< AllMoto's Motorcycle Investor mag


allmoto logo

Motorcycle Investor mag

Subscribe to our free email news


Moto Guzzi's big twins

(by Ian Falloon, Mar 2022)

Moto Guzzi 850

The bikes that saved Moto Guzzi

Although at one time Moto Guzzi led the world on the racetracks, all that ended in 1957. That year our own Keith Campbell gave Moto Guzzi their final World Championship, the 350cc title, but the next decade saw Moto Guzzi teeter on the brink of disaster.


During the 1950s Moto Guzzi prospered by producing large numbers of very ordinary motorcycles and Guzzi’s directors, wooed by complacency, completely underestimated the significance of the small car for mass transportation.


Whereas during the 1950s the Italians were clambering for basic motorcycles, when prosperity arrived in the mid-1960s they deserted motorcycles for cars, mainly the Fiat 500. Much of Guzzi’s plant and machinery was out of date, and Moto Guzzi almost followed dozens of other Italian manufacturers into extinction.


They were saved by the V7, a transverse 90-degree V-twin with shaft drive. Once upon a time Moto Guzzi was known for horizontal singles, but since 1967, the V7 layout has become the Guzzi trademark, and it continues to form the basis of all current modern Moto Guzzis.


The V7 engine was extremely advanced for its day, and apart from overhead camshafts and four-valves per cylinder, even the current 1400cc variants are remarkably similar. The all alloy engine included pushrod-operated overhead valves, with the camshaft situated between the cylinders.


Unlike most motorcycle engines of the time the one-piece steel crankshaft used plain big-end and two plain main bearings. Ignition was by battery and coil, with an automotive-type distributor driven off the rear of the camshaft.


The clutch and final drive followed automotive rather than traditional motorcycle practice. Bolted to the rear of the crankshaft was a flywheel housing a twin plate dry clutch, and the final drive was by shaft inside the right side of the swingarm. A universal joint was connected to the gearbox layshaft and the rear of the drive shaft to a pair of bevel gears. It was rugged and reliable.


With the United States the largest market for the V7, there were calls for more displacement, and for 1968 the engine grew to 757cc, for the 750 Ambassador.


The next evolution was for 1972, Guzzi’s big tourer becoming 850cc. Known as the 850 GT, or Eldorado, in America, this lasted through until 1974. The power was up to a respectable 65 horsepower at 6500rpm, there was now a five-speed gearbox, but some anachronistic features, such as the belt-driven Marelli dynamo, remained.


The chassis was inherited from the V7, the large loop frame designed for strength rather than lightness, with 18-inch wheels front and rear. Some examples retained the V7’s double leading shoe front brake, while others included the more effective four leading shoe type of the contemporary V7 Sport.


One thing that didn’t change was the size and weight. The 850 GT was built to last, and weighed a considerable 235kg. Even so, it was capable of a respectable 190km/h in the right conditions, and was the mainstay of Guzzi’s line-up during 1972 and 1973.


By 1974, a disc replaced the front drum brake, but by now Alessandro De Tomaso was in control and a new era of production rationalisation had begun. De Tomaso wanted to end all twin cylinder production to concentrate on the Honda-derived four and six-cylinder models and the 850 GT was the last of the traditional large loop-frame Guzzis.


But as tradition dies hard at Mandello, this wasn’t the end of the twin. While the multis withered away, the big twin survived, but not the loop-frame 850 GT and Eldorado. Replaced by the 850 T, the next generation of twins had the more sporting Tonti frame and this would see Guzzi through the next couple of decades.


While not particularly rare, the Moto Guzzi loop-frame big-twins, like the 1972 850 Eldorado shown here, still offer exceptional cruising ability with long-term reliability.


They were designed to run for long mileages, and with big seats and high handlebars provide exceptional touring comfort. Other Guzzis may be more glamorous, but the loop-frame twins are for the touring cognoscenti.



Falloon on Facebook

Falloon website

More features here

See the bikes in our shed


Produced by AllMoto abn 61 400 694 722
Privacy: we do not collect cookies or any other data.

allmoto logo

Try our books...

Travels with Guido

twitter allmoto








Email newsletter


News archive


Our Bikes stories

Travels with Guido columns


About AllMoto

Email me