Although Moto Guzzi is probably best known for producing long range, high capacity tourers, that wasn't always the case. Starting early in its history, Moto Guzzi was soon a real force in Grand Prix, TT, and Pukka events gaining countless small track victories and several world championships. Carlo Guzzi, along with several brilliant designers like Giulio Carcano, saw to it that Guzzi was viewed by the motorcycling world as the company you could count on to introduce cutting edge racing models that had the competition scurrying to catch up. Names like Albatros,
Bicilindrica, Dondolino and Gambalunga were synonymous with on-track domination, power and speed. Guzzi even unveiled a 500cc. V8, and while that machine never saw competitive duty after Moto Guzzi dropped the factory racing program after the 1957 season, it's still talked about in revered tones today. If you saw it, you would understand. With the introduction of the legendary V7 Sport in 1972, Guzzi again was in the thick of the sportbike scene. The all new 748cc V-twin, housed in Lino Tonti's brilliant low slung frame again shocked the motorcycling world with its utter simplicity, yet stunningly effective layout of cycle parts that accomplished nothing more than vastly decreasing the line from hard tarmac to the rider's senses. Combine the fact that the Sport was an astonishingly beautiful motorcycle, and Moto Guzzi had one more classic design added to its already impressive ledger. Following on the heels of the Sport was the famous Le Mans line, personified with various 850 and 1000cc models available from 1976 to 1991. All versions are desirable, although the stunning first issue 850 Le Mans with its classically styled round-cylinder lump and minimalist build the most collectable. When that mad Spaniard, Alejandro De Tomaso acquired Moto Guzzi in 1973, sweeping changes followed close behind. The "loop frame" models so successful and popular (due in large part to Mike Berliner and his import team The Berliner Corp.) with police forces and civilian buyers were discontinued, and in their place the standard-issue 850T and triple disk brake T3 models based on the Tonti frame. Although the Eldorado and Ambassador, with their fat steel fenders and lazy motors were solid and stately, the Tonti frame models offered superior power and handling, and sold well.
It was the "T" series of Moto Guzzi twins that gave Jim Knaup of Encore Performance & Fabrication the idea for his "Thrasher" concept bike. "The T is a solid, reliable machine in all respects" explains
Jim; "The only problem is they aren't as sexy as the Le Mans' or Sports." The T really has proven to be the ultimate standard in Guzzi's line-up. Shipped bare bones, the T is an excellent platform on which to express your personal tastes or particular
fetishes. In my files there are café, touring, even drag racing versions, and some lovingly restored stockers. Not a motorcycle for the collector looking to turn a buck in a year or two, the basic T is instead the wallflower you knew in high school; the one that wore baggy clothes over a pretty nice chassis, and like that plain, yet strangely attractive late-bloomer the T has a wild side under its dowdy garments...just waiting for the right person to uncover it. "Over the last few years I noticed the prices for Le Mans sportbikes reaching pretty lofty levels, that is, when you could find one. Another thing is when you do finally snag that nice, low mileage Sport or Le Mans it would be a pretty stupid move to start hacking it up with different wheels, performance parts and cut-up bodywork. Most of these lucky owners are searching for the stock pieces, trying to find a mint set of battery covers or the original factory performance kit that was available as an option or the first series Le Mans. The T's on the other hand, and pretty easy to locate and still affordable. Most came with lovely alloy Boranni spoke rims, and all of the factory performance parts like cams, heads, and bigger carbs fit right in. Since most Guzzi sportbike-types can't seem to leave well enough alone, our solution was to keep what's beautiful, toss what isn't and turn what is left into a really, totally, custom café racer we call the Thrasher." The prototype, which has received world-wide coverage is based on a 1977 T3 was finished by Jim 3 years ago and was the first project Jim and Evan Wilcox (Evan Wilcox Hand Formed Metal.) worked on together. "That bike serves as a rolling parts catalog for the shop, and gives the potential customer some idea what his bike would look like with one of Evan's Le Mans replica fuel tanks or 1/4 farings." It's not for sale if you're wondering, but if it ever does become available it will be in my garage before anyone finds out. Hey, this job is a lot of work, but it does have its perks....
