Written by Tim Huber.
By far one of the most significant decades in American automotive history, the 1950s gave rise to some of the most iconic vehicle designs ever created. With stylistic elements reflecting the public’s fascination for the emerging Space Age, streamlined forms, pronounced fins, and other rocket-inspired visual themes on cars became symbols of quintessential midcentury Americana. 1959 Cadillacs like the Eldorado and De Ville are archetypal examples of designs from this era, sporting curved glasswork, chromed accents, fins even more dramatic than their predecessor’s, and distinctive “jet pod” tail lights.
And it’s those tail lights that became the entire basis for this one-off Moto Guzzi, dubbed “La Monica”, from France’s Dirty Seven Garage. Starting with a 1981 Le Mans III, the Toulouse-based shop fully rebuilt the 844cc longitudinally-mounted V-Twin with a 1,000cc kit. The electronics were then overhauled via an Electrosport regulator/rectifier, Dynatek Dyna 3 electronic ignition, and new custom wiring throughout.
For decades journalists consistently using one word to describes the machines of Moto Guzzi, and that’s ‘beautiful.’ But for a brief period in the early ’80s the company produced some real horrors, none worse than the fully faired wind brick that was the Le Mans Mk 2…
In the last ten years old Moto Guzzis have gone through a stratospheric increase in value. Big block 70’s and 80’s models now command prices that would have been laughable a decade ago. The secret’s out – and now people realize what a great base they are for a killer custom build…
Every year the Italians put on one of the greatest motorcycle shows in the world; they call it the MBE. The thing that really caught our eye at this year’s show in Verona was the incredible array of seriously cool custom rides on display. And none were better than this – the award winning Moto Guzzi Le Mans MkII racer dubbed the ‘MILF’…
Imagine you’ve built the bike that sits before you, pouring your heart and soul into the creation of a classic custom ordered by a meticulous client who collects vintage Porsches. Such is your attention to detail that each machine upon completion is stripped, every bolt re-torqued and over a thousand parts double checked. Then, just as you are ready to deliver your masterpiece, a single clutch plate sticks. Unwavering in his commitment to perfection Axel Budde of Hamburg’s Kaffee Maschine doesn’t try an easy fix with a few heavy dumps of the clutch. Once again he does a full tear down of the machine and you start to appreciate the genius and devotion that emerges in the form of his latest build, KM21 a classic cafe racer from a 1981 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk II.
In recent times it has become all too common a cliché to call a custom motorcycle of a certain quality, a rolling piece of art. It’s not that many of these machines don’t deserve the title and I’d personally take a Max Hazan over an Auguste Rodin any day. But where most art is enjoyed as the finished product, custom bikes are often built by or with considerable input from the prospective owner. From Picasso to Pink Floyd they didn’t sit around with their would be consumers of their work and take input, they simply created. But there was a time, many centuries ago, when the well to do would commission works from their favourite artists and wait for the surprise of the great unveiling. This is the story of such a creation, VITALIS 850 by Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro, using a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans as the canvas.
While every brand has its share of fanatics, it’s the Italian marques that seem to inspire the most passion. Some people fawn over their race-bred Ducatis, some battle mercurial Laverdas while the remainder squirrel away in their sheds, tinkering at old Moto Guzzis. While not strictly a Guzzi fanatic, Johannesburg-based professional photographer Kevin Rudham will no doubt have Italian fans nodding in appreciation at his re-born 1980 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk II. Impressively, he completed nearly all the work himself. ‘It took two years,’ Kevin says, ‘and I outsourced only the powder coating and electroplating, but the rest I did myself, including the paint job with a borrowed compressor and a cheap Chinese touch up gun.’
What’s the most common item to be modded first on a custom bike, would you say? The seat? The rubber? Maybe the ‘bars? Now consider what the most unlikely first thing to sink your teeth into might be. Actually, don’t bother, because Peter Boggia and the crew at Brooklyn’s Moto Borgotaro already have it figured out. It’s the tacho. And while the rest of us would be wrestling with greasy engines and skinned knuckles, Peter got all Swiss watchmaker on this Guzzi LeMans and followed the look right on through to the rest of this rather sweet-looking bike.
It’s hard to deny that Moto Guzzi hold a rather special place in the pantheon of motorcycles. They’re a whole lot cooler and unusual than your average Ducati. They’re definitely more passionate than most BMWs. And there’s little doubt that they can out-sport most Triumphs, even if it is by their looks alone. In what you could call a Lamborghini-esque niche, they seem to occupy that perfect world where collectable, beautiful and unusual intersect. Which makes a custom Guzzi even more of an impressive proposition. And when they’re done as well as the bikes that have been rolling out Austin’s Revival Cycles in recent years, it’s a wonder that the other shops haven’t given up and gone home. Meet their latest and quite probably their greatest, the ‘78 Le Mans Special.
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An alchemist, in case you didn’t already know, is defined as a person who possesses (amongst other things) the capability of turning base metals into the noble metals. Put simply, that’s turning iron, nickle, led, or zinc into gold and silver – called noble metals because they seem to have an almost magical ability to resist ever looking old and dated. Now fast forward 1000 years and consider the modern-day work of Hamburg’s Axel Budde. Given a rather scrappy collection of basic parts, some of which had well and truly been turned into near scrap before they reached his lab, he has managed to materialise the very precious bike you see before you here. Magic? Science? A product of the dark arts? Sadly for those of us looking to emulate his creation, it turns out that it’s nothing more than sheer determination, skill, and hard work. Damn.
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