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Moto Guzzi posted by

Muscular Classic: 1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

These days, Moto Guzzi "sportbikes" really need the quotation marks I've included here. Ducati managed to develop their signature 90° v-twin format and stay competitive among the current crop of tech-heavy rockets, but it's unlikely that, even given a pretty large budget to attempt something like that, Guzzi could have stayed true to their longitudinal twin and shaft drive and expected to remain relevant. And even if they'd been allowed to produce the much more radical 72°, liquid-cooled and overhead-cammed, chain final-drive package they'd been working on, a purchase by Piaggio permanently locked Guzzi into the retro-roadster limbo where they've languished ever since. I'm glad they've managed to survive into the modern era, but it's sad that that they only do so as a bit of a self-parody, since they were fully capable of building legitimate racebikes like their impressive, but unsuccessful V8 Grand Prix entry and versatile sportbikes like today's 850 Le Mans.

Often referred to as a "Mark I" Le Mans, that's obviously a name that was coined after the fact to differentiate it from the bikes that followed. An evolution of the earlier V7 Sport and 750S, the new 850 Le Mans sportbike even continued with Lino Tonti's excellent frame, wrapped around a bored-out engine with chrome-lined cylinders, high compression pistons, and a set of 36mm Dell'Orto carburetors. The result was 71 rear-wheel horsepower and a top speed of 130mph. To make sure the rider could safely slow the machine from those heady speeds, the bike used triple disc brakes and a rudimentary but very effective linked-brake system.

It's easy to dismiss the Guzzi for being a "tractor" and the chunky, slightly angular style, massive-looking engine, shaft drive, and simple, pushrod v-twin do lend themselves to agricultural comparisons. But although the spec sheet doesn't seem cutting edge now and really wasn't even when the bike was new, it's the overall package that impressed then, as well as the brute motive force supplied by the 850cc engine. The noticeable torque-reaction caused by the longitudinal crankshaft aside, handling was excellent, and the engine was revvier than you might expect. Much more rev-happy, in fact, than the contemporary Ducati bevel-drive v-twin. But it wasn't a high-strung machine and had a nice blend of exotic looks, torquey power, and practicality that saw Guzzi eventually shift from sportbike to sport-touring as they were unable to compete with the relentless pace of cutting-edge motorcycle development in the 80s and 90s.

From the original eBay listing: 1976 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans for Sale

Bike restored in 2016 and only 1600 miles added since... A true beauty with only natural flaws, this is a bike to be ridden.

Bike was completely gone through in 2016 by the team at world famous CYCLE GARDEN in Huntington Beach over $20k spent on restoration , tank was left with original paint . Bike looks exactly as an original 1976 should . There is not a better one to be found anywhere, this is a rare opportunity to own a true piece of motorcycle history.

"Now acknowledged as one of the great sporting motorcycles of the 1970’s, the Le Mans was a Masterpiece ” -Ian Fallon

 

A very nice video of the bike by Cycle Garden is included that shows the bike in motion and goes over some aspects of the restoration. An old Triumph or bevel-drive Ducati might have more vintage looks, if you're into chrome or polished metal, but the same qualities that have characterized Guzzis from the beginning are present here, and the first-generation Le Mans is about as good as it gets for a practical classic sportbike: it's got stable handling and the flexible motor can even keep up with more modern bikes without much trouble. The powertrain is reliable and the whole bike is pretty easy to get parts for, considering the mere 6,000 or so that were built between 1976 and 1978. Unfortunately, these are no longer the bargains they once were, and the seller's $24,979 Buy It Now price gives a pretty clear indication of where things are headed.

-tad

12 Comments

  • I’m currently restoring V50ii for my friend’s wife, and I really really enjoy working on a Moto Guzzi. It’s insanely simple and elegant, those old Moto Guzzi. I didn’t appreciate it till I started dismantling the engine, just how elegantly it’s put together. I love it so much I see a Moto Guzzi in my future.

    • Ah, the V50! That’s got the Heron heads, right? Very cool little bike. I have a friend who bought a V65 Lario as his first bike. I’ve always wanted to buy a solid T3 and convert it into a Le Mans or V7 Sport clone: the parts aren’t too hard to track down and they are pretty easy to do valve adjustments on… And that Tonti frame means the bike can be low and long and still handle.

