Words: Jeff Ware Photos: JP Media P/L
Walking around this stunning Moto Morini 500 twin at a local shop known for restoring and maintaining rare collectables like this baby, which belongs to a prominent Sydney collector, has me drooling.
Traditionally I’m a fan of early 1980s Japanese muscle and Japanese two-stroke GP replicas. I’ve never been a huge Ducaitisti or early Euro bike person but this thing does it for me. It’s tiny. It’s amazingly well built. It’s sporty and it is high tech for its day.
The big brother of the famous Franco Lambertini designed, Franco and Gino Marchesini built 350 Sport and 350 Strada 72º V-twins, the Moto Morini 500 twin first came to fruition in 1977.
The engine was a bored and stroked version of the 350 and an absolute trick bit of kit. No wonder the modern Moto Morini twins are so, so fantastic.
The cylinder-heads on the 500 were Heron heads that were milled flat, with the combustion chamber recessed into the piston crowns! The engine also had a one-piece forged crankshaft, plain main bearings, and the conrods run on a common pin in desaxe design with the cylinders offset by 50mm.
The front and rear cylinders and heads are interchangeable and fuelling into the twin pipes is by Dell’Orto 26mm VBH square slide carburettors that draw from a common airbox. The cam drive was via belt and the bike even had a Ducati Electronnica electronic discharge ignition system and the six-speed gearbox utilized a six-plate dry clutch.
Lubrication is by crank pressure feed to the rockers via the pushrod tubes, not via oil pump, so it was crucial to warm the bike up to avoid damage.
The Moto Morini 500 Twin chassis was built using Moto Morini’s extensive race heritage, using the best European performance parts and technology available at the time.
The frame is a duplex steel swingarm design and features Marzocchi rear suspension, Marzocchi front suspension, Grimeca rotors and callipers, cast alloy wheels and stylish Veglia clocks.
The bike had the sound and feel of a true Italian sportsbike. But it wasn’t all good and did receive some bad press in its day. It suffered rust problems on the exhaust system and was a notoriously hard bike to start.
And the bike didn’t come standard with a mirror fitted!
But the one-down four-up right-hand gearshift won hearts of traditional Euro riders who were struggling to get used to the ‘Japanese’ style we all know today.
The ride was hard and sporty and the brakes, although good in dry conditions, were notoriously bad in the wet weather.
However, that stunning V-twin engine was the big winner and placed the 100mp/h capable 500 up there with performance of bikes like the RD350LC, Moto Guzzi V50 and Honda CX500.
The Moto Morini 500 continued until 1986.
Air-cooled 72º V-twin single cam pushrod two-valve four-stroke, 11.2:1 compression, 69 x 64mm bore x stroke, wet sump lubrication, dry multi-plate clutch, five-speed gearbox, 26mm Dell’Orto carburettors, electronic ignition
Grimeca rotors and callipers