The basis for every Moto Guzzi V-twin comes from an Italian Ministry of Defense requirement for an all-terrain three wheeled tractor. The factory came up with a then-unique 754cc pushrod V-twin power unit. Although only delivering 20 horsepower at 4,000rpm, the engine was capable of producing mountains of torque. Period late 1950s images show the 3x3 trike fitted with tracks to its rear wheels climbing almost vertical surfaces. Someone, somewhere realizes the innate potential of the transverse engine.
Come the early 1960s and Moto Guzzi is looking for a new large capacity motorcycle and the 3x3 engine receives a makeover to deliver a 700cc powerplant that’s fitted into a new frame to produce a 50 horsepower machine that debuts at the 1965 Milan Motor Show.
Subsequent road tests show just how good the machine is; fast, happy to rev yet blessed with a fairly linear torque curve. Handling is excellent and the motorcycle comes with an electric start as standard with no kickstart fitted. The motorcycle rivals BMW in some areas and outperforms it in others. The success is in no small part due to the genius that is Ing. Giulio Cesare Carcarno, the man who designed the legendary V8 Guzzi racer.
Eventually the engine expands to 757cc and wows the all-important American police departments, deposing the homespun Harley-Davidson; Moto Guzzi appoints Lino Tonti who reworks the engine removing the belt driven generator from between the cylinders and installing a Bosch unit on the front-end of the crank.
With serious revisions to the chassis the blueprint of every Moto Guzzi V-twin to the modern incarnation is laid down. From here the legendary Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is born, leading to the S series and ultimately the Le Mans models and in parallel the touring T-series gives rise to the Moto Guzzi California range. Factor in the small twins and you’d be correct in assuming Moto Guzzi did rather well off the back of a military three-wheeled tractor!
When you ride a Moto Guzzi you need to get your head around the torque reaction you experience. Some people (mainly those who’ve never ridden them) will tell you the torque reaction from that transverse engine makes riding big Moto Guzzi’s difficult. In reality this is total not true; other than the rather worrying yet strangely satisfying twitch at tick-over they’re simply gentle giants.