The Corpus Christi Old Car Museum Auction

Lot 108
1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk I Motorcycle

Selling on Saturday

1978 Moto Guzzi Le Mans Mk I Motorcycle


• One of the finest 1970s Italian Superbikes produced
• Unqualified masterpiece of “Café Racer” design and styling
• One of the finest designs by chief engineer Lino Tonti; quite rare
• Renowned V-Twin performer; last year for ‘Mk I’ iteration

844 cc air-cooled OHV V-twin engine, twin Dell’Orto carburetors, 80 HP at 7,300 RPM, five-speed gearbox, shaft drive, twin telescopic front forks, twin adjustable rear shock absorbers, hydraulic twin-disc front, single-disc rear brakes with cross-drilled rotors; wheelbase: 1,470 mm (57.9”)

Long respected for its road models and international racing success, Moto Guzzi executives and staffers met the company’s takeover by Alejandro De Tomaso with mixed feelings, yet they continued to design produce some of its best models. One of the finest achievements of Lino Tonti, who joined Moto Guzzi as chief engineer in February 1967, was the 850 Le Mans, first released for sale in Europe during 1975. Not only one of the “classic” Moto Guzzi models so revered by today’s marque enthusiasts, the 850 Le Mans is widely regarded by many as the archetype of the late-1970s sporting Italian motorcycle.

While quite similar to the prior 750 S3, the 850 Le Mans was a masterful blend of style, design and engineering prowess. Featuring Moto Guzzi’s classical longitudinally mounted V-twin engine design, the 850 Le Mans featured a displacement increase to 844 cc, an improved cylinder-head design with bigger valves, domed high-compression pistons and twin Dell’Orto carburetors. A five-speed gearbox and shaft-type final drive transmitted the power, rated at 80 peak horsepower at 7,300 engine revolutions.

Aggressive “Café Racer” styling of the 850 Le Mans matched its provocative name and sporting nature, including the sport-type saddle, side covers, body-color fenders, low, narrow handlebars and minimalistic front fairing. Promotion of the new 850 Le Mans in the United States was predictably via top-echelon racing, with Mike Baldwin piloting one of these earthbound missiles to the model’s fist AMA Superbike victory at Loudon, New Hampshire in June 1976. Only some 7,000 examples of the original “Mk I” 850 Le Mans were built in all from 1975 through 1978, including a handful exported to the United States, followed by the more touring-oriented “Mk II” produced 1979-92. Highly desired by collectors, this “Mk I’ 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans is simply a fine and well-preserved example of these iconic Italian Superbikes. Finished in sinister red and black livery, it is an original U.S.-specification example equipped with a sealed-beam headlamp protruding outward from the front of the fairing. Renowned as one of the best-handling motorcycles ever produced, it is sure to provide a thrilling ride and capture attention wherever it goes.

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