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BCR BIKE : 1969 MOTO GUZZI AMBASSADOR "URBAN TRACTOR 2014"
We have always been fascinated with dual-sport/enduro motorcycles like BMW's GS, KTM's EXC, Yamaha's XTs, and of course Honda's XRs. We wanted to build something similar to those bikes, but not as extreme, so we brought it a few notches down. We envisioned a motorcycle that you can ride in the street in style, one that you can ride through rough roads and most of all, one you can just have fun with. We wanted an urban commuter and a weekend back roads adventure bike. With that in mind, we built a fun enduro commuter with a classic flare. The final product resulted in what we call "Urban Tractor 2014" based on a 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassador.
Picking a donor bike, we wanted to get something different and something that is not normally used in custom motorcycle industry. We didn't know which donor bike to get, but we definitely wanted something simple and tough. After couple of weeks looking through internet motorcycle listings, we found a 1969 Moto Guzzi Ambassado (civilian) with matching numbers, on Craigslist in the California area for $2,500.00. I know these Loop Frame Moto Guzzis are heavy and are set up more as a cruiser police-touring bike, but we wanted a challenge. We wanted to build something different. When we bought the bike, it had a rot-rod look with single seat and covered with flat black rattle can spray-paint. It was 70% complete and barely running. The motor had a loud knocking noise, and was blowing white smoke. The bike was tired and crying for a full restoration.
As soon as we got the bike to the shop, we took all the tins out and just left what we need for mock-up, like the the motor, trans and suspension. Not a Moto Guzzi purist, and not a fan of the stock factory look, so we decided to give the bike a totally different look. Just like all of our project bikes, we started with the gas tank. Though we like how the stock ambassador gas tank looks, it was just too big for what we had in mind. And for us, it wouldn't be a custom bike if it had a stock gas tank. So we decided to make a totally original gas tank from scratch. We made the gas tank out of aluminum, made the tank narrow, low and with subtle knee indents, and adding a Monza gas cap.
The bottom sides of the tank were angled to match the transverse Moto Guzzi V twin motor. We set up the tank to work with the stock Moto Guzzi petcocks, and had the tank bolt on the frame using the existing tabs. We wanted the bike to have a tough outdoor, low maintenance look, so we just left the tank bare aluminum with a brushed-scuffed finish. We painted black scallops with a gold outline to match the overall color and finish of the bike.
After we finished making the tank, we moved to the front end of the bike. We like how the stock forks had fork covers, but we wanted to exaggerate it a little bit. We fabricated new fork covers out of 16-gauge mild steel, and made the diameter of the fork covers bigger. To get that custom clean look to the front end, we decided to fabricate a headlight shroud, headlight housing, and a headlight ring, covering the space between the top and lower trees.
We used a smaller 5" headlight to give the front end a wide look, then fabricated a headlight grill out of stainless steel to give the bike an outdoor adventure feel. Cautious on the weight, we made the front fender out of fiberglass, and used stainless rods to secure the front fender to the bottom fork sliders.
We mounted the front fender high to give the bike that Enduro look, and reused Honda motocross handlebars that we had laying around the shop. We like how the signature Moto Guzzi loop frame speedometer is mounted on top of the upper trees, so we just kept it and had it powder coated matte black to match the all black front end.
The seat pan is made of fiberglass, wrapped in high-density foam and cowhide leather. We shaped the seat to look like banana styled seats of the ‘70s.
We wanted to have a nice smooth tank-to-seat transition, so we shaped the front of the seat to match the tail of the tank. Just like the tank, we mounted the seat to the frame using the existing tabs. The rear fender is made of fiberglass, and we mounted it an inch higher. To match the headlight grill in front, we added a stainless grill at the back of the seat, and have it follow the contour of the back of the seat. The tail light housing is made from scratch using two stainless 2" end caps put together, then just added stainless brackets to mount it the frame.
We usually hide the electrical components when we build a project bike. But on this bike, we wanted to expose everything. We got rid of the side covers, and fabricated an aluminum box to house the huge battery, mounting the box on top of the transmission. We added a leather belt strap to secure the battery, and exposed the main wires and terminals. The 45-year old Mirelli Magnets voltage regulator is mounted on the rear fender. For easy access, we mounted the fuse box under the gas tank.
We also added an oil pressure gauge with handcrafted aluminum housing, and mounted it next to the battery. We kept the stock toolbox and painted it jet black to match the frame.
We did a complete tear down on motor for this bike. When we took the motor apart, the oil pan was covered with thick oil sludge and metal flakes. The connecting rods were loose and the chrome on the cylinder walls was coming off. We were planning to get another motor because of the work that would be need to fix it. But because the numbers on the engine and frame match, we decided to just keep what we have and rebuild it. So we took the crank and rods out to the machine shop to fit bigger bearings, and had all the pieces of the motor chemically cleaned. We did some research, and found out that cylinder walls on the early loop frame Moto Guzzi are chrome plated.
The chrome plating would come off, causing havoc inside the motor, which are common problems for early loop frames. To avoid these problems, we bought new pistons and cylinders from Gilardoni. We had the heads rebuilt by a local machine shop, slap on new clutch plates, and rebuild the oil pump, with new gaskets and seals. The stock Dellorto carburetors were dirty, gummy, clogged, and too small for the 750 motor. Subsequently, we swapped them with a new pair of 34 flat side carburetors. We fabricated an aluminum intake manifold to make the flat side fit the Moto Guzzi's cylinder head. Putting on the double dry clutch on this motor is more difficult compared to other bikes. A special alignment tool is required to tilt the motor forward to center the clutch plate and discs, and to set the pressure plate springs to the flywheel.
The stock exhaust and pegs layout on the Moto Guzzi Ambassador have a low wet up, similar to a touring/cruiser. We want to be able to take this bike through paved roads, but also through rough gravel, and dirt covered roads, so we had to make a few adjustments. The stock exhaust and pegs layout will just drag. We needed a little more ground clearance, so we raised the pegs and exhaust by 5". We made a new bracket for the foot pegs, and made a new stainless exhaust.
We added a heat shield on the side of the exhaust to protect the rider's legs at standing full stop. To protect the front of the motor from debris, we also added an aluminum skid plate.
We had fun building this bike. It's simple, fun to ride, and its something different. We'll definitely build another bike like this. However, the only downside about this particular bike is, I wish it had a kick start. Not sure why Moto Guzzi factory doesn’t set these bikes with a kick start. It sucks when the starter motor fails when you are on dirt, and rear tire can’t get traction when you try to pop the clutch for a push start—this happened to us during the photo shoot. Future additions to this project bike include simple side mirrors, a side rack for skateboard or long board, and maybe a side leather bag.
Big thanks to and for the pictures.