Phoenix anesthesiologist Dave Thrope fell in love with the brutal, no nonsense philosophy of the Thrasher too, and approached Jim with the proposal of building him one of his own. "Dave showed up here a few weeks later with a battered, 1983 850 Le Mans III and gave me a simple set of directions; 'Do this one.' Normally, I'd advise against cutting up a Le Mans, but this example was really beaten down; lots of hard miles, cracked bodywork, and the usual signs of suspicious wrenching. The motor was tired, the suspension sagged, even the electrics were crunchy. It was a good choice, even in its sad condition it still ran and gave a pretty decent showing for itself. It was -afterall- a Le Mans, and you always save those. No matter what." The 850 was rolled out back and completely stripped, with Jim making careful notes on what could be re-used, and what was destined for the scrap heap. Dave wanted premium sportbike parts, high-end chassis and motor components equivalent to what was fitted on the round head prototype. With the chassis bare, the frame was sanded and smoothed, saved for a few of the stock mounts Dave wanted kept in the event some future owner would want to return the machine to stock specifications. After prepping the frame, swingarm, and centerstand, they were sent out for a coat of cobalt blue powdercoating, with the wheels finished in a silver-grey closely matching the paint sprayed on them originally. When the frame returned, the steering head was fitted with a new set of bearings before a complete 38mm Marzocchi fork and triple tree assembly was carefully set-up and slid into place. Until the release of
edgy lines with squared-off cylinder heads and Nigusil coated bores, replacing the pressed-in steel liners Guzzi had been using since 1976. The T2's square heads were removed, disassembled, completely cleaned and bead blasted. New guides and valves were installed, the intake runners and exhaust ports reshaped and polished. Guzzi Le Mans models, beginning with the Mark II in 1979 were fitted with an airbox that is both restrictive and difficult to service. As a result, most owners junk this component and attach individual filters, the most popular being K&N's. One problem: The back side of the carburetor is unsupported and in time can work loose from the rubber intake that attaches it to the cylinder head. A wonderful solution to this problem is found in the special aircraft-grade plastic intakes manufactured by G&G Industries that securely attach the T2's twin 36mm Dellorto pumpers with no chance of sagging, due to the rigid construction of the intake, dampened by a rubber o-ring that fits inside of the carb mouth. Jim ports the head to match the inside diameter of the Delrin intake, improving breathing and atomization. Due to the excellent quality of the stock, Guzzi high dome pistons and Nigusil cylinder coatings, Jim simply removed the slight glaze with a hone, and after fitting fresh rings to the pistons slid them into the 83mm bores. The flywheel and ring gear on the back side of the alloy lump was lightened then balanced before fitting two new, deep spline clutch plates and a matching input hub on the nose of the T2's 5-speed gearbox. Lovely and durable Fren Tubo stainless oil lines are used on the twin external feed lines located on the back of each cylinder, with a matching pair used to
vent oil to the frame, which serves as the breather on modern Guzzi models. I've ridden several of Jim's rebuilds, and they all have one thing in common; torque, torque and more torque. Useable power that is available to the rider without having to wring the nuts offa' it. Many engine builders lose sight of reliability and longevity by building in excessive amounts of cam lift and duration, too much bore size and by not doing their homework on proper jetting. Jim however, puts his years of experience into building a useable motor that literally screams with the throttle pinned, yet stays together like a proper Moto Guzzi should. When a factory performance part is available he'll use it, citing a dramatic difference is quality resulting in a sweeter finished product. Except for the Dyna III electronic ignition and BUB "Hyper" exhaust system, the T2 uses all factory Moto Guzzi high performance parts.
With the finished motor and lower frame rails waiting on a lift, Jim guides the main frame of the T2 over the mass with a special, ceiling mounted crane of his own design, then bolts the halves together. Next on the chassis is the swingarm, replete with a new driveshaft, carrier bearing, u-joint hooked to the rebuilt rear box. With the wheels fitted, the project can now be rolled around the shop for the remainder of the assembly. The next step is EP&F's special wiring harness, based on the factory V7 Sport loom (still available at press time from Moto Guzzi) but modified with a generic automotive fuse block located under the fuel tank. A small but powerful
Westco 20AH sealed battery mounted on its side rides in a stainless box under the transmission. This box is another EPF exclusive, allowing retention of the centerstand. Tommaselli brackets are used to hold the 7" generic headlight bucket and the Tarozzi polished-alloy clip-on's are fully adjustable and adorned with Pingle "Double Billet" switches; originally designed for use on drag bikes with Nitrous-oxide boost. Now the rebuilt brake components can be installed, retaining the stock Guzzi linked system with a frame mounted manifold that directs fluid from the brake pedal to the rear caliper and the left front, with the front system feeding the right. The rotors are cast iron and Fren Tubo lines are used.
Prescott, Arizona based metal-bender Evan Wilcox is nothing short of an artist. Evan's work, featured in many motorcycle magazines (including a recent cover of Cycle World with supermodel Leeann Tweeden and one very lucky Norton) simply has to be seen in person to be believed, and appreciated. Over the years I've inspected several alloy bits available to Euro bike owners, and the Wilcox parts are the only ones as beautiful underneath as they are on top. Starting with flat sheets of aluminum alloy, the rough shape is cut from a template, then skillfully hammered and rolled on a "English Wheel" before the halves are welded together. Hours of sanding, grinding and polishing are required before the part can be delivered. If you have an application that Evan hasn't designed or built yet, a donor motorcycle will have to be supplied for fitment. Check Evan's website for availability and contact information and remember; Real art doesn't come cheap, nor is it ever hurried. For the owner desiring to adorn his/her European classic with the finest quality bodywork available, Evan is the person to contact. A fine, humble gentleman with an extraordinary talent, these products are truly the illustration of old world craftsmanship in a world where such attributes are increasingly difficult to find.
Thus, the application of Evan's handiwork is the perfect finishing touch to Thorpe's T2. The owner favored the "kick-up" spoiler on the stock fiberglass tailpiece, so Evan incorporated that into the alloy seat section, and the fuel tank mimics the shape of the tank found on the early Le Mans. As a whole, the T2 differs from the original Thrasher with slightly sharper, more angular lines that showcases the squared-off motor. It looks just a bit more brutal and purposeful, almost menacing. Squeezing the polished fuel taps to the "on" position, a bit of choke and a flick of the key is all that is needed for the T2 to light. Once running, the rumble emitting from the ceramic coated BUB Hyper fills the street with the sort of glorious road music that only a healthy Guzzi twin can produce. Once warm, the T2 responds to a quick twist of the throttle with instant application of horsepower to tarmac; shocking the unsuspecting with the sort of acceleration not expected from a simple pushrod twin. Settling into the wide, comfortable seat your feet are perfectly placed on the trimmed (passenger pegs removed) Agostini rear-set's, while your upper body is angled slightly forward in the classic cafe riding position. Gear change-ups dip the powerband back into the center of the torque curve, setting you back against the saddle's bump stop. Handling is neither quick or slow, just predictable, with plenty of cornering clearance and grunt from the alloy lump that is dominating the experience. The T2
never feels breathless or burdened, ostensibly enjoying -encouraging- rowdy behavior. This was the essence of the original Thrasher; that no holes barred tough guy. Built for heavy duty riding and plenty of it, it didn't take me long to realize Jim had built the same sort of personality into the T2. Its addicting...imagine the loud, imposing roar of a dump truck banging down the path in a Volkswagen-sized package. That's the Thrasher experience. Sadly, my time on the T2 was brief, and seeing as how the motor was still extremely tight and its owner hadn't even seen the finished product yet- it was time to return the T2 to Jim, who is still not satisfied with the idle or rear suspension action. Only when the bike has passed his final inspection, will the owner be called. My problem? Extreme covertness; I don't want to turn the machine over, I want more time..much more. Where do I sign? Moto Guzzi ownership isn't for everyone. There will be some who disdain the sort of relationship between man and machine the Guzzi demands, and there areotherbikes for them. The EP&F T2 is MotoGuzzipared down to its elemental
core; a machine
with a singular purpose.Its often been said the first five or ten miles
on a Moto Guzzi are the worst miles of your life, and the next 200K the
very best. The big twin gets to you, a place deep inside. Only those without
soul can ignore it.
1983 Moto Guzzi Le Mans/E.P&F Thrasher-2
Encore Performance & Fabrication
355 Henry Street
Prescott, AZ 86301
844cc Air cooled 90degree V-twin
2- 36mm Bellcrank DellOrto's 2: 3-1/2" X 4" K&N filters
New valves, guides, rings, ported and polished to match G&G Delrin intake manifolds
Fren-Tubo stainless oil lines
Dyna III ignition, Dyna green coils, Nology "Hot Wires"
Lightened flywheel, deep spline clutch components
Modified Bub Hyper system, Jet hot aluminum ceramic coating
New drive line components including drive shaft, rear drive and wheel splines
Full tube steel frame with removable lower rails
38mm Marzocchi Strada forks, new steering head bearings, new wheel bearings
2-300mm Brembo rotors and 2-piston caliper front brakes 270mm Brembo rotor/caliper rear. EBC
sintered pads, Fren-Tubo stainless brake lines
100/80-18" Bridgestone BT45 front tire 110/90-18 rear
Agostini Rear sets... passenger pegs removed
Tarozzi clip ons
Billet fork brace
Evan Wilcox alloy tank, fender, seat/tail section
Tommaselli head light brackets, 7" chrome head light bucket
EP&F custom wiring harness
Westco sealed 20AH battery mounted in EP&F custom battery box
Alloy turn signals
Custom alloy dash
Pringle billet switches
Standing start 1/4 mile: NA
Top Speed: Approx: 130 mph (Top gear @ redline)
Hand Formed Metal
Prescott, AZ 86301
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