It’s quite common to see manufacturers getting into bed with custom builders these days. We’ve seen BMW hooking up with Roland Sands for the Concept 90, and Yamaha has joined forces with the Wrenchmonkees and Deus Ex Machina for a series of ‘Yard Built Specials’.
Until recently, this sort of thing was hush-hush. But an interesting story has just come to light regarding Filippo Barbacane of Officine Rossopuro, Italy’s leading Moto Guzzi customizer. And the postscript is this rather intriguing Bellagio-based custom.
Moto Guzzi’s star is firmly in the ascendant these days: The Piaggio-funded V7 roadster and California cruiser are attracting a new generation of fans to the marque. But ten years ago, Europe’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer was in serious trouble. It was then owned by Aprilia, which dragged the factory into the 21st century but failed to recreate the glory days of the 60s and 70s.
Moto Guzzi needed to recapture the spirit of the original V7 and Le Mans, which were poster bikes for the Italian industry. So Barbacane was called in to create a prototype. It was based on the California III, but reconfigured in the style of the original V7—with Öhlins upside-down forks and cafe racer bodywork.
“Unfortunately the time was not ripe for it,” Barbacane recalls. “Guzzi was not doing very well. The bike, despite being really liked, remained unfulfilled.” Since then, Barbacane has been waiting for the right time to reignite his vision for a new V7 Sport—but using a modern chassis and better suspension.
“I always imagined the Bellagio’s frame to be perfect for a new V7, equal to an old Tonti frame. So I was inspired to build this ‘special’ for a French client. It’s a motorcycle meant to be used, and not just looked at—with a comfortable riding position and a comfortable saddle.”
The twin-spark 935cc Bellagio V-twin is highly regarded and perfect for the purpose, so Barbacane has wisely left it alone. Instead, he’s focused on reshaping the Bellagio frame, simplifying the electrics, and creating new bodywork. The stock 45mm Marzocchi forks have been fitted with Brembo Serie Oro brakes with 320 mm discs and the exhaust system is new. The standard Excel alloy wheels have been modified to accept tubeless tires and the battery is now a lightweight li-ion item.
With around 75 hp on tap, I’m thinking this would be the perfect machine to fill the gap between today’s 48 hp Moto Guzzi V7 and the 90 hp Griso.