04 February 2013

A deconstructed Moto Guzzi

Why would an otherwise completely sensible person buy a 33 year old motorcycle, sight unseen, as a pile of parts?

Reason no. 1: It's a classic Guzzi

Reason no. 2:  Yes, that odometer really does say 26,326km. This Moto Guzzi SP1000 is basically brand new. Slightly more grubby than is typical for a new bike admittedly, but not a trace of wear anywhere. Flaking chrome and three decades of dirt, but all the working bits are almost virginal.

Reason no. 3: Well this is really the same as reason no. 1. Until the mid 1980's Moto Guzzi manufactured the most beautiful internal combustion engine on the planet. Still the old rounded tappet covers.

Reason no. 4: A very trustworthy, soft Welsh voice, all the way from Aberdeen. No, not Scotland, Aberdeen near Graaf Reinet in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. And some pictures. I'm not insane.

I fetched it Friday evening. Unpacking had to wait until Sunday. To the uneducated the following picture might look like a big mess. Understand that the newspaper is actually gift wrapping, and suddenly the true nature of the scene becomes clear.

Which brings us to reason no. 5:
Yes, there is another classic Guzzi engine in those pictures. It belongs to my 1971 V7 Special. We've been together since 1993, and slowly, slowly, she is returning to her former glory. Since she really is Special, serious modifications are out of the question. The SP 1000 though, is like a beautiful woman dressed in ugly clothes. She needs a little undressing, and some new clothes. A mistress, if you will, something of a plaything. Don't be alarmed though, that's just the Italian way, my oldest love will always be first in my heart.

P.S. I don't really equate women to mechanical possessions.
P.P.S. On the other hand, I do relate to the V7 as more than a machine. Judge me as you will.

10 Feb update

I made more motorbike fix up progress this weekend than I have in ten years. Miraculously everything seems to be there. That pile of bits now looks sort of like a bike, and I've got a pretty good idea of what I'm aiming for - a custom that uses almost all original bits, maybe even the original paintwork on the tank, but every excess piece will be brutally pared away and all the lines cleaned up. That open rear frame is a winner and will stay, with all the components that were under the side panels to be hidden away somewhere else. Now to decide what needs to be cut and changed, and what bits I need to make, and then I'll take it apart again, do all the repairing and fabricating, and just put it back together again. Easy.

I promise this won't become a motorcycle blog, but if you're interested, bookmark this post and I'll update with major progress.

Moto Guzzi SP 1000 cafe custom mock up. It's going to be pretty. And no, that's not the saddle I will use.
For reference, here's how it looked before. Sort of charming in a 1980 kind of way. The windshield is very practical , and not completely hideous, but whoever thought those engine cowls were a good idea should be shot and thrown in Lake Como. Not only are they an ugly blight on that exquisite v-twin, they also bash the knees of any normal sized person. Contact me if you would like to purchase all that excess bodywork at a very reasonable price.
That same Moto Guzzi SP 1000 circa early '80s. Photo by original owner Les McMahon

February 2014 progress:

I've mostly figured out what I want to do and have started getting bits ready. E.g. this pair of lovingly hand-fabricated headlamp brackets.

What you see here is about about 22 hours of Photoshop mock-up, cardboard templates, staring, measuring, staring, cutting, checking, staring, brazing, cosmetic filling with tin solder, grinding and painstakingly hand sanding to be ready for plating. Yes, that's only one small component. But this isn't a race, and aren't they pretty?

26 March 2014 - Carbs

Such a lovely name, Dellorto. Even the code sounds charming to me, one marked VHBT 30 C S, and the other VHBT 30 C D. VHB designates the old square bore Dellortos, with a nice wide 30mm diameter to feed those big cylinders. S is for Sinistra, left in Italian, D for Destra, right, indicating their respective sides.
They started out like this:

Filthy and corroded, dried out petrol sludge glueing everything together. This is great news. It tells me that this is why the previous owner stripped the carburettors, to try to deal with a problem, not to fiddle. It also confirms that the low mileage is genuine and the bike stood for long, long time at some stage.

A couple of hours of soda blasting, followed by a good rinse in boiling water and a careful drying got everything looking almost new. Home soda blasting is great, quick, safer and cheaper than nasty cleaning chemicals. Basically like sand or other media blasting, but with baking soda - powerful enough to quickly strip grease and deposits, gentle enough to leave even plastic components undamaged. The intake manifold gaskets had previously been stuck on with some gasket gunk, so I took the time to scrape them off carefully and get the manifold mating faces dead flat with sandpaper on a glass sheet.

After that it's like playing with a puzzle, making sure you have all the bits, undamaged and in the right places. MIA: one float pivot pin. Due for replacement: two number v9 needles badly corroded, one of which also had some wear. Dubious and should probably be replaced: one main jet, number 265, worn ever so slightly oval by the worn needle. All jetting standard and hopefully will do well with modern fuel, I've no desire to mess about with the more than adequate standard torquey performance.

For now, only temporarily assembled while I wait for the required parts, which will only be ordered once I discover what else I need. To keep everything corrosion free and prevent binding while it waits, all parts and channels are slathered in Fluid FilmLike most of their clients, I'm in love with this lanolin based anti-corrosion lubricant, which smells like Arnica lotion, doesn't go sticky or smell bad, and won't harm me, unlike most solvent based petrochemical lubricants that don't disclose their composition, but almost certainly include scary carcinogenic short chain hydrocarbons.