest issue of Benzina managed 140mpg. Yes, one-hundred-and-forty miles to each gallon. Sure, you might want a slightly higher top speed than 65mph, but somewhere between the 450 Desmo's 63mpg/100mph and the Lodola's 140mpg/65mph is a sweet spot that is perfect for our straightened times. Pinching styling cues from those motorcycles would be a good idea too. When I put this to someone in the industry, they poo-poo'd the idea. "We need big numbers" he sneered. OK, Royal Enfield (selling a period-styled 500 that does 85mpg and 80mph) is trebling production. Big enough numbers? Oh yes.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Hypothetical worries

The Air Chamber for sale in a past blog was spotted by the seller's wife - who started asking questions about the woman in the picture and how and when she was in her garage. Or she might be pulling my leg... Anyway here's the actual thing keeping the damp off the very bike that apperaed in Benzina #6 - Phil's MV Agusta 350 Ipotesi ("Hypothesis" - as in how do you update the earlier Sport 350 (below, by legendary Guy Webster) to compete in the late 1970s marketplace)

Saturday, 5 May 2012

My sort of driveway

Thanks to all who came to tea-and cakes today; my sort of driveway, with a brace of Laverda triples (RGS and SFC), Guzzi Le Manses, a lovely Falcone Sport plus the Lodola that features in Benzina issue 8, and a Ducati Hailwood Rep. And a Guzzi Cali that featured an excellent cup holder (below) years before the car industry dreamt up the idea. Next Teas and Cakes is Saturday 2 June - see you then?

Friday, 4 May 2012

Air Chamber for sale, MV woes... and tea and cakes

Who'd be a new motorcycle (or indeed car) dealer these days? You have to kit out the premises at vast expense to a pre-ordained formula, order a full years stock in the depths of winter with the prescience of a time traveller. Even then if the manufacturer finds they've a hit on their hands it's the dealer who has to explain to ever less patient punters that their pre-ordered bike will be 11 months late and cost more money than they'd been told.

That's the reason one subscriber's got this brand new Airchamber for sale - (above): RRP £255, offers invited to greg@teambenzina.co.uk. He'd ordered an MV Agusta F3 way back in January at full list price of £9999. He's now been told it'll be at least £200 more and not available till early 2013. Unsurprisingly he's cancelled the order. Piaggio are also blaming dealers for the shortage of Guzzi V7s last year - they really expect even small dealers to order everything they think they might be able to sell at the start of the season (which could mean having to pay for their entire years stock within 90 days of ordering) and then wondering why they only sold 300-odd bikes in the UK last year.

Chat to dealers and the marque they want is Triumph. Triumph look after dealers, accept times are tough and that a happy, well stocked (with spares, kit and bikes) dealer can offer us mere punters the level of service we crave. There's not really a Trumpet I'd want (OK, a Speed Triple, if you're offering) but I love the pride owners and dealers take in the brand, and in these desperate time most of all I love the jobs and wealth Triumph bring to the UK

On a happier note Saturday 2pm on all welcome to our monthly Teas and Cakes meet (last one of 2011 pictured below) - see you then

Thursday, 3 May 2012

The rain in... Stafford

Luckily, the rain in Stafford falls mainly on the outside. The poor autojumblers got alternatively soaked and blown away by the air ambulance on Saturday, and all had left by Sunday morning to avoid getting trapped in the quagmire of clay and rain. Which meant the main hall stayed busy - especially when Ago (above) gave his little chats. Nothing revelatory although a fellow scribbler who's also interviewed him remembered how you could tell when a pretty lady was walking behind you - Ago's eyes swivel, followed by a lull in the conversation, then his head follows said senorita. Ah, Ago, you old silver fox. I did like his line that after the Isle of Man, a race at Assen "was like a day on the beach."

Thanks to all who came to say hi, including Benzina's new Running Out of Road columnist, Mark Williams (below), although we might need to upgrade his reading matter first...