Thursday, October 27, 2011

Noddy and The Dinosaur

An 850T is a fairly pedestrian motorcycle. It has very little power for an 850cc machine - not that surprising really when one considers that the engine's very recent ancestor graced a tractor - a small and rather nimble tractor, but still a tractor. The Italian machine also had no brakes to speak of - unless of course its early Brembo stoppers were in the mood to actually pull you up within the first 400 yards or so of your request for retardation and attempt to overcome the steam locomotive flywheel effect that on the open road just kept it going on and on and on...

But... with it's Tonti frame it handled, and the odd sidelong throb gave it something of an aura, a mystique; how does one describe it, this affinity man has for an inanimate object? The Italian sports car is a classic example. Ferrari, it's not a car, you'll hear some say, it's much more than that. It's alive. It's like living with a Picasso. Like a beautiful woman way out of your class - well, out of mine, anyway - who stays with you because you drive her crazy now and then. The Guzzi is like that. A bit. Sorta.

The 850T had another desirable feature - a compliance plate which allowed for all sorts of modifications not legal on later machines. Around this humble frame emerged my Guzzi Special. The engine was a well-warmed LM3 with 4 valve heads lifted from custom Le Mans with Stucchi bodwork into which slotted a standard engine and flogged to help finance the project. The forks were magnesium Marzocchis that I assembled from leftovers from one of Gowies racebikes. The tank was from an LM1, as were the instruments, and the seat was an Agostini. It had an 8" headlight from an early SR500. The diff was an 8:1 - the original 9:1 went bang when someone tried to wheelstand it. Cute front guard from some 250. Akront wire wheels with floating 320 Brembo's and matching calipers. Shocks most likely Konis.

The exhaust was a wonderfully crafted piece by Dennis Foran with a sound that sent you straight to heaven.

The 1000cc V-twin had a swiss-cheesed Agostini flywheel, fancy pistons to match the KCS heads, Carillo rods and a sensible camshaft. Bolted to the back of it were some German deliciosi. 44mm magnesium Bings. The gearbox was a straight cut close ratio unit I'd originally built up for our sadly departed racebike.

It took many years to collect all the bits, and several months to assemlble it all into a machine... a Machine.

The night we fitted the engine we wired it up and put a battery in it. It didn't whine a few times and cough. It didn't mumble WTF. It didn't miss and fart and offer something it really didn't want to give. It fired immediately, sang when blipped, and settled to a happy idle. Thoroughly civilized, but aching for the wild.

Frankenstein eat ya heart out!


They were waiting for me. I'd seen one lurking in mufti at the exit of a corner I usually scraped through, not so long after I'd thrown away my BMW at the roundabout up the road in front of a couple of startled dahlings. And I'd gone blasting past a group of HD hopefuls under the guidance of a Stay Upright instructor who was probably an ex-NSW Police training officer, bypassing most of them by shortcutting through the Double Bay shopping centre at 110db before cutting under one of the fledglings who was flumoxed by aroundabout, hurtled up towards New South Head Road straight past the ex-Plod and his not so Noddy bike. Not that I had such a good look at him, mind, I just figured it out long after the event. The getting of wisdom.

I was on the same route that Christmas Eve, had to get home, get changed, get somewhere else and was fairly cracking it, weaving fast through the evening traffic. A siren sounded behind. I couldn't believe it, how the hell could they be on me in all this. Doh!

A sergeant and a constable. The latter did the talking and threatened to have me drawn and quartered, at least. Do you know how fast were you going through the intersection of Summat and Other? Uh, I stammered, where. It was the roundabout I'd tossed the K100 across.

After a few more minutes - not a word as I recall from the sergeant - the constable tole me to consider yourself warned and drove off. I reflected on this as I put my helmet and gloves back on, staring at the blue and white sign on the Rose Bay police station 25 metres from the bus stop at which I'd halted.

That was 25 years ago. I've not had a ticket or been pulled over since.

I saw a photo of the bike recently. With touring bags not quite so elegant perhaps, but still delightfully retro. The chap who bought it from me had a rough trot. It blew the rings. Guilt abides.

It was the only motorcycle I ever had a name for.


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