Moto Guzzi 850 GT California and California Vintage compared – motorcycle myths


Moto Guzzi 850 GT California and California Vintage compared - motorcycle myths

Brands, myths and engines: Moto Guzzi

850 GT California and California Vintage in comparison

Nice coincidence: In 1965 the Mamas published & Papas their catchy tune "California Dreaming" and Moto Guzzi showed the first prototype of the V7, from which the California later emerged, at the Milan trade fair. A dream bike that can still be bought today.

The terms myth and even more cult are used inflationarily nowadays, but at Moto Guzzi they do justice to their meaning. After all, the motorcycle builders from Mandello del Lario in Lombardy can look back on a 90-year history full of ups and downs. For this story, however, “only” the last 40 years are relevant. In the 1960s, thanks to rising incomes and cheaper cars, two-wheelers were also less and less popular in Italy. In addition, the Guzzi model range with the Airone, Ercole and Falcone models was out of date. Only the Cardellino and Zigole small motorcycles prevented the total failure, but not the fact that the company came under state control in 1966 due to a lack of liquidity. The development of the V7 project, originally planned purely as a government agency, was able to continue, and at the end of 1966 the first vehicles were delivered to the army, police and carabinieri. Shortly afterwards, the first civilian models were available from dealers.

In 1968, the V7 became known through the legendary full-service test Hamburg-Vienna-Hamburg, which was carried out by MOTORRAD veteran Ernst “Klacks” Leverkus and largely ran smoothly. Ultimately, the breakthrough and survival of the brand was secured by a major order from the LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department). Reasons for the order
were among other things better driving performance, better handling and greater reliability than the previously moving machines from Harley-Davidson.

D.he V7 850 GT California presented here, the official name, is built in 1972 and the civilian version of the police bike. It already has the engine, which has been enlarged to 850 cubic centimeters, and is one of the few Californias that were produced directly for the European market, which can be recognized by the stamped chassis number. As the name suggests, most of the Calis went to the USA. Owner Dieter Nelsen from Krefeld has called his Cali his own for 20 years and has covered around 100,000 kilometers with it without any major breakdowns. The fact that it didn’t get any more is because its V7 team also wants to be moved.

Similar to Harleys, there is no essential difference between the old and the new Cali for the inexperienced observer. Only on closer inspection do the disc brakes of the new one become apparent. Of course, small parts such as switches and instruments are no longer identical, but these are peanuts.

The character-forming attributes, however, remained, such as the endlessly long, far forward and thus hardly accessible side stand while sitting in the saddle. Or the rocker switch, which is set on the new one so that the foot does not fit between the rocker and the footboard and can therefore only be switched up with a heel.

With an acoustic blind tasting, it becomes difficult even for professionals to differentiate between young and old. There is hardly a Guzzi story that does not have the starting process as its theme. Just the sound when the powerful starter meshes in the even more powerful flywheel to set the heavy crank drive in rotation is unique.

Similar and yet different: the oldie was considered to be quite sporty, while the new one contains many chopper stylistic devices.

And when the V2 ignites for the first time, it shakes like a wet dog and then tilts the whole motorcycle to the right every time with the life-sustaining thrusts of gas. Here both are at eye level.

As far as pure driving is concerned, thanks to better brakes, more modern tires and the 18 hp more powerful engine, the torque is almost identical, of course, the new one is ahead. But the feeling is affected by the strange ergonomics. The distance between the bench and the running board is far too small, you almost feel like you’re crouching down, and the wide handlebars reach too far back. On the ancestor, on the other hand, you immediately feel right at home, the fat one-and-a-half seat provides the comfort of well-worn house slippers, and the handlebars, which are also wide, are well at hand.

This is also important, because at the latest when braking you need stable abutments. Despite the tremendous effort on the lever, the delay is only modest, there is probably only a risk of blocking if the snow cover is closed. Here you can see the enormous progress most clearly. The fact that Dieter’s Cali turned the corners despite the correct air pressure was, as he later reported, due to a defective rear wheel bearing. Regardless of this, you didn’t feel bored on the new one or rushed on the old one when you went out together, cruising is not that easy in both of them. In contrast to the well-known Harley-Davidson, the roads here are also allowed to have bends. Apropos Harley: Anyone who thinks they own an exclusive bike is wrong. Because the Americans have long been building six-digit numbers per annum. At Guzzi, on the other hand, annual production is in the mid four-digit range. Thanks to the new V7, which is well received by customers, but which is based on the small engine, around 6,000 units are planned for 2012. For the entire model range! The California Dream can still be lived again today, and no one has to catch bad boys like the LA cops once did.


Moto Guzzi

Filigree is different: the mighty and rustic V2 embodies the mechanical engineering of the 1960s.

The exploded view shows the 850 engine, but it could also be the current vintage drive. Because not only has the principle remained the same to this day, a number of individual parts and even entire assemblies of the current drive fit into the old engine block. The gearbox and clutch are interchangeable, as is the final drive. Even the new crankshaft fits into the old block with minor modifications. The only really far-reaching modification that the engine has received over the decades was the enlargement of the stud bolt spacing when switching from the so-called round engine to the one with the angular cylinders and valve covers in model year 1981. Thanks to the simple construction, the beefy drive is easy to close wait and with appropriate care, six-figure mileage without major repairs is not uncommon. A greater risk, especially with conversions, are engines that have been tuned up by inexperienced hands with accessories of questionable origin.

That the Moto Guzzi 1100 engine has been on the crankshaft for more than 40 years in terms of construction, can definitely be seen from it. This development should not have happened entirely voluntarily, because the sales figures of Guzzi over the years just ensured the company’s survival, but there was always no money for real new developments. So the further development was always carried out on a low flame. After all, since the beginning of the 1990s (the sources vary between 1990 and 1993), the two-valve engine has also been optionally available with injection. Funding had been in place since it was acquired by Piaggio in 2004 to develop a new four-valve valve that debuted in the 1200 Sport in 2007. This is also based on the well-known engine block, but the gearbox and especially the single-sided swing arm are new developments. The two-valve engine installed in the Vintage, on the other hand, can be built into the chassis of the 40-year-old V7 as it is.

Technical specifications

Moto Guzzi California Vintage.

Moto Guzzi GT California (1972) Moto Guzzi California Vintage Type of engine Air-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90 degree V engine Air-cooled two-cylinder four-stroke 90_ degree V engine
Mixture preparation Slide carburetor, Ø 29 mm Injection, Ø 40 mm
coupling Two-disc dry clutch Two-disc dry clutch
transmission Five-speed Five-speed
Secondary drive Cardan Cardan
Bore x stroke 83.0 x 78.0 mm 92.0 x 80.0 mm
Displacement 844 cc 1064 cc
compression 9.2: 1 9.8: 1
power 40.4 kW (55 PS) at 6100 rpm 54.0 kW (73 hp) at 6400 rpm
Torque 95 Nm at 4500 rpm 94 Nm at 5000 rpm
Weight with a full tank 276 kg 290 kg
Top speed 175 km / h 185 km / h
price 7700 Mark (1972) 15850 euros

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *