Early Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1

These early Moto Guzzi MK1 Le Mans are the ones which will really increase in value, but only the first five hundred units as they are very different. Everyone clamours for the MK1 over the later, less appealing, yet more refined, models which lost their appeal as it was designed out in favour of “sophistication”. The earlier the example of Le Mans, the more raw and aggressive the machine is, but the first 500 examples really are a holy grail for classic motorcycle collectors. They offer great value as an iconic classic Italian motorcycle at a really affordable price point. Although more expensive than other mark 1 Le Mans, they are exceptionally rare and have many unique parts over the post 500 of the mark 1 production. The paint scheme is slightly different, the rear light is from a Ducati 900SS and the seat was unique to these first few.

Early Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 for sale

True Moto Guzzi appeal

These offer true Moto Guzzi appeal in the rawest sense, as they are truly agricultural with a brutality thundering away in the motor with every beat. Often referred to as ditch pumps, they are simple machines that derived from a Second World War half track with a single front wheel. De Tomaso bought Moto Guzzi and went to work in bringing the world a budget racer, so took this old motor, breathed new life into it and extracting a lot of lazy power which never stresses the motor. These first 500 units are so raw and brutal, in spite of the apparent laziness of the motor. They also catch the eye with the florescent orange streak running vertically up the tiny headlamp fairing. the bike looks squat and slender yet the V Twin transverse motor offers a style dictated by a big brutal pair of cylinders.

Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 front riding

Budget high specification sports motorcycle

Moto Guzzi delivered a high specification sports motorcycle on a budget which undercut Ducati and matched Japanese motorcycles, yet with Italian exotica. The bike comes with Brembo brakes all round and great big Delorto carburettors, so the bike really was an exotic piece of kit. The switch gear is annoying and was also used on the Benelli Sei, also delivered by De Tomaso, yet if the switch gear remains in tact it adds great value to the motorcycle. Most owners would have replaced the Italian switch gear with Japanese switches, so machines which are original have a lot of added value as you can never replace those archaic switches once they have gone. The first 500 units had a unique stepped seat, placing the pinion in a similar position to a modern sports bike. However, this strange plastic black seat has none of the style of a modern item, but is unique. Very few of these still exist as they decayed horribly and very quickly. Many owners simply replaced them with the later, sleeker MK1 Le Mans dual seat. Having this original seat, even if it’s in poor condition, adds great value as so few of them were made and even fewer exist in any way shape or form today. Owners reversing their motorcycle into something solid at walking speed over nearly a fifty year period is an incident which is pretty unavoidable, unless their bikes have never been outside before. Such a mishap would wreck the Ducati 900SS rear light, which only appeared on these first five hundred units, and owners just couldn’t justify the incredible expense to replace them with the correct item. Most of these first five hundred bikes were therefore “upgraded” to the later standard MK1 Le Mans rear light, so still having that original rear light really adds a lot of value. The paint scheme was different to the later ones and very few have the correct scheme in place.

Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 left switch
Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 rear light

Future Italian classic motorcycle

These first five hundred Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 is a future Italian classic motorcycle, all Le Mans are classics but these are really prime future classic motorcycles. They are so rare and finding them with all the parts present is beyond challenging. They are great fun fun to ride, once you’ve got used to them, but they are also very quickly to adapt to. They have a charm and charisma unlike any other motorcycle on the planet and look quite remarkable, turning heads everywhere they pull up. The exhaust note is raucous and naughty, provoking unnecessary throttle blipping at any opportunity, leaving grins on schoolboys’ faces in their wake. Quirky motorcycles very rarely deliver great desirability in the classic market, but these early first 500 Guzzis break that mould and will become highly sought after. It’s a matter of time until Ducati owners get a ride on one of these ditch pumps and they will enjoy the ride and totally get them and once that happens, prices will rocket. They’re V twins, they’re loud, they’re fun and they do the job differently while delivering smiles all the way. The MK1 is deceptively fast and very long, these machines are a grin per beat of each cylinder. They lolllup along, yet move through twisty roads with alarming pace if you’re chasing one.

Moto Guzzi Le Mans MK1 RHS cornering

Now is the time to buy one

Now is the time to buy one, as the longer you leave it the less investment grade examples will be available and the prices are only ever going upwards. I will be doing a proper road test shortly, as I had a ball test riding the one we prepared for our customer and the price point is very attractive. Italian classic motorcycles are becoming more and more expensive by the day and finding investment grade examples is becoming more and more of a challenge. When buying thee machines it’s important to drop the motor, change the cam chain tensioner as they are falling apart due to age. The chrome on the lower cam followers is usually shot, so they need replacing along with rocker pins, bushes and bores are usually worn out by now. If the bores are worn, pistons are no longer available so a 950 conversion is usually the best alternative and does not stress the motor at all. These are a great bike and they offer a great deal of fun and are very reliable once sorted out and regularly serviced.

Paul Jayson

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