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And now for something completely different: A 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassador V750

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  • And now for something completely different: A 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassador V750

    A quick glance through the Member Build threads shows a very heavy slanting towards American machines. A couple of British machines have snuck in, but that's about it. One of the things I enjoy so much about the AMCA is that it is not brand or country of origin specific. Considering I'm "working from home" for the foreseeable future, I thought I'd share some pictures from a rebuild I did on my '69 Moto Guzzi about a decade ago.

    Let's start with the obvious -- Moto Guzzi is an old and respected niche brand. They've been around since 1921 and are well known for building robust bikes. I once read an article that described Guzzi as the "stone axe" of motorcycles -- simple, intuitive, and strong. I'd have to agree.

    My love affair with Guzzi stretches back 40 years to when I first saw Magnum Force. The police rode Guzzi's in the movie and I was hooked. Flash forward 20 years and I was on a street corner in Paris when a gorgeous, black loop frame was parked up. I was enthralled but it was to be ANOTHER 20 years before I finally bought a loop frame Guzzi.

    Our subject matter for this thread is an early 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassador V750. It carries a 13XXX vin, putting it in the first wave of 750s made in '69. This bike was left for dead near O'Hare Airport. It had come from Indiana and a glance at some crusty paperwork showed it had been in the Hoosier state since the early 70s. The odometer said 18,000 miles; it had a title, but it also had a disconcerning "clack" from the rear drive. Cosmetically, it was a mess and had ben poorly repainted. However, most of the major parts were present and I had been hunting a project. I bought it from a very, very young man who's negotiating skills were poor. His asking price was $2500 --- I walked away with the bike, clean paper work, and some spares for $800.

    What I got, was a pretty ugly bike.





    As compared to what a Guzzi is supposed to look like (well, a V700 with Anne Margaret):

    Last edited by chuckthebeatertruck; 04-13-2020, 01:02 PM.

  • #2
    As with most rebuilds or restorations, the first question is often "where do I get parts?"

    For some reason, there's a bit of mythology about parts availability for Guzzi. Whilst it can be difficult to find spares for many Italian brands, Guzzi is not one of them. In this regard, an amazing variety of parts are available new for loop frames, including most everything you can want for the motor. The only tough bits to find are transmission internals. Otherwise, this is one bike you can rebuild rather easily at home. Over the past decade of Guzzi ownership (I also have a '79 SP1000 and '89 Mille GT) I have really come to rely on MG Cycle in Wisconsin for the majority of my new parts. Harpers Moto Guzzi in Missouri has been fantastic for NOS and obscure parts. Cycle Garden in California is excellent for obscure parts and big bore kits.

    The other shock in working on a 60s Guzzi is the quality of the bike. The fit and finish are excellent and aftermarket parts don't have to be fettled. They fit and work as original. Fasteners are all high quality and even neglected bikes don't fight too much.

    And, the enthusiast network is strong for Guzzi. Start by purchasing a copy of Guzziology (just google it!) and then find Greg Bender's site on This Old Tractor. Between those two -- you have hours of self education before turning a wrench. Greg has made available most of the factory shop manuals for the loopframes and has all sorts of info and pics on his site to help you out.

    Armed with a bit more knowledge, I tore into the bike. I knew every single component needed some type of attention, so we started tearing it fully apart.







    • #3
      more tear down







      • #4
        Once we got the basic stuff off the bike . . . that's when we started discovering things about the previous owners.

        The one that sticks in my mind the most is the homemade generator bracket. It was rough burned out of 1/4 inch steel and held in place with JB weld and . . . a teaspoon. Seriously, they wedged a teaspoon under the generator bracket to take up space. And that was just one of about 20 different "wtf?" hacks I found in taking the bike apart.

        Here's the generator spoon!




        Otherwise, it was a pretty straight forward tear down. The best part is that I sorted the parts as they came off and decided what would be replaced and what would be rebuilt. I sold almost all the replace parts on fleabay and recouped almost my the entire purchase price on the bike. Not bad.




