It's been close to a decade since the old Loud, Fast, and Red column appeared and two recent conversations have spurred a series of articles of which this is the first. Recently Nolan Woodbury mentioned how helpful those old articles were in curing his chronic insomnia and the second was with a gentleman who referred to my 1000S as "an older Guzzi", presumably model unknown. Whaddayamean? This is my NEW bike!
Rather than do a rehash of old magazine articles, ("This grandpa moves out" - Motorcyclist) and quotes from the various books, this article will deal primarily with my own bike's history, and the indignities it's endured.
The first 1000S I ever saw belonged to the late Jim Stroh, and I thought it was indescribably homely. Green frame, uglified V7 Sport styling, CX100 tank and sidecovers, ghastly lighting equipment, heart-shaped dash, spoke wheels; what were they thinking of? Bring back the Le Mans!
Over time, the model's color scheme and styling grew on me (sort of like foot fungus), and a ride on a '91 was a real revelation primarily due to the handling. Those stupid spoke rims did save a lot of weight compared to the normal Guzzi boat anchors of the period, the forks worked well, and even the spring rate on the Konis wasn't ridiculously stiff. The bike itself was pure LeMans, it just looked weird and handled better.
There're two versions and several variations of this model; the '91-'92 models came in either black frame/black and orange bodywork, or green frame/green and black bodywork with the engine from the LeMans V.
The '93 models were green/green and black only with the detuned motor found in the SPIII, Strada, and carb California which means smaller carbs, valves, and lower compression pistons. While the flywheels are different due to the electrics, I don't know offhand if they weigh the same.
The early model also had a mixture of Bosch and Saprisa electronics while the "world engine" '93s switched over to Ducati. All models featured the excellent CEV switchgear which I understand is a copy of Honda parts or something along those lines!
In a way, the machine was a parts bin special, as some had the LeMans I dashboard, some had cast wheels, they had the aforementioned CX100 tanks and modified sidecovers, and the bizarre headlight, taillight and turn signals appear to have come from an aborted 175cc export model destined for Zimbabwe. Another odd feature is the notched swing arm with a skinny rear rim so you can't fit a wide rear tire.
Out of the blue, Rod Dickson from Hawaii called me up to see if I still wanted to buy his black and green '91 1000S and shortly thereafter his "Italian girlfriend" showed up on my doorstep, covered with salt and road filth from a three week cross country trip on the outside of a truck in the middle of winter! Needless to say, this didn't do much for the bike's finish.
Underneath the grunge, the bike was primarily stock, save for Dyna coils and ignition, V7 Sport auto advance springs, a LeMans III crossover, Frentubo rocker lines, an alloy alternator cover, and stainless hardware. With only 4500 miles or thereabouts on the clock, the bike was just about broken in and only needed a few little things.
I stripped it down to the bare frame and shot that and the swing arm with Morton's Green TGIC powder (John Deere green, no fooling) which is a brighter green than the stock paint but is a perfect match for the green on the bodywork. All of the chrome was blasted off and shot in Mirror Black powder, all of the rest of the black on the bike (save the bodywork) was shot in Bumper Black powder while the fork sliders, triple tree, spacers, motor/gearbox mounting bolts, handlebar controls, headlight rim, etc. were shot with Stardust Silver powder.
For good measure, the rear drive and engine were stripped for a little recreational Gun and Gear Koting. If you're unfamiliar with this, Gear Kote is a dry film moly lubricant which gets sprayed and then baked in an oven to keep the part slippery for life and Gun Kote is another spray and bake paint which both dissipates heat and prevents corrosion.
I believe only the pistons, valve stems, and tappets were Gear Koted on this one and the rear drive, heads and alternator cover were done in stainless steel Gun Kote, the cylinders, sump and spacer, timing cover and exhaust flanges were done in gloss black Gun Kote and the valve covers were done in both black and clear Gun Kote.
I also hit the rust-prone discs with black Gun Kote and then did the rotor buttons, spring washers and circlips in powder as they were all crusting away into garbage. These rotors were really bad and would coat the entire front of the bike with rust but not any more.
Speaking of crusty garbage, the remainder of the stock hardware that Rod didn't replace went into the junk bin and was replaced with stainless steel, as rusty nuts and bolts drive me meshugginah.
A problem with this model are the carburetors as they changed the body to one where you're stuck with those accursed long-tapered shorty mixture screws which don't allow you to affect much in the way of adjustment. After much agita and poor running at partial throttle, I finally put on a set of LeMans IV carbs with the Euro jetting.
For a styling exercise, one slow afternoon I did the carbs in black and gold Gun Kote. I also chucked the external carb springs, added individual choke levers, K&Ns, Russell fuel filters, dual spigot fuel banjos, and the usual cloth braided fuel line to finish the things off. The adjusting screws and springs were hit with silver powder so they won't rust and drive me crazy as well.
A very late addition was the replacement of the float bowls and nuts. I'd reused the original bowls and nuts and they were continually drooling. Not surprising, they continued to drool after the carbs were rebuilt. This is really not good as there's something in our local gasoline which will attack powder coating so now I have to strip and re-shoot a frame rail.
I had a set of unused PHF36 bowls from a LeMans I, lying around so I used those with the corresponding float bowl nuts. Not only are they dry, but the nut gaskets are available separately as well. If you decide to go this route on the PHMs, you'll need to replace the main jet holders also because the later ones are too short.
The throttle on that bike was a real piece of work as well. That whole assembly got the heave and was replaced with a Tommaselli 2-C throttle, cables and cable supports from a LeMans I, the kill switch was disabled and a V7 Sport-style starter button and plate were added. It's hard to say just how much changing the throttle improved the way the bike responded without sounding ridiculous, but it was like getting on a different machine. Just perfect.
For months my neck smelled like Ben Gay and at first I blamed the hours spent at the blasting cabinet but finally realized the culprit was this bike. The bar end weights in the clip-ons made them too long for my hairy gorilla arms so I finally replaced them with a set of Verlicchi swan necks that were lying around. I spent an afternoon cutting the swan necks shorter and shorter and when it was just right they ended up being the identical length and angle as the stock clip-ons with the bar end weights removed! Duh.
Into this ridiculous effort there's a Napoleon bar end stuck in the left hand one, the front master cylinder's lever was replaced with an adjustable unit from a Daytona, the brake lines were replaced with steel braided ones, and Ferodo pads replaced the cruddy Brembo ones. While lines were being installed the troublesome front stoplight switch was replaced with a hydraulic one. It does seem as if half the time is spent trying to update a Guzzi with components from the older models. This is progress?
While the polished dash might look really nice, it tends to blind you during sunny days so that was shot in Coal Black Wrinkle powder. While this might sound silly, this is my favorite part of the entire motorcycle. Oddly enough, this bike came with a dented tachometer bezel.
The turn signals were just too ugly to live so were replaced with round CEVs from a LeMans I on 1000SP stalks on the rear and V65C stalks up front. The taillight on this model is notorious for shaking itself to pieces so that was replaced with a round, chrome CEV from an Eldo, and that moronically undersized headlight was replaced with a Euro LeMans I item with a Candlepower 7" quartz halogen unit with an XB3 bulb.
Just in case, a battery acid catch tank was fitted, should the charging system run amuck and boil the acid out where it doesn't belong, and for a splash of color the plug leads are red. This is from Italy, after all! Gotta have some red on it somewhere other than my eyeballs.
For aesthetics more than anything, a Sprint half fairing was added which looks great but directs all of the wind blast right into my face shield so it's like riding into the teeth of a hurricane. Until the windscreen is replaced, ear plugs are mandatory on this one. It could also stand some stripes down the side of it to match the gas tank.
If and when decal sets ever become available again, the tank and sidecovers will get repainted and then the fairing will get the stripes for sure. Not surprisingly, the sidecovers don't have any primer underneath the paint so off it pops which just looks terrible.
The stock foot controls are always too far forward for me on the LeMans series so these were replaced with Agostini rear sets which makes the riding position perfect, and to ensure that even dead people can hate me, the exhaust was replaced with a Mistral stainless steel system.
Actually, the exhaust isn't that loud but certainly has a gloriously deep note to it. As an added fringe benefit, the exhaust gasses exit with such force that you can blow people's toupees off with a twist of the throttle. You probably wouldn't want to get stuck behind this bike.
Disappointingly, I just couldn't get the Mistral headers and crossover to work with the rear-sets, so finally grabbed an old set of BUB headers off of the wall, cut away the kick ups, and then the mufflers fit perfectly after shimming the foot hangers away from the frame. The chrome on the headers looks really out of place so something will have to be done in this department before Spring.
While it certainly doesn't require one, the useless stock steering damper was replaced with an actual hydraulic one, and it's currently running a Michelin Macadam radial up front with a Macadam bias ply on the rear which has worked well for me for the past decade on various machines. When a wider rear rim is eventually fitted, a Michelin radial will be fitted to match the front.
The dipstick was replaced with a liquid filled thermometer dipstick more for fun than anything else, and the filler plugs were replaced with the earlier style which incorporates a magnet. These corrode terribly so are covered with hard rubber caps from a LeMans IV.
As I said, the bike only needed a few little things. Still needs a few little things like the rear rim, better seat, shorter windscreen, an external oil filter sump and eventually timing gears, and a bit more with the cosmetics.
It just never stops but that's half the fun with a Guzzi. Every machine ends up being customized by the owner, be it a trailer hitch on a California, or a LeMans motor in an Eldo frame. Bit of a sickness which luckily there is no known cure for.
And that concludes the story of my older Guzzi model. It wasn't the greatest bike ever made when it was new, and a decade later it's still not the greatest, but for me, it's just about perfect.