  • Love Guzzis and the first gen Lemans in particular. I have 2, a nice 77 and a 76 which was on the pallet as one of the the first 4 Lemans into the country in early 76, just in time for 2 to go to Reno Leoni’s team to run at Daytona. Mike Baldwin got 5th on basically a stock Lemans and then won the next round at Loudon, which favored handling over hp. Mine was bought by an AMA privateer who rode an early production model in Italy and insisted his sponsoring dealer get him one ASAP. That bike has provenance but it’s rough and needs a full restoration – I bought it from the original owner, who lived up the road from me and let it languish under a carport for 15 years. Broke my heart every time I jogged by his place and saw it there. I’ll get around to that one some day, maybe? Anyways I recently rode the 77 on the Trans America Trail from North Carolina to Oklahoma (really). Aside from not being good dual sport bikes, the bike did great. When set up properly these bikes are fantastic on anything the open side of Deals Gap, are reliable as anything this side of Japan and have such great character. Being raised on Jap sportbikes I never thought I’d enjoy a Guzzi but this thing has a certain charm (agricultural indeed), and yes, even functionality. I highly recommend a Tonti-framed Goose to anyone looking for a vintage European bike to actually ride. Parts are more readily available than those for 80s Jap stuff, and very reasonably priced. Easy as heck to keep these things on the road, hence my move to take one on a 3000 mile mild dual sport ride.

    $25k is rare air for any Lemans. I watch these things and have never seen one go anywhere near that. 2 nice ones recently went for I think $12k and maybe $17k. These are not hard or expensive to restore so we’ll see what the market says on this one. If you want to get almost the same bike for a lot less money, get a T3 and big bore it with head work and 36mm carbs, you’ll be all in for under $10k and have the same riding experience.

    • Yeah, the price here is pretty ambitious, but it’s a very nice bike for sure. My thought, especially when T3s were like $3,000 was get a clean one with dual discs up front, then buy replica V7 tank and side panels, fit some clipons and rearsets, a 1000cc kit and generally do the mild hot-rod thing you describe. Maybe someday I’ll get to do that!

  • I’ve always fancied putting a Moto Guzzi in my garage, and my sport bike history necessitates I turn away from the Piaggio flavor – but while this one ticks all the boxes, the BIN price stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m encouraged by the talk of other (perhaps lesser) examples going for much less.

    By the way, here’s another beautiful example, which at first looked to my eye to be the same bike, but there are differences:

    https://motoborgotaro.com/sold-motorcycles/1976-motoguzzi-lemans1-for-sale

    • We posted up a Featured Listing of that bike not too long ago. Moto Borgotaro generally have very nice, clean, well-maintained bikes.

  • Wonder why Moto Guzzi does not bring back a close replica? They would likely sell like crazy.

  • Pleeeeeeze do this. I sold my Le Mans in 2000 for $8800AUD and it’s my only regret in life. The current V7s don’t look right to me. I’d be first on the order books if they did a LeMans homage.

  • Cycle Garden Could very well have charged $20K to give this bike their hipster treatment (which is not the same as a nut-and-bolt restoration), but that does not mean the bike is worth anywhere near that price. Market value for these bikes is in the $12,000 – $16,000 range; $25K for a Series I is absurd. An “indication of where things are headed” is another way to put it, I guess.

    • Ten years ago, they were like $6,000 to $7,000 so yeah, I think that’s exactly the way to put it. I agree that this one’s overpriced though. But maybe not as outrageously overpriced as it appears at first. Just… ahead of the curve.

  • IMHO I like the LeMans III. Have had two. Great reliable bikes that you don’t see every day! The LaMans III can be bought fot $5K – $10K, a great value!

  • Regarding the value – this one is also far from “correct”. Don’t get me wrong, I like the upgrades and like this bike, but its not correct on a few things: Lafranconi pipes, Tarozzi rearsets, Marzocchi shocks, re-pop seat… It does have correct handlebar switchgear and turn signals, both of which are MIA on a lot of bikes.

    I could ALMOST see $25k for an all-original (non-restored) low miles living room queen, if I were drinking and in a good mood, but again, these bikes aren’t that hard to come by and they are pretty easy/cheap to restore if you aren’t trying for a nut/bolt correct restoration. $25k gets you a REALLY nice original V7 Sport (actually $20k gets you that, or at least it did a few years ago). V7 Sports have been worth significantly more than the Lemans in the last 15 years at least, so this price just doesn’t square with me, based on other Guzzi sales. But hey, I hope they get it, since I already have all the Guzzis I want sitting in my barn!

    Oh, and speaking of Cycle Garden… god bless those guys, here’s a great way to waste time:
    http://www.cyclegarden.com/guzzi_girls.php

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