Anyone who’s considered building a traditional café-racer has probably stumbled upon Benjie Flipprboi’s site at some point. As Benjie’s Café Racers, he produces a wide array of good looking bolt-on parts from his Corona, California base—and he builds pretty desirable bespoke motorcycles to boot.
This 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassador—dubbed “Urban Tractor”—is BCR’s latest project, inspired by Benjie’s fascination with dual-sport bikes. “We envisioned a motorcycle that you can ride on the street in style, one that you can ride through rough roads with, and most of all, one you can just have fun with. We wanted an urban commuter and a weekend back roads adventure bike.”
The Ambassador might not be the most popular choice as custom Guzzis go, but Benjie was specifically after something unusual—yet simple and tough. A couple of weeks of trawling online classifieds eventually produced this ’69-model on Craigslist, and the call was made. “I know these loop frame Moto Guzzis are heavy and are set up more as cruiser police-touring bikes, but we wanted a challenge—we wanted to build something different.”
Benjie had his work cut out for him though—the Ambassador had undergone an incomplete rat-rod style conversion, complete with solo seat and tons of flat black rattlecan paint. Even worse, the motor was knocking and blowing white smoke.
As soon as the Guzzi was in the BCR shop, it was stripped down to its bare essentials to begin planning and mocking up new parts. The first step was the fuel tank: “Though we like how the stock Ambassador gas tank looks, it was just too big for what we had in mind. And for us, it wouldn’t be a custom bike if it had a stock gas tank.”
A new tank was made from scratch out of aluminum—narrow, long and with knee indents and a Monza cap. BCR angled the bottom edges of the tank to match the Guzzi’s transverse-V heads, and set it up to work with the stock petcocks and mounting tabs. The tank was finished in bare aluminum for a tough, low-maintenance feel, with black scallops and gold outlines.
Moving to the front, new fork covers were fabricated, along with a custom headlight shroud to fill in the gap between the triple trees. It houses a 5” headlight with a one-off stainless steel headlight grill. Up top is the original Ambassador speedo casing, powder-coated matte black to match the rest of the build.
To keep things lightweight, fiberglass fenders were made up. The front is mounted high for “that enduro look”, via stainless steel rods, and the handlebars are re-purposed Honda motocross units that were lying around in the shop.
BCR shaped a new seat in the “banana style of the ’70s”, using fiberglass again for the seat pan and wrapping it in high-density foam and cowhide. It was designed to transition smoothly with the fuel tank at the front, and to attach to the frame using existing tabs. Behind it is a hand-crafted luggage rack and tail light housing.
“We usually hide the electrical components when we build a project bike,” says Benjie, “but on this bike, we wanted to expose everything.” The side covers were ditched, and the massive battery mounted in a new aluminum box, secured by a leather strap. The original 45-year-old Magneti Marelli voltage regulator was moved to the rear fender, and the stock toolbox painted jet black to match the frame.
The Ambassador’s engine was so bad, that a replacement was considered—but the bike had matching engine and frame numbers, so BCR decided to work with what they had. An extensive tear down and rebuild was undertaken, including new pistons and cylinders from Gilardoni. The heads and oil pump had to be rebuilt, and re-installed with new clutch plates, gaskets and seals, and bigger bearings. BCR also ditched the stock, grimy Dell’Orto carbs for a set of 34mm flatslide items.
Since Moto Guzzi designed the Ambassador as a cruiser, the stock exhaust and pegs are rather low-slung. Knowing that this would be a problem on dirt roads, everything was raised by 5”, and a new stainless steel exhaust system fabricated. Finishing touches included heat shields and a skid plate to protect the front of the engine from debris.
BCR’s “Urban Tractor” certainly ticks all the right boxes as a quirky, do-anything vintage machine. “We had fun building this bike,” says Benjie. “It’s simple, fun to ride, and it’s something different.”
And if that’s not enough, Benjie has some great upgrades planned—including a rack for a skateboard or longboard, and a leather saddlebag. Sounds good to me.