- California 3
- No. Cylinders:
- Build type:
- Engine size:
- Guildford, UK
- Days listed:
- 78 days
Tell us about your bike
A custom built by 2WheelsMiklos !!
Great matt black paint scheme.
less than 1000 Miles done since customisation.
The world of customised bikes is a platform for riders to extend their imaginations and to ride something unique. There is a special feeling about something you created, no-one else has and which attracts interest and envy everywhere you stop. Conceptually this is a very egalitarian phenomenon; however, as with most things in life some customs are “more equal than others”. So there is an exalted group of classic bikes which when customised tend to garner much more attention and value than the rest. Bikes like the Tritons (Triumph engine, Norton frame) of the sixties, the seventies Moto Guzzi Le Mans and R series BMW airheads.
Moto Guzzi was established in 1921 in Mandelo del Lario in northern Italy alongside Lake Como. For 45 years they were known as producers of horizontal singles. It was a successful company with a serious race pedigree. By 1966, however, they were in financial trouble and the company passed into the hands of the state controlled receiver. At this time a new engine was designed by Cesare Carcane - an air cooled,700cc, 90 degree, push rod, V-Twin with a longitudinal crankshaft and which made 34 hp. Its aim was to win an Italian state competition to supply a new police bike.Carcano’s successor, Lino Tonti, improved the engine and created a frame for it - known ever since as the “Tonti frame”. This was designed with a view to racing. It is light and strong and engineered for stiffness using short stiff tubes which allow the main backbone to pass through the V of the cylinders and connect the steering head to the swing-arm in the shortest possible distance.
The first Tonti framed V-twin was the 1967 V7 Sport – and in many ways this remains the basic design philosophy behind all subsequent Moto Guzzis. This bike evolved into two broad ranges. Firstly, relatively sporty bikes – slim, sexy, good handling and pretty fast. The Le Mans mini-faired models being the pinnacle of this. Then there was the Ambassador and California police and touring ranges. Superficially completely different and with a weight difference of some 60 Kg. But underneath the body work actually quite similar – same but detuned engines with smaller carbs and also based around a Tonti frame.
In the quest for an Italian classic or classic based custom, the sporty variant is highly regarded. This of course makes these relatively rare bikes very expensive – and question the wisdom of customising them. Alternatives are the less sought after models like the 850T or to think out of the box.
The Moto Guzzi engine gives it unique characteristics. Large capacity twin with huge torque, real speed and a certain beauty from the barrels splayed across the line of the bike. This makes it a natural for custom builders – especially of café racers but also other types.
Choosing to avoid the café racer clip-ons and rear-sets we decided to build a Guzzi tracker, but without incurring the cost of using an expensive donor bike. After some research it transpired that California IIIs (late 80s/early 90s) are relatively unloved – only a quarter the price of a Le Mans and half the price of an 850T. Whilst being cheap certain variants tick a lot of boxes: spoked wheels, twin front discs, carburetted (2 x Dell’Orto PHF 30s), 949cc engine (bore x stroke of 88 x 78 mm and compression is 9.2:1) and Tonti frame (with beefier 40 mm front forks than the 35 mm of the Le Mans). This infrastructure, however, is clothed in typical huge and heavy cruiser paraphernalia plus big restrictive exhausts.
We found a low mileage 1992 model with all the attributes we were seeking and still in good shape. We immediately stripped it of its cruiser clothes and confirmed what we had expected – to have a rolling chassis and engine perfect for our tracker project. To maximise our desired slimline look and really show off the splayed cylinders we had decided to use a Benelli Mojave tank – bought new in India. Added to this would be a café racer seat base we already had in the shop. To get the right line for these we had to add a pair of top rails above the Cali’s frame. The top of the bike was also now a lot shorter than the Cali had been. So the rear sub-frame was shortened and the mounting points for the shocks (Hagon Nitro piggybacks) moved forward and up. This finished the rear of the bike without having to resort to a rear fender.
Having got the design pinned down, the bike was completely stripped, necessary metal work done to the frame and then this was sand blasted and painted gloss black. Fork lowers polished and fork uppers ground and hard chromed (by Philpotts) and then black DLC coated (by Reactive Suspension). The objective was to be both slim line and much lighter. So anything superfluous was shed – centre stand, side panels, instruments, exhausts, fenders, lead acid battery replaced by lithium, floor boards, indicators…. We reckon we trimmed some 60 Kg from the Cali thus bringing its weight in line with the Le Mans and the 850T. Modified, but still simple and light number boards were used as side panels and as a head lamp mount. A tool box from a 1920s Harley was fitted to the right-hand rear to provide some storage.
The engine was thoroughly serviced and then painted gloss black with the rocker covers being polished. The carbs were sonically cleaned and then rebuilt. We fabricated old fashioned British pancake air filter holders to fit directly onto the stock Dell’Orto carbs. GP style exhaust pipes using the original chromed headers were fitted.
Foot pegs are after-market scrambler pegs and the linkages have been remade to suit. There are no rear pegs. Motogadget Blaze bar end mirrors and indicators have been fitted. Ignition is at the left-hand rear of the bike. A flattish narrow handlebar has been used and cables remade to suit. Front lights are LEDs and the rear light is an integrated tail light, brake light and indicators. It also provides the mount for the number plate. The instrument is an Acewell mini speedo/tachocombination mounted in a bespoke polished housing bolted to the top yoke. A Garmin GPS is also mounted there. The front fender is cut down from a Hinckley Bonneville. Wheels were rebuilt by the Hagon Wheel Department – black rims and hubs and new stainless spokes. Tyres are Michelin Pilot Activs. Brakes are the stock Brembos. The seat is tuck and Roll and upholstered and covered by P & D Customs. The body work paint is matt black with a matt gold and red check stripe – colours match those of the tank badge. Paint is by Tony of Cycle Sprays in Cranleigh.
From start to finish the project took some six months with the MOT being passed in June 2017. As the donor bike had been a runner, getting it going was relatively straightforward. Thenit was the typical challenges: balancing carburettors, setting up cold and hot starts, eliminating electrical gremlins, getting a smooth action from the gear change linkages etc….After a day or so of this fettling some 60 miles of shake-down riding in the Surrey sunshine has been completed by the time of writing. Lovely to ride, massive torque, responsive and light – and gains admirers everywhere we stop.