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1967 Moto Guzzi V7 – Past Perfected

1967 Moto Guzzi V7 front angleGeorge Dockray thought it might be fun to own the classic 1967 Moto Guzzi V7.  Perhaps he never foresaw how much “fun” it was actually going to be.

What if you could take a classic motorcycle, and without changing its soul, bring its reliability and functionality fully up to date, and retain its character while consigning its orneriness to the garbage? That’s essentially what dedicated Guzzisto George Dockray has done for the Mandello maker’s first V-Twin the 1967 model V700.

Moto Guzzi’s 700cc V-Twin famously traces its roots to the Mulo Meccanico, a “3 x 3” (three-wheeled, three wheel drive) military vehicle designed to go just about anywhere. Guzzi’s Giulio Cesare Carcano designed the Mulo and its powerplant—an air-cooled 90-degree V-Twin with overhead valves.

The engine found a ready home in Carcano’s next project: a touring motorcycle. It was the largest capacity motorcycle Guzzi had ever built (all its previous road machines having been singles), but a growing awareness of the huge market for big bikes across the pond led several Italian companies, like Laverda, Agusta and Ducati, to build bikes in the 700cc-plus category that US customers preferred. (It’s worth noting that many of those who ignored this imperative soon perished.)

One of the attractions across the Atlantic was the market for police motorcycles, as anti-trust laws required police forces to garner bids from more than one supplier. Eventually, the police versions of the 750cc Ambassador of 1970 and the 1972 850 Eldorado sold to US police forces at a rate of up to 5,000 a year.

To create the 1967 Moto Guzzi V7, Carcano mated the Mulo motor to a four-speed transmission through a dry single-plate, engine-speed clutch with final drive by a shaft that made up one fork of the swingarm rear suspension. The powertrain slotted into what has become known as the “loop frame,” a dual downtube structure that cradled the big twin, its lower tubes running alongside the oil pan. Electric power was provided by a car-style alternator sitting between the cylinders and driven from the crankshaft by a belt. Spoked wheels with drum brakes completed the specification.

1967 Moto Guzzi V7 red tankThe 1967 Moto Guzzi V7 styling was certainly intended to satisfy American tastes with deeply valanced fenders, crash bars, and a handsome cast alloy speedometer housing. With 50 hp and a dry weight of 500 lbs. (226 kg), it was comfortably inside the performance envelope of its US competition too, and sold well. 

“I thought it would be fun to have a Moto Guzzi V7, but being the first model, they had a lot of things that didn’t work so well,” says Dockray. “The engines didn’t really change that much, so you could make a much nicer motorcycle out of what would look almost indistinguishable from the original 1967. They took the same basic rig—engines, frames, gearboxes—and made it into all kinds of multi-role machines, from a cop bike to a road racer with basically the same platform.”

Dockray’s project, inevitably, started with a loop frame. All the loop frame bikes used a similar chassis, and Dockray suspects his, registered in 1973, was from a police Eldorado. 

“I had to saw off the siren bracket that used to be on it,” he says. After lengthy searches on eBay and help from Guzzi guru Greg Field, Dockray was finally able to track down the necessary parts to assemble a complete bike.

The original fork used a single-acting damper rod, which was pretty crude in operation. Some machining of the internals allowed fitment of a cartridge damper unit from a California-series Guzzi. The fork legs were also modified with the addition of lugs to locate the locking plate from a Guzzi four-leading shoe brake. 

The engine in Dockray’s bike originally powered a 1000 Convert, Guzzi’s automatic transmission cruiser. It now has a Megacycle cam and breathes through 36mm Dell’Orto pumper carbs but uses stock size Black Diamond valves fitted with lash caps. Dockray wanted to use the earlier single-breaker distributor, which again was an easy mix ‘n’ match. A sump extension increases oil capacity.

The engine drives through a stock five-speed Guzzi clutch and geartrain (from a California II) to a V7 type shaft drive, but the U-joints and carrier bearings have also been upgraded to the spec used on later disc-brake bikes. Dockray wanted to use the “pumpkin” rear axle casing from an Ambassador, but the Ambassador’s gearing was too low, so Dockray fitted taller gearing. 

1967 Moto Guzzi V7 riding shotThe electrical system was upgraded with a Nippon Denso alternator intended for a fork truck, while Dockray used his skill as an aircraft mechanic to create a new wiring harness using period cloth-wrapped wire, and instead of taping or shrink-wrapping, cables are laced together using waxed linen cord.  Fuses are eschewed with power distribution and circuit protection handled by a MotoGadget M-unit circuit monitor and electronic breaker. 

Dockray was lucky enough to find a new old-stock V700 chrome tank on eBay. The legshields were standard equipment on police and military bikes, and were also available as a factory accessory for civilian customers. Pretty much everything else is stock Guzzi—and the Hella bar end turn signals complete the period look.

“It has way more power than a stock Guzzi, and it has wonderful low speed handling,” says Dockray of the bike’s ride qualities. And even though the Megacycle cam is pretty lumpy, the performance is pretty docile. “You can be real lazy with it,” he says.  “You can just putt around, even with the 36mm carburetors. And if you’re on the highway and want to pass a couple of motorhomes, just grab a handful …”

Handling and braking are also first class says Dockray. “It’s very stable. And you won’t out-ride the tires before you start dragging all manner of stuff. The first thing that hits ground in the centre stand.”

So did Dockray achieve his goal of creating a motorcycle combining modern functionality with vintage character? Emphatically!

by Robert Smith Canadian Biker #293

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