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The Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans

Moto Guzzi 850 le mans
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The Moto Guzzi 850 Le mans engines are icons.

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The V twin, conceived as early as the 1950s - and once as a possible drive for the Fiat 500 / 600 - was conceived by Giulio Cesare Carcano.


Bravely raced with those V twins

But the 'walking frame' (eng.: 'Loop frame') mainly caused limitations due to its height. About twenty years later, Lino Tonto developed the V7 sport with the now legendary Tonti frame.

There was also a prototype with 850 cc under it.

With that machine, Guzzi also gained experience with the combined braking system that the brand introduced. The name of that machine was 'Le Mans' with successful easy-going marketing. And that was again because the Bol d'Or was held at the 'Circuit de la Sarthe' in Le Mans at that time.

The Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans was presented at the Milan show in November 1975.

The design was straightforward, with a strangely drawn buddy seat. The thing was pretty bad because of the soft filling. The headlight was embraced by a small steering cockpit with fluorescent surfaces. Instead of the usual chrome, which was generally of poor quality in Italy, matte black paint was used. The quality and orphan resistance of it was about the same as Italian chrome, by the way.

The power was specified for 81 hp, but as usual by Italian standards, these were CUNA (Commissione Tecnica per l'Unificazionenell'Automobile), or SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) horsepower, measured without power guzzlers such as alternator and air filter. In the more user-friendly DIN horsepower, that amounted to such. 70 (declared) horsepower. The Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans did not have a real air filter, the Dell 'Orto's only had plastic suction chalices with a metal gauze to keep out hamsters and racing pigeons.

Unfortunately, the Italian obsession with conjuring up horsepower and top speeds was measurable: Even with a special racing kit with a hotter camshaft plus larger (40 mm) carburetors, the machine delivered no more than 72,5 DIN on the roller bench of the Delft University of Technology. pk. (source: Weekblad Motor). With completely open pipes and a modified sprayer occupation, that was howling 77,5 pk's. What made up for the 'lack of power' completely: The customers cheered about the steering behavior and the high top speed (due to the slender frontal silhouette.

Two series were built from the Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans

The first approx. 2.000 units had the well-known oval, and now best wanted, CEV rear lights that were used on almost all Italian motorcycles. The second series (approx. 4.000) had a rectangular rear light designed by the Tomaso, a rear fender adapted to that from front to back, matte black front fork, heat shields on the exhausts and a flatter passenger seat.

Although Moto Guzzi never made an official distinction in the name of the Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans, these series are also called "Mk1" and "Mk2". This is a phenomenon that has become more common among top toppers who received their successors.

And to prove how relative everything is: There was a time when no one was seen dead on the LeMans III types. But now they are also completely worthy of restoration.

In the meantime, there are also Guzzi Specialists like Lamers (TLM) and BCI who - often in the winter months - pick up a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans project. By the spring, a literal ZGAN will be on sale again.

And that those things are now about as expensive as they are fun? Ach: Better expensive than not for sale. And there is plenty of evidence that a LeMans that gets its maintenance from new can easily run 100D km without any problems.

Reborn
With the 'de Tomaso' rear lights

3 Comments

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  1. I've had one and it was really hard work. Saddle replaced at the time for a comfortable after market. Open outlets on it have air filters. Literally pop. The best part was a tunnel (peat road tunnel in Deventer) full throttle in it and halfway back all the way. That gave quite a bang and fireworks. You were young. I should never have gotten rid of one of my bikes that you now say.

    • Nice to put the Le Mans in the spotlight. The first saddle, however, had no filling, it was molded in one piece from a mold and was an 1 person's seat which was really good but soon tore at the transition to the higher part.
      There is a bit of compassion about the power, which was not bad at all for that time, 1976. The cylinder fill was even very exceptionally high, the engine had a beautiful torque flow. It is said that the engine can easily handle 100.000 km, you can easily double that. I have already put several guzzi's over 200.000km. My cali has already 2 6 0.000km without overhaul. I still have my 76 Le Mans, and it is the Le Mans that was featured in Motor magazine.

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