        • #5
          just more tear down photos







          • #6
            We got it down to a bare frame in about 3 hours -- even with bagging and tagging the parts. Like I said, Guzzi's are put together well and even when neglected, tend not to fight too much.







            • #7
              I normally complete the chassis first -- and then the powertrain. The Ambo was no exception.

              We started with the front forks. They are a bit challenging to disassemble without special tools, but not terribly so. Thankfully, they were just dirty and all the bushes were in good order.


              The swing arm bearings needed cleaning and repacking, the u joint needed rebuilding (replacment crosses are widely available and a rebuild is exactly the same as any u joint), but the whopper was the rear drive.

              Guzzi uses a crown and pinon rear drive instead of a chain a sprockets. The crown wheel is held to the carrier by several bolts with lock tabs. In the first series of bikes, Guzzi did not include a cush drive. This means the rear drive takes a hammering and much of that force hits the crown wheel. Long story short -- one of the bolts backed out and got whipped around the rear drive. It broke one rib and took the ends off several ring gear teeth. So . . .that explained that clacking noise I heard pushing the bike around.




              Believe it or not, rebuilding the rear drive is not as daunting as some would have you believe. If you've ever rebuilt an open differential -- you can tackle this. All the shims and other parts are available new. I did use a set of used gears in rebuilding this unit; but that's only because the 8/35 aftermarket gears are widely known to be of poor quality. Most Guzzi shops as of 24 months ago WILL NOT warranty a rebuild using those gears (if they will even use them.). I'm not sure if this has changed as I haven't looked into the subject in 2+ years.


              • #8
                part of the chassis rebuild process was simply polishing all the alloy and stainless bits. Most of it was neglected, but thankfully not destroyed. The longest part was sanding the gouges out of the original alloy rims and polishing 80 spokes and nipples!



                nickle plating the brake rods.jpg

                All of the chrome was shot on the bike -- so I replated most things in nickle. That's the frankenstein set up in the above photos. It's not real difficult for an amateur to get pretty good results off home nickle plating. It turns a lovely buttery silver color that I prefer to chrome . . .but that's me. It's also way cheaper to plate yourself :-)

                The few parts I didn't replate, like the safety bars, handlebars, and fender mount were instead replaced with new parts. It was actually cheaper to buy new than to replate!

                The hardware was really crusty and rather than replate it; I replaced it. In this case, I bought a complete fastener kit in polished stainless steel -- which made my life very easy.

                All in all, we were ready to strip the metal and refinish the chassis in record time.

                The chassis went into primer in early spring. I remember it was unusually warm, so I took a day off work, cleaned out the garage and got to priming.




                • #9
                  Paint work went fine until the very end. The chassis got blocked and the primer leveled. Black sealer, black base coat . . . and then I screwed up.

                  I don't remember the exact sequence, but suffice to say I accidentally added way, way too much gold pearl flake into the clear. The original goal was to give it just a hint of metallic -- which is normally about 1/10th of a teaspoon . . .well, I added way more than that. The moment I laid the first pass I realized what happened, and just went with it.






                  At first, I was a bit heartbroken. To get that far into a paint job to screw up at the end was sort of a let down. The paint looked weird . . . but as the clear dried and I took the parts out into the sun, my disappointment faded. The chassis wound up being almost iridescent. It completely changes color depending on the sun angle and time of day. I have really grown to like it over the last decade -- though there's no way I'd do it twice. It's nearly impossible to touch up!


                  • #10
                    Assembling the chassis was pretty straight forward. At the time I built this bike, I had recently gone through a divorce and had been forced to sell almost all my tools and shop equipment to pay the bills. As a result, the only "machine tool" used in this whole rebuild was a crappy bench mount drill press (and I mean crappy). I used basic handtools for everything else. I didn't even have a lift at the time so this one got built on one of my favorite "stands" -- an H shoped made of 2x12s and a 2x4 to fit the frame rails. I built many a bike on such a stand before scraping together enough cheddar to replace my tools!





                    head on shot of frame.jpg


                    • #11
                      I did make some deviations from stock.

                      First, I added a "police" dash to the bike. I like them better. There you go.

                      I also added dual filament turn signals front and rear for marker lamps and directionals.

                      Otherwise, it's straight up Moto Guzzi.




                      I then tackled the body work. Normally, an Ambo of this vintage would have different color fenders to the tank -- often white or silver fenders and a black, white, or red fuel tank. The tanks also had big chrome panels at the knees. Well, the chrome was shot on this bike -- and I decided to not spend $400 on having the tank redone. Instead, I decided on a two tone paint scheme. House of Kolor Majic Blue Pearl over White, with a dual width gold pinstripe to separate the fields.



                      I also painted up a set of BUCO hard bags for the bike . . .but rather than going solid, they too got a two tone treatment.


                      • #12
                        With the chassis done; I got down to power train.

                        The transmission needed nothing but cleaning and new seals.

                        The clutch just needed a new disc due to oil contamination -- otherwise, it wasn't even close to 1/2 worn.

                        The motor was similar. All the bearings showed contamination (no oil filters on an Ambo) but not wear. The original chrome cylinders had just a bit of pitting started and so we replaced them with a big bore kit from Cycle Garden. The only other part that needed attention was the oil pressure relief valve. It was blowing down pressure as soon as 10psi -- when it is supposed to hold to 50. I traded a set of original reflectors to Charlie Mullendore (Antietam Classic Cycle) in exchange for his "tuning up" the valve for me. It was a good deal for both of us.

                        With that done, I cleaned everything and laid it out on the bench for reassembly:






                        • #13
                          motor shots for the gear heads




                          piles of clean bits 1.jpg

                          timing marks set.jpg


                          • #14
                            It was all down hill from the motor assembly.

                            different front view.jpg

                            Front quarter.jpg

                            left side three quarter.jpg

                            rear three quarter view.jpg

                            Right side.jpg

                            We're not 100% done here . . but getting close.

                            And, if you are the curious sort -- that hulking orange beast is the actual Chuck the Beater Truck. I just use his name in vain.


                            • #15
                              So, those photos were about 10 years ago. In the last decade, I've covered a bit over 11,000 miles and had the following challenges:

                              1) I broke a brake return spring in the rear. That was the third season I had the bike on the road.

                              2) The condenser came loose and limited my high rpm one day. That took 30 seconds to fix on the road side.

                              3) I melted down the horn relay in traffic, which still confounds me.

                              4) The left header nut kept coming loose until I used some high temp Copper RTV on it.

                              5) In the first 2000 miles, I went through 3 brand new alternators. Never did figure out the issue, but the gents at Scrambler Cycle (who sell the converstion kit) stood behind their product and sent me replacement units. I have since had no issues with the alternator.

                              Overall, this is a remarkably trouble free bike. It's one of my "go to" bikes and gets ridden at least once a week.

                              From several years, I also ran BUCO hard bags on the bike. I recently removed them and the rear crash bars because I was ready for a change.

                              alternative bucos from the right.jpg

                              ambo from the front.jpg

                              bucos from right side.jpg

                              bucos from the left.jpg

                              I also added an original style windshield a few years ago. I'm still not sure if I do or do not like the screen. I'm going to ride this season and see what I think.

                              With a bit of luck, this bike will go with me on the Badger Heritage National Road Run in August -- and I'll likely bring one of the Sportsters as a "Day 2" bike -- unless I just ride the whole way up -- in which case, the Ambo will get the nod.

                              It's not that the bike is so good at anything -- it's that it doesn't have any bad manners. It isn't fast, but it isn't slow. It is super easy to maintain and very reliable -- yet you don't feel the need to find something to fix. I get lots of compliments -- though most people have no clue what it is. And, it rides very well. Slow speed and high speed manuvering is excellent.

                              Every now and again, I catch myself thinking about Magnum Force . . . I'm still learning my limitations.

                              Hope you enjoyed a little distraction and that I see you on on the road once this Pandemic Thing passes.