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1974 Moto Guzzi Eldorado California
This first picture shows how it looked when I first got the "Black Pearl". It has changed
bit and will probably continue to change as time goes on. That is part of
California vs Eldorado vs
LAPD history link:
Roy's 1974 LAPD Eldorado/California 850V
"I just call it the 'Black
This Moto Guzzi 850 LAPD Eldorado California was found in Kirkland Washington.
It had been owned by a few folks locally for most of it's years.
(9/22/09) I named it "The Black Pearl" - cause
it sorta fooled me. It looked like a real pearl. It seemed to run
pretty good. However, I ended up repairing and replacing so much on it
that it became the black pearl. I Really love it now. I sorta bonded
with it and now we have a good relationship.
It had 41,000 on the odometer and it had several
modifications from original. Like dual
brembo front brakes, different police side stand, added back a left side tool box with starter insert,
and was surrounded by the DB (Dan Brown), saddlebags, DB Trunk, and Fairing from the 70's.
The DB collection was a popular accessory item for Eldorado's. Black with
white accent was the predominate coloring scheme, and the chrome fenders were
one of the few ways to distinguish a Civilian LAPD Eldorado from a actual police
It had some areas repainted from parts replacement and some areas due to a brake
fluid leak. The
brake lines were in really bad condition and would be replaced ASAP. The
2-up saddle might be a comfortable ride for some, but it pushed me forward and
was not comfortable. I'll have to experiment with some seat fixin' ideas.
The previous owner got a huge deep dent in the front chrome fender from leaving
a motorcycle Lock on and driving off! I'll hope to get help pressing it
The Eldorado throttle cruise control double set screws were locked up and not
operating at all. With about 2 hours tinkering I was able to get things
cleaned up, added some new grips and now those Cruise Controls are working
Anytime you find
old motorcycle the new owner will always find lots of little things here and
there to tinker with, adjust or replace - mostly to make the bike more road
worthy, but also to fit the new riders riding style better. Like that
seat, it's probably just fine for some bottoms, just not mine. The
controls used were also very difficult to operate - for me. I believe the
controls are original and although they do work, the original controls have a
bad reputation for electrical switching problems. So, I have purchased an
older Yamaha switch control to put on the left handle bar which will control the
horn, Hi/Lo beam, and Turn signals. This Eldorado has some other handlebar
on it, it is drilled at the base and the electrical wiring runs from the base up
inside the handlebar! Looks nice without all those wires we usually have
draped all over the Eldorado's. I will try to keep the wires inside the
No rust except those poorly painted over crash bars up front (a regular
occurrence on forward crash bars on the loop frames).
Without the choke at 40 degrees it did sputter and spit some, but still,
she started right up! I was not really surprised, because these Guzzi's
have a reputation. I was so happy with it that in the morning I went to
the local Guzzi breakfast on it and have put about 100 + miles on it and loved
the ride. I have not even cleaned the motorcycle.
The clutch had problems.
The black pearl had a very grabby clutch. The clutch did not slip and it shifted through
all gears wonderfully, except from stop. