Cycle candidates


Our Moto Guzzi engine of choice — the “big block” 1046cc V-twin — is spread out over nearly thirty years of production and scattered among at least twelve basic models with a host of minor variants. Moto Guzzi emphasized a proliferate approach to marketing, preferring small run lengths of customized cycles — typically less than 1,500 per model production annually — to high runs of standardized products. As a result there is considerable confusion in terminology, advertising descriptions, and specifications.

1046cc V-twin overview

The alternator is prominently mounted in the center of the engine block directly in front of the timing cover. Twin exhaust pipes exit from each cylinder head. An oil flange (and sometimes two of them) is sandwiched between the block and the oil sump. To change the oil, the entire flange and sump assembly must be removed. The oil filter is inside the oil sump.
The engine mount hole passes through the front timing cover. Due to the fact that the front of the engine is subject to significant moisture and salt, there is a risk that the steel mounting bolt will fuse to the aluminum housing. Treatment with anti-seize mitigates this issue, but many Guzzi motors with this design suffer from frozen mounts. Cylinder head guards are optional accessories. Flywheel sensor is on the right side of the flywheel housing.
The oil drain plug is located on the back of the oil sump. The starter motor mount is on the left side. Intake from the throttle body splits off to both cylinder heads in the rear.
A magnetic plug just below the starter bulge helps collect metal shards that might impact the sensor on the opposite side of the flywheel. Both cylinder heads have small breather tubes to handle changes in pressure. The long studs attach the gearbox.
The engine identification is stamped just below the Moto Guzzi embossed lettering. The dipstick and engine oil fill is located just to the right of the ID. If multiple oil flanges are installed, the dipstick length must be adjusted accordingly. Spark plugs are inserted on the outside of each cylinder head.

Candidate pool

Carb versus injection

The first important distinction involves the fuel system: traditional mechanical carburetors or electronic injection (EFI). In general, EFI more precisely delivers fuel, is less impacted by environmental factors like heat, humidity, and altitude, and — apart from roadside emergencies — tends to be more reliable. Also, EFI eliminates the need for a choke and greatly reduces fuel odors. While carburetors are less expensive, they require much more routine maintenance.

The trend towards EFI is largely motivated by fuel efficiency and reduced tailpipe emissions; injection technology operates at a much narrower air-fuel-ratio and is dynamically adjusted.

Carb systems certainly have many old school adherents, but our choice is EFI. As a result, this eliminates all the carb models as donor candidates.

Exhaust pipe orientation

The Morgan Super Sport exhaust extends straight out along the side of the vehicle. A similar cycle setup is preferred, and the California model meets that requirement with exhaust pipes that are level with the ground. So the search is narrowed further to the those models with this exhaust profile.

Model lineup

The first EFI 1046cc model was the California 1100i (the “i” stands for “injected”) introduced for the 1994 model year and in production through 1997. Here are possible 1046cc EFI candidates with straight-back exhaust configurations.

Model Years Horsepower Computer Version
California 1100i 1994-1997 75.0 P8 (large box)
California EV 1997-2001 73.5 P8 (large box)
California Jackal 1999-2001 73.5 15M (small box)
California EV801 2002 73.5 15M (small box)
California Titanium2 2003-2005 75.0 15M (small box)
California Classic3 2006-2012 73.5 15M (small box)

    [1] also includes EV, Special and Stone models
    [2] also includes EV, Touring, Aluminum, and Stone models
    [3] also includes Vintage, Touring, and limited 90 anniversary models

From a mechanical point of view relevant to a cyclecar conversion, all the California 1994-2012 models are essentially identical, with only some minor tweaks to idle speed, compression ratios, and recommended engine oil.

Late 1990s California EV example

There are two other issues apart from product recalls that plagued the 2001-03 era bikes: 1] late in the 2003 model year, the crankcase breather moved from the back of the engine to the front timing cover; and 2] a single plate clutch installed on some 2003-05 EV, Titanium, and Aluminum models has proven to be unreliable.

Front cover breather

The front cover breather has no operational impact, but it tends to mar the front appearance of the engine. When mounted in the motorcycle frame, this placement is obscured by the front bike fork and therefore not noticeable.

However, the prominent display of the engine in the cyclecar makes this location impractical. A hose must run from the front cover (otherwise oil mist is spewed everywhere) under a cylinder in order to fit a catch bottle — very awkward indeed.

The single plate clutch introduced for the California model in 2003 appears to be more of a reliability issue. Made of thin sintered material to save weight, the single plate design initially suffered from premature wear. New generation versions appear more robust, but in general the single clutch wasn’t an improvement and therefore discontinued by 2005.

Newer bikes tends to be more expensive, so the best economic focus is probably the 1994-1997 California 1100i or pre-2001 EV/Jackal models.

Market size

Moto Guzzi stopped reporting reliable production statistics around 1996, but we estimate that about 4,000 California 1100i and 5,000 California EV/Jackal models (through 2000) were manufactured. Of these, assume 60% were exported to the United States. Applying motorcycle accident statistics, we can assume, rather conservatively, that 75% of the original production fleet still survives in reasonable mechanical shape two decades later. Assuming that average time of ownership is 8 years, this implies that about 3% of the fleet will be offered for sale in any given 3-month period. In terms of geography, motorcycle registrations are spread across the U.S. — Florida and California claim about 12% each, while New England has around 6%. A reasonable “local area” assumption is about 4% of U.S. registrations will be close enough to realistically purchase and transport.

Thus, U.S. market size equals:
production x export x survival x offered for sale x local area limitations
9000 x .60 x .75 x .03 x .04 = 5

Five possible candidates isn’t much to choose from!

As a test of these assumptions, here is a fall 2021 list of California 1100i-EV-Jackal candidates in the New England region:

  1. 1995 1100i – Boston metro
  2. 1997 1100i – Boston metro
  3. 1998 EV – Winthrop, ME
  4. 1994 1100i – McDonald, PA (outside geographic limit)
  5. 1996 1100i – Saddle Brook, NJ (outside geographic limit)

Given this very small sample, it looks like the market size formula is reasonably accurate.

Market prices

The Moto Guzzi 1046cc California EFI average advertised asking price in late 2021 was about $4,800 with a range from $2,800 to over $8,000.

Donor purchase

The price point of 25-year-old cycles doesn’t merit long distance shipping, and asking a seller to ride more than a hundred miles is difficult. Therefore, our search was limited geographically. Fortunately we found a suitable 1997 California 1100i with 42,500 miles in reasonable mechanical shape.

The Donor: 1997 Moto Guzzi California 1100i

The engine and its electronics, gearbox, transmission, swing arm, rear wheel, and some other bits will all be “recycled” into the Aero Moto 1100.

Surplus parts

The following major parts become surplus.

Description Ask (Sold)
frame $600
lower frame rail $100
front fork assembly $800
fuel tank $350
side covers, misc. fittings $50
front wheel $500
front brake assembly $100
mudguards $400
handlebar and controls $200
headlight $100 ($50)
footrest, shifter $200
stands, guards $100
TOTAL $3500

The $3500 estimated market prices, based on recent eBay listings, may result in about $2000 net realized value after shipping, discounts, sales commissions, taxes, and other costs.