Quick, name an iconic air-cooled V-twin motorcycle!
Shout that at a motorcycle rally, and you’ll hear the usual suspects: Harley-Davidson models of all kinds, or maybe a Ducati Monster, if someone’s feeling cheeky. But there’s another contender, and that’s the Moto Guzzi V7.
The V7 series is one of the longest-running lines in motorcycle history, with roots in the late 1960s. You can buy one brand-new off the showroom floor today, or if you head over to Bring a Trailer, you can put in a bid on this 1970 Moto Guzzi V7 Special—a rare variant of the earliest V7 model.
An evolutionary engine
When the V7 came along in 1967, Moto Guzzi was going through major changes. Founder Carlo Guzzi had died a few years previously, and after some turmoil, SEIMM (Società Esercizio Industrie Moto Meccaniche, an Italian receiver) took over control. One of the first machines SEIMM introduced was the V7, powered by an air-cooled transverse V-twin. Or, a longitudinal V-twin to some—journos and persnickety readers have been arguing about this for years.
Whatever you want to call the design, the V7 engine has an extremely interesting history. The V-twin originated as an automotive project in the early 1960s, as a potential powerplant for a sporty version of the Fiat 500. That plan fell through when Moto Guzzi was deemed unable to meet production demands. The designers then pivoted, re-configuring the engine to usage in a military all-terrain vehicle design.
Then, in the mid-1960s, Moto Guzzi became involved with development of a new police motorcycle. In this write-up, Piaggio Group tells us Italian authorities wanted a bike that would go 100,000 miles with low maintenance costs. That project resulted in the V7 700, with production for law enforcement and overseas markets beginning in 1966, according to Piaggio Group. In 1967, the V7 became available for Italian domestic buyers.
Supposedly, the V7’s law enforcement sales came at a moment of national embarrassment, after the president considered purchasing Harley-Davidsons as the mount of choice for his motorcade. Whether or not that’s true, the domestic law enforcement sales were the first key to the design’s success.
For civilian buyers, the original V7 was an easy choice. It offered the always-desirable combination of reasonable pricing, reliability, and performance. By today’s standard, the original V7 would be underpowered and heavy for a performance bike (40 horsepower, weighing over 500 pounds), but it was decent for the late ’60s, certainly comparable to similar serious bikes from BMW. Brit bikes were lighter, and some made more power, but the Guzzi’s shaft drive and six-gallon fuel tank made it ideal for someone who wanted to put in long days and big miles on the bike.
The original four-speed 700 cc engine was a Giulio Cesare Carcano design, but the V7 Special seen here was an updated 757 cc version, refined by Lino Tonti. Tonti came from a racing background; Guzzi brought him on board to develop the V7 further, and that’s what he did. The Special was the first of a few V7 variants he designed, making 45 horsepower from the big-bored engine. Later, he improved the engine even more for the V7 Ambassador and California models, and his greatest creation, the much-altered V7 Sport (which finally brought a five-speed gearbox).
Since those earliest editions, the V7 has soldiered on in the Moto Guzzi lineup. The current version is closely based on the V85 model, with displacement growing to 850 cc — see more details here.
What made the Special so special?
When the Moto Guzzi V7 Special hit the scene in the late ’60s, motorcycles with big fairings weren’t as common as today, especially from Europe. The idea of a large highway tourer with lots of wind protection was mostly an American idea; much of the V7 series’ inspiration came from the US, and the Special emphasized that.
Supposedly, the Special was only produced for three years, making it a fairly rare bike.
What about this bike?
Like most of the machines on BaT, this 1970 edition is very clean. The ad says it has undergone extensive restoration work in 2020, including frame-up painting, chrome replating, and lots of polishing. The forks and aluminum wheels (stainless steel spokes) have been serviced to good running condition. The bike runs on Vee Rubber tires (for that period-correct look). There’s still a set of period-correct drum brakes, too, front and rear.
The engine also had an overhaul, with “new pistons, bearings, valve seats, and gaskets in 2020. Additional work reportedly included polishing the covers, overhauling and tuning the twin Dell’Orto carburetors, and rebuilding the clutch as well as the starter and dynamo.” The gearbox also got new bearings, and the cables, lighting and locks have all been replaced. When the work was done, the odometer was re-set to zero, apparently, and total mileage is unknown. The bike does come with a clear California title in the seller’s name, though.
It’s in good shape, and it’s a rare machine—but how desirable is it? Perhaps unfairly, Moto Guzzi doesn’t have the same cachet as a vintage Ducati. Like any Bring a Trailer bike, the sale price will probably be decently high, but it’s possible this machine may prove a better bargain than a similar significant model from more exotic Euro competition.