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1973 Moto Guzzi GT 850

Posted on May 30, 2011 by Andrew in Classic, Other. 9 comments

The words “Gran Turismo” never seemed more apt.

For those of you who missed out on signing up for the 2011 Pipeburn Meat Burn & Burn (it’s this weekend, guys!) or for the rest of you overseas types, we’ve been sending out regular updates on the day to all those who put up their hands. In the last one we mentioned that we’d be riding on dirt for a small part of the day. Cue about 27 frantic questions from some of the attendees sweating bullets about riding their bikes off-road. I duly diffused the panic (hello Mike if you’re reading) and went on my merry way, which on this particular day involved shooting the beautiful Guzzi you see before you. Imagine then the internal chuckles that I enjoyed when I asked the owner of this 250kg (550 lbs) beauty, the super cool and most friendly David Ottesen, how she handled. “Beautifully. I even take her off-road; she’s great fun to ride on the dirt.” Damn straight, brother.

Can you introduce yourself?

Dave Ottesen. I am an Aircraft Mechanic (I detect a trend here – Andrew), I work on Helicopter gas turbine engines. I live in the Wollindilly Shire about 90ks south of Sydney, great country roads and really suited to the Guzzi.

Can you tell us a little bit about her?

She’s a 1973 Moto Guzzi GT 850/5 speed (similar to the American Eldorado). I’ve had her (I looked up the sale receipt) 18 years now. A good mate had a 750 Ambassador (looks the same as the GT but is a 750/4 speed) and I always like the look and sound of it so when I found this one in the local classifieds (an old fashion newspaper type back then!) down in Victoria, we headed down in his old Bedford van to pick it up, I think it was an 16 hour round trip in one day! but well worth it.

Since I’ve had the bike I’ve rebuilt the motor, changed the clutch for the later one (stronger output shaft splines), and in the gearbox I’ve replaced a selector spring and seals and also some final drive seals. When I got the bike it had footpegs (see bottom image), full length seat and smaller handle bars so I changed to running boards, single saddle and American style handle bars, I got these from Moto V, a Sydney based guy who does loop frame Guzzi spares.

You entered her into the Deus v-twin show. how was that?

I really only went to have a look at the show and didn’t intend to go in it but the guys at Deus said “go on, put it in”, so I did. I’m glad I did, I had a great day talking to all the guys there, looking at so many different bikes, something for everyone. The people from Deus always put on a great day.

No, they don’t fold open to reveal rockets. I already asked

What’s she like to ride?

I love riding her, great riding position for those big fast sweeping corners, I do a few Guzzi rallies, the Ragged Fringe Rally in N.S.W and I did my first Spaghetti Rally last year down in Victoria. We generally do about 1500 kms in the weekend and she is perfect for it, good in the dirt as well!

Note cover you have to flip up to insert the key. Just like a jet fighter, that is

Ever thought of restoring or customising her?

I have thought about it but not for long, the paint did look pretty good when I got her, but it’s worn over the past 18 years so we are a good match. I can’t polish it any more as it’s down to steel in some places so maybe a clear coat over the top someday when it gets too thin.

What other bikes do you own?

I have a Bennelli 125ss that I am restoring; it’s similar to the type they race in the Motogiro in Italy. I also have a Suzuki GT 250 café style that I’m doing; I’m making the race expansion chambers from scratch for it – hopefully it should be loud.

She’s on New South Wales “vintage plates” – can you describe what that means to our international and interstate readers?

I’ve had the Guzzi on vintage plate now for almost two years, I joined the Classic Italian Motorcycle Association of Australia and they have a club plate scheme were you can register you 30 year old bike or older on Historical plates. It costs $50 a year for rego and I pay $83 for comprehensive insurance. You are restricted to club rides/rallies but there are lots, you can also suggest rides that you might like to go on; not bad for under $150 a year. A good bunch of guys at CIMAA, they love their Italian bikes.

The “road kill” view

What’s yr ultimate Guzzi?

I’d like a Moto Guzzi 1100 Griso. I’ve had a go on mates and they look good, handle well, and sound fantastic with the aftermarket pipe. But if I had lots of cash I’d grab a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport.

What’s yr workshop like?

My workshop (or “shed” in Aussie parlance) is pretty basic, 2 good work benches, wire buffs, polishing buffs, welder and hand tools. It’s hot in the summer and bloody cold in the winter, I love it.

See – a little dirt never hurt anyone. Man up, people!

If she was a movie, which one would she be?

It would have to be Magnum Force; as the cops rode Eldorados in it. Great move, and I won’t tell you how it ends! (Definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it – Andrew)

  • Den

    Well used and well loved, great bike!

  • David Dunn

    Great Bike ! Dave O is a mate of mine and we often swap bikes ( I have a Griso ) when on rides

    On the last Ragged Fringe , we rode the Oxley Highway with about another dozen guys , I rode most of this on the 850 including 30 klms of dirt road. I had a smile on my face the whole time especially when I had sparks flying off the side boards !

  • Peter Howarth

    I promise to let the Yam FJR1300 get out of first the next time we go for a ride Dave.

  • good to meet u that day dave.


  • Dave

    You too Matt, hope to see you out on the road someday.

  • Todd

    I gave myself whiplash as I watched it guzzi guzzi past me in the opposite direction. Nice bike.

  • graeme johnson

    Hi Dave , nice to read of another well-ridden, un-restored loop-frame Guzzi.
    I grew up in Wollondilly shire (Picton) and bought the '71 Special from Ryans of Parramatta, rode it around Australia for 2 years doing seasonal work with my girlfriend, and mining (vintage days).
    I still have it , 40 years later, and its going fine with about 400,000km on the clock (You know about the speedo cable life). I live in UK and have it garaged in SW France at my partner's . That is the greatest place for m/c touring – everlasting winding roads thro' stunning scenery. I've tucked the mufflers right in, and nothing scrapes. Why buy anything new when the old Guzzi works so well.
    I've also got a KLR 650 which is cool for the greenlanes hereabouts in Cambridgeshire.. shortly taking it to France as well, as I've found work there , at last.
    Cheers mate,

  • Dave

    Hi Graeme,

    Great to hear from you, I actually live in Picton (about 14 years now) and also remember going to Ryan’s way back, to get parts for my old Matchless. Yes I know about the speedo cables, I’m on number 3 and have a spare ready to go! We have a bit in common, I work for a French company here in Australia and I’m always hassling them to send me over to Tarnos France for work, maybe one day I will get over and have a look around.

    Good luck in France mate might see you there one day.



  • Mike Adelaide

    I had one of these in the late 70’s in Adelaide and my mates called it the “Land Whale” – but it never missed a beat. I sold it for a song and wish I’d kept it. Mike, Magill SA 5072