It seems astounding that I’ve just recently made the connection. Those foggy bits and memories from decades past seem so distant, but put together it all fits to make the foundation of my motorcycling passion. Each of us learned and grew differently through a life on two-wheels, and our experiences are unique to us. Some things are shared though, and none more popular than remembering ‘the one that got away’. Getting back to those old times, we travel back to the very beginning of the nineteen-eighties. Location? Scottsdale Arizona’s long gone Motorcycle City, purveyors of BMW, Moto Guzzi and Suzuki.
There’s more to this trip down memory lane then my unrequited history with Moto Guzzi’s V1000 G5 tourer. Promoting a two-part series on Tonti’s touring ‘T-bikes’ I’m penning for RealClassic magazine, this project was cultivated by Joe Caruso, Bill Ross, Alex and his father. The growing, market-wide interest in classic Euro standards is tossed in for free, as prices and coverage proves a new appreciation for the once unloved. Each quietly spun out by all the well-known European makers – Ducati, Laverda, BMW and Guzzi, all were special, different and flawed in some way. There’s no denying Guzzi’s strength in numbers when counting road going machines today. A badge of honor it shares with BMW.
(This is it – resplendent in first-edition guise and exactly the same machine I saw at Motorcycle City. I’m pretty sure that’s a standard T3 bar, but the G5’s pegs and controls are seemingly unique to it alone. Manual reserve petcock shown, also note the windscreen delete. Perfect.) (Seth Dorfler/Berliner)
Unsure how many times I visited the G5, I can report accurately it sat unsold for at least 8-years, spanning 1980 to 1988. Part of a three-bike order made by owners Ed and wife Joyce, the black tourer shared showroom space with the all new 1000cc CX-100 and SP1000 sports tourer. The youngest in a family of riders, it was with some pride that I kicked-off the program with Ed, buying a pretty R75/5 a couple years before. Mesmerized by the Super Euros on display, my rantings were (partially) responsible for brothers Neil and Nick taking one each – a still new 1978 R100S and the SP1000, respectively. By 1983 the Le Mans was in storage and the G5 parked outside, where it would remain for the duration.
For those who don’t know the linage, all Guzzi twins originated from the V700 of 1967, but from 1974, civilian production used Lino Tonti’s V7 Sport chassis as the base for all the big-block models. Swirling in management shifts and spending, the touring 850T hatched in 1974 and Guzzi’s triple-disc 850T3 one year later. Also new was the flagship 1000cc Convert automatic, and from these comes the V1000G5; accurately described as a bored T3 dressed in Convert trim, but having some special parts of its own. Here’s betting the G5 was a 1979 or even a 1978 build – sent to Arizona USA with a standard bar, pegs, no screen and deep black paint.
Included in a Cycle magazine test of the SP1000 in its April 1979 issue, Cycle’s editorship reported the elegant black tourer a mixed bag, at best. Aimed at the traditionalist, it fit the Convert’s air-cooled, 949cc touring engine tuned with 9.2 pistons, 30mm Dellortos, a real airbox and the majority of the 850 T/T3’s top-end specs. Also from the Convert came most of the cycle parts, including the auto’s larger safety bars, down force spoilers, Electrovalve fuel tap and wide touring seat. Seen by many simply as a manual-shift version of the GuzziMatic, the G5 shared most of its chassis specs with its smaller 850 brother, including spring rates, brakes and rear drive gearing. Properly seen to, the V1000 G5 can be ridden anywhere.
Looking for more speed at less money I swapped the Toaster for a twin-cam Honda in 1980, but it was a disappointment. I tried and failed to buy the Le Mans from Ed, so I went elsewhere and chased my dreams with a new 1100F. Trading that for a red-smoke R100RS, I’m guessing another three years had passed before visiting my old haunt again. Stunned to see the G5 parked in the exact same spot as before, most of its flat black plastic and steel was bleached white from the sun. Fogged from gray on top to black the G5’s elegant coachwork and striping had lost its gloss. Even the clocks were faded, including its rare accessory tacho. Somehow, still, it managed to remain handsome. I felt a real pull leaving that time.
“Included in a sidebar of Cycle’s 1979 test of the Spada sports tourer, Guzzi’s traditional V1000 didn’t impress with its soft tuning and suspensions. Winning the race against time, the G5 remains capable and willing over any modern road.”
Two more visits followed over the next a couple of years. By 1988 the RS was refinished with some much needed chassis mods and a black Bub exhaust. Rolling onto the lot once again I shook my head in amazement spotting the V1000 rotting in its usual spot. Looking it over I was mentally adding the time and money needed to restore this brand new Moto Guzzi when Ed appeared. What followed was what I’d secretly wanted to hear all along, yet all I remember is indecision. I nearly turned around -twice- after riding off, and to this day I’m still trying to figure out why I didn’t. Finally adding that CX-100 Le Mans via trade for the RS, I sold a hot-rod El Camino then pointed my truck towards Motorcycle City with cash in hand. Time to bring my G5 home. Too late, for this time the building was empty, save for the realtor signs pasted to the front window.
With 75% of my Motorcycle City replica showroom complete, that black G5 remains the missing piece. Untouched originals are rare. It truly is a shock to realize that subconsciously, I’ve been trying to rebuild that showroom most of my adult life. Thinking things over, it’s impossible to say how things would be had I taken Ed up on his offer. That’s a mistake I can’t fix. Then again, there isn’t a bike in that line I’d sell, so my journey hasn’t been meaningless. Filling out that old, unfulfilled dream and around my equally aged physic, Alex and I are just a few parts shy of having nearly all that’s needed to assemble an exact replica of that black V1000 from so long ago. And it can’t happen soon enough for me. Like most riders, there’s other areas of the moto spectrum I’d like to explore before hanging up the leathers. Yet even after retirement the plan includes keeping one around, even if it’s just to look at. Seeing how many times I’ve done that, the chances of that bike being a V1000 G5 are very good. Nolan Woodbury
1979 Moto Guzzi V1000 G5 specs
90-deg, 949cc pushrod v-twin
Bore x stroke: 88 x 78mm
Intake: 2 x Dellorto VHB30
Ignition: Battery/coil dual points w/850T advance
Transmission/drive: 5-speeds, shaft, 7/33 ratio
Steel tube frame w/removable lowers
Suspensions: Moto Guzzi 35mm tele forks/twinshock.
Emergency lights, 6.6 gallon tank, steering dampener
525-lb wet. 125-mph
Photos: Seth Dorfler, Joe Caruso, Billone Ross, Alexander Woodbury.