Showing posts with label Italian Classic Motorcycles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian Classic Motorcycles. Show all posts

Ducati Pantah 600

Ducati Pantah 600 1980s Italian classic sports bike

The Ducati Pantah was available in both 500 and 600cc forms. It was a technical stepping-stone for the Bologna marque. The 500 was launched in '79. The 600 appeared in '81. They would be an important blueprint for future development. As such, they ushered in more prosperous times for Ducati. When they were released, the firm was a little down at heel, financially.

Not that you had have known it by looking at the bikes. Fabio Taglioni made certain of that. One of the most esteemed engineers in motorcycle history, he had worked on the Ducati 500 V-twin GP bike. That was at the start of the Seventies. The machine's claim to fame was its toothed overhead cam belts. Taglioni now re-visited them - inserting appropriately detuned versions into the cylinder heads of the new Pantahs. They were smooth, reliable - and easy on the ear. Rightly, they allowed the V-twin exhaust set-up to assume aural centre stage. The rubber belts were cheap to manufacture, too. That was a boon to Ducati - who were keen to keep the price of the new bikes as competitive as possible.

Taglioni's delicate touch reached other areas, too. The Pantah's tubular steel trellis frame - and sensitive suspension - synced up to deliver steady as a rock handling. Its brakes came out of the top drawer, too. Brembo and Marzocchi had been sourced for the second to none cycle parts. Power output was impressive - without being awe-inspiring. The 600 made 58bhp - up from the 500's 52. However, those modest stats were aided by light weight. 415lb was all the 600 was shifting. As a result, 120mph was only just out of reach. And the shortfall was more than made up by the way it got to that speed. Surging acceleration had long been a Ducati hallmark. When the engineering excellence was aligned with typically Italianate styling, the Pantahs were on a sure road to success. A curvaceous half-fairing - and racy removable seat - lent poise and purpose to both front and rear ends. Ducati's dynamic duo had done their work well. In the wake of the Pantahs - both 500 and 600 - the firm was set fair to weather future economic squalls.

Laverda Montjuïc Mk2

Laverda Montjuic Mk2 1980s Italian classic sports bike

When you bought a Laverda Montjuïc Mk2, you got what it said on the tin. Well, on the side-panel, at any rate. Montjuïc Park was a mountain-based motor racing circuit in Barcelona, Spain. A street circuit, that is. Which told you most of what you needed to know about the machine you had just acquired. Conceptually, it modelled the Formula bikes Laverda built for their single-make race series.

Unfortunately, the racing concept was not entirely realised in the roadster. Laverda had enjoyed substantial success at Montjuïc - not least because of the sure-footed handling of their bikes. And - in terms of agility - the Mk2 came close to emulating the track tools' prowess. That was mainly due to its light weight, tubular-steel frame and Marzocchi suspension. Likewise, Brembo disc brakes helped replicate the racers' stop-on-a-sixpence precision. Even the high-speed weave - which had plagued the Montjuïc Mk1 - had been seen off by the Mk2's frame-mounted fairing.

What took the edge off the new Montjuïc was its speed - or lack thereof. As mentioned, the Mk2's manoeuvrability was razor-sharp. Straight-line speed - not so much. Throttle to the stop, the needle hovered around the 110mph mark. Whilst that was adequate, it hardly set the world alight. Though an ear-splitting exhaust note did what it could to redress the balance. To be fair, the Mk2 was powered by a 497cc parallel twin motor. Hardly cutting edge. Indeed, it ran without air-filtering - which might have sped things up a bit! For all that, a 'racer's crouch' riding position signalled the Mk2's intent. And the Montjuïc's high price tag seemed to promise lots of whizz for your lire. Anyway, its relative lack of power was offset by other virtues. It looked Laverda lovely, standing still. And the lines it carved through corners would have pleased a maturing Michelangelo. Just that pesky top speed stat let Laverda's side down a tad. Other than that, the Montjuïc Mk2 made hay in the Spanish sunshine. Before flying back to Breganze, Italy ... at 110mph!

Laverda 750 SFC

Laverda 750 SFC 1970s Italian sports bike

The Laverda 750 SFC was a production racer. Originally conceived to compete in endurance races, it went on to be a shining light on the roads as well. The 'C' in its name stood for competizione. While we are at it, the 'F' stood for freni, Italian for brakes. That referenced the improved drum sets, with which the SFC came equipped. Ceriani suspension sealed the roadholding deal - telescopic forks at the front and twin shocks at the rear. Always a good sign, the SFC won first time out. That was the Barcelona 24 Hours race - at Montjuic Park, Spain. The bike's bright orange paintwork was a cinch to spot, even at night - for both spectators and pit crew alike!

On the road, too, the SFC was a scintillating sight. 549 SFCs followed on from the prototype. A certain commitment was required of the rider - since they were far from 'ergonomically correct'. Low clip-on handlebars - and rear-set footrests - meant relaxation took a back seat to a racing crouch. And it was a single back seat, at that! At least the SFC's smart half-fairing was a concession to comfort - keeping the worst of the wind off. And - certainly in handling terms - the SFC was eminently user-friendly.

Potentially, SFC riders needed all the handling help they could get. The bike's parallel twin engine came with high-compression pistons - fueled by 36mm Amal carbs. A close-ratio 5-speed gearbox was fitted. Top speed was 125mph. An injudicious twist of the the SFC's throttle, then, and a race-style posture may well have proved welcome. Better a little discomfort than finding yourself lying upside down. The SFC weighed in at just 454lb - but that is a lot to pull out of a ditch! So, the Laverda 750 SFC was a true Seventies superbike. It combined impeccable Italian styling - and the technical wherewithal to keep it that way. Hopefully!

MV Agusta 850SS Monza

MV Agusta 850SS Monza 1970s Italian classic sports bike

Bikes named after racetracks need to be fast! In the case of the MV Agusta 850SS Monza, it was. Top speed was 145mph. That was quick for a road bike, in '77. Mind you, it did weigh in at only 429lb. Naturally, the engine had a lot to do with it, too. The Monza's cylinders were wider than its MV America predecessor. As a result, capacity was increased to 837cc. The compression ratio had also been raised. Plus, a Marelli distributor - and hotter cams - had been added. All in, power had risen to 85bhp - at 8,750rpm. Previously, the 750S America - built predominantly for the US market - had upped the ante from the 750 Sport. Now, the Monza had trumped them both.

In styling terms, the new MV was equally upbeat. It had 'café racer' written all over it. Low-set 'bars - and a humped-back seat - referenced MV's GP bikes. Not only had the great Italian marque won 17 top-flight titles - it won them on the spin. Now, that is domination! Sadly - for MV Agusta, at any rate - the advent of the Jap 2-stroke motor had put the mockers on it. Design-wise, the Monza's red and silver livery further enhanced its race-based brief.

Key to that brief was Arturo Magni. He was MV's chief engineer. Reporting to him were mechanics from MV's former 4-stroke race team. Taking MV's already cutting edge technology, Magni meted out still more modifications to the Monza. Among them were a free-flowing exhaust, a chain-driven conversion from the standard shaft-drive and a bigger-bore kit. In turn, Magni's twin-loop frame firmed everything up. Under Arturo's tutelage, top speed and acceleration had both improved. Handling, too, was a beneficiary - since power delivery was smoothed out. The MV Agusta 850SS Monza was an impressive motorcycle with factory settings. Magni's magic mods made it yet better!

Ducati 250 Desmo

Ducati 250 Desmo 1970s Italian classic motorcycle

Ducati's 250 Desmo was a nailed down design classic! The famous firm began in Bologna, in '26 - producing electrical parts. That might generate a few wry grins amongst bikers of a certain age. Italian machines have traditionally been praised more for aesthetic than technical perfection.

Ducati's signature set-up, back in the day, was 'desmodromic'. It saw engine valves closed by cams - rather than springs. That provided more precise control of valvegear moving parts. For a marque so synonymous with styling, 'desmo' was definitely a feather in Ducati's cap. The 250 was the baby of the newly engineered range. Though of reduced capacity compared to its bigger siblings, the 250 was still blessed with a fair lick of speed. Indeed, it fell just a tad short of the totemic 'ton'. In handling terms, too, the 250 had plenty in its favour. Weighing in at less than 300lb - and with finely-tuned suspension - its rubber side remained resolutely glued to the tarmac. Saying that, clip-on 'bars, rear-set footrests and a solo seat coaxed riders into finding the limits of adhesion!

The Desmo was designed by Leo Tartarini. He drew the 250 with simple, strong lines. They were all that was needed. The bike had dynamism built-in - by dint of its 'racy' parts list. So, the 250 was as strong visually, as it was technically. Certainly, its desmodromic valve-train was a key asset. But, it also possessed poised and purposeful looks - belying its size. Dimunitive it may have been, but the Ducati 250 Desmo married technological innovation with innate good looks!

Benelli 750 Sei

Benelli 750 Sei 1970s Italian classic motorcycle

It is a truism that the Italians are past masters of design. In engineering terms, too, they have often been ahead of the game. How far the latter held true for the Benelli Sei, though, is a moot point. For sure, the Sei was visually impressive. Six-cylinder bikes usually are. The jury was out, though, in the court of motorcycle performance stats.

Certainly, the Sei's engine looked superb. For non-Europeans, by the way, sei is Italian for six. As did its twin sets of triple-stacked exhaust pipes. When it came to horsepower, however, it was another story. Even by '75 standards, the Sei's top speed of 118mph was hardly earth-moving. Not for a six-cylinder sports bike, anyway. In the market-led surge of Seventies superbikes, Benelli's rivals all supplied quicker machines. And Ducati, Laverda and Moto Guzzi needed half as many pots. Or less!

It was not like Benelli did not know how to make bikes go fast. After all, they had been GP 250cc world champions, in 1950. And then again, in '69. But - at least in the case of the Sei - race success did not trickle down to the roadster. Saying that, the sleek contours of the Sei's 'six-pack' bodywork certainly helped. So far as buyers were concerned, they went a long way toward offsetting what the Benelli Sei lacked in the 'go' department!

Moto Guzzi Falcone

Moto Guzzi Falcone 1950s Italian classic motorcycle

The Moto Guzzi Falcone was one of the most successful machines in the firm's history. It flew onto the European bike scene in 1950. Falcone was fitting - since Moto Guzzi's emblem is an eagle. That was decided when one of the founders - Giovanni Ravelli - was killed in a plane crash. In tribute, his two partners co-opted the winged insignia of their air corps.

The Falcone was the latest in a line of flat-single-cylinder bikes from Guzzi. They took in everything from luxury tourers to pared-down racers. Twin versions of the Falcone were offered - Sport and Touring. They kept the Falcone flag flying until '76 - a full 26 years after its launch. It became an icon on Italian roads. In Sport mode - with its flat 'bars and rear-set footrests - the Falcone was an impressive sight. Its fire-engine red paintwork was eye-catching, to say the least. Ordinarily, top speed was 85mph. But the cognoscenti knew that a sprinkling of Dondolino engine parts served up an appetising 100mph. With a bracing shot of low-down grunt as an apéritif.

The blueprint for the Falcone's 498cc engine was drawn in 1920. Back when Carlo Guzzi designed the first of the bikes that would bear his name. The 4-stroke motor - with its horizontal cylinder - had plenty of stamina. It just kept on going - whatever was asked of it. Moto Guzzi has been around for a century now. Its products have always been stylish - but with a homely feel, to boot. Borne up by their ever-loyal fan base, here is to another 100 years of gorgeous Guzzis. And more bikes with the finesse of the Falcone!