Moto Guzzi V7 Sport – Worlds First Production Cafe Racer

The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is perhaps the Italian marques most important motorcycle to date. It is certainly one of the most praised and admired Guzzi that you could come across. It is known as the original factory cafe racer

The bike laid the foundation for the well received Le Mans and indeed even 50 years later the V7 Sport is at the heart of the current V7 models in production today. 

At a time when the Honda CB750 was dominating the world over, Moto Guzzi stepped right into the thick of things and added a very attractive, albeit more expensive, competitor to the mix. 

Let’s take it right back to where it all began.

Table of Contents

History of the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport

a stunning Moto Guzzi V7 Sport with red frame
a rare red framed Moto Guzzi V7 Sport

Moto Guzzi was first founded in the pioneer ages of motorcycling back in 1921 in Mandello del Lario, Italy. They went on to have success in terms of exceptionally well-selling models and track wins including 14 World Grand Prix’s and 11 at the Isle of Man TT

In 1957 Moto Guzzi withdrew from the world of racing and turned their attention to creating a new kind of motorcycle that could compete with the big V-twins coming out of America. The new engine design consisted of a V-twin mounted longitudinally in the frame with the cylinder heads sticking out in the clean air-flow. 

American dealers loved the concept and insisted that Moto Guzzi create a production model using the new design as it would undoubtedly rival the machines coming out of Harley Davidson’s factory. In 1970 Lino Tonti was brought in as head of design and engineering after having previously worked for companies like Benellie and Bianchi. 

It was time to step it up a gear and really use the fundamentals from the V-twin and create a true performance powerhouse; which was a far cry from the long-distance cruising machines (such as the Ambassador) that the Moto Guzzi V-twins had been used for. Some critics at the time even thought it was a feat not possible. 

The first step was to create a new frame which would go on to be named the ‘Tonti frame’; it was equally stiffer and lighter which equated to much better handling than the predecessor. Despite weighing in at 225kg the handling was nimble and impressive. 

The engine itself is a stressed member of the frame surrounded by a duplex cradle. 

The engine was tweaked and reworked which resulted in a further 7 horsepower being squeezed out of it. By the time the design/engineering team had finished with the engine for the upcoming V7 Sport it was a 748cc V-twin capable of 70 horsepower and around a max speed of 120mph or just over.  

Stylistically nothing was overlooked with the new Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, inlets for knees on the cylinder heads, smooth lines, classy paintwork. It was the striking tank that gave the new model icon status and has inspired many cafe racers to date. 

The ‘Swan-Neck’ bars could be slid up the neck to give a more upright position as opposed to the hunched over natural cafe racer position. It was these intricate details that meant the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport was worth the higher price tag compared to that of the bikes from Honda and Triumph.

Tonti had succeeded in creating a new model that was performance based, a big beast ready to take on the American giants (and anyone else who wanted a go), plus it looked not only fresh and modern, but what would turn out to be a timeless design. 

Moto Guzzi V7 Sport Performance

The V7 Sport was eagerly anticipated and upon its release for late 1971/early 1972 for the production version, lead times exceeded 3 months on the new bikes. It is safe to say upon its release both press and public fell in love with the new motorcycle from Italy and were happy to pay to get their hands on one. 

Among others Ewan McGregor is a big fan of the Moto Guzzi “The company’s eagle wings logo is in his memory. McGregor has called the 1972 V7 Sport “one of the most beautiful bikes ever built”, and you should never disagree with someone who played Obi-Wan.” GQ Magazine. 

As Motorcycle Classics tells it “Moto Guzzi’s 50th anniversary was in 1971, and Tonti wanted the V7 Sport in production for that year. However, manufacturing tools and dies weren’t ready, plus the factory was struggling with labor disruptions.

Determined to have a V7 Sport for 1971, the racing department began hand building pre-production prototypes. To meet international homologation rules for production racing, Moto Guzzi had to build at least 100 V7 Sports in 1971. The result was the Telaio Rosso (literally, red frame) V7 Sport, easily identifiable by their red-painted chrome-moly frame.”

The vintage Rosso V7 Sport is much coveted by all Guzzi fans and is harder to find than a needle, not just in one haystack but in a whole barn full. Only 150-200 of these were ever built. Many replicas however have been created. 

Of the standard machine, Motorcycle Classics state “Pitted against the Ducati 750 GT, Honda CB750, Kawasaki H2 750 and Laverda 750 SF, the V7 Sport proved fastest.” which was according to one Italy based magazine test at the time. 

It was the time of Superbikes and the Moto Guzzi was in with the best of them and arguably better than most of them. While only a short production period until 1974, the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport had done its job and changed the trajectory of what was to come for the Italian marque. 

Finding a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport For Sale

Car and Classic has a 1972 V7 Sport advertised in New York for £14,600/$20,225. It has been owned by the second owner since 1973 and is in outstanding condition. The example is as standard as can be and even comes with the original exhaust and tires as spares; it has just over 14,000 miles on the clock. 

There is also another example advertised on Car and Classic for £12,500 and is in Italy. It is claimed to be 100% original and in ‘perfect’ condition, although from the pictures it seems the bike may have been dropped at some point as there are some marks on the right cylinder head. Maybe the fact the bike is in full working condition will lead potential buyers to forgive this.   

For those who are struggling to find a vintage V7 Sport in the UK or the US it could be worth looking towards Europe where Italy, Germany and the Netherlands all seem to have a few good options available. Check out the Parking Motorcycle where prices range from £4,500 and all the way to over £20,000, condition and age dependant. 

There are not that many unmolested examples around and finding one that is original is getting harder and harder as time goes on. 

The Holy Grail did come up in 2016 in the shape of the red frame ‘Telaio Rosso’ V7 Sport and sold for £20,000 through Bonhams, you can still check out the advertisement here.

‘Telaio Rosso’ V7 Sport
This ‘Telaio Rosso’ V7 Sport was sold by Bonhams for £20,000 in 2016

Restoring a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport

Plenty of avid home builders and professionals embark on the journey of restoring the infamous Moto Guzzi V7 Sport; but be warned that it is easy to pay over the odds so as you will never recover your initial investment and a restored example will never be worth as much as a completely standard machine.

With all that said, getting the right project bike at the right price is key, and if it is a project of love, the money doesn’t seem all that important anyway.

Average parts prices:

  • $49.99 Flywheel
  • $285 Pair of Piston Assemblies
  • $199 Clip on bars
  • $179 Headlamp
  • $69 Instrument Dashboard

Is a Moto Guzzi V7 Sport a Good Investment?

Without a doubt the V7 Sport is an investment worth making; these vintage machines are highly collectable and coveted on both sides of the Atlantic. 

On the top end of the scale it is likely that the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is at the peak of it’s value, however, as years go by and they become harder to get hold of, it is hard to say whether the bike really has hit the top value ceiling. 

If you can buy an original model in the mid-price range, that is in good condition, there is certainly money to be made and it is worth keeping hold of; it is highly unlikely that the V7 Sport will disappear from collectors ‘Wanted’ lists and motorcycle lovers’ memories. 

A good restoration too if done within a sensible budget is likely to see a good return so is well worth the financial and wrenching hours investment. 

Verdict

The Moto Guzzi V7 Sport is one of those super cool motorcycles that made an impact within its own era but then went on to have a sustained legacy right up to the present day. 

There are few models that have done this for their respective marques with such success; the Bonneville for Triumph is another that springs to mind. 

It is safe to say that at the time of the release the designers and engineers could never have known that the bike they had been working on would be quite as legendary as it turned out to be; and credit, where credit is due, the Italian’s knocked out the park with this one.

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1 thought on “Moto Guzzi V7 Sport – Worlds First Production Cafe Racer”

  1. The V7 Sport TR that was up for auction had many issues as being a factory TR. There are many components that are not correct. I own the MBS-TR with factory Document and it was assembled in the Race Department in 1971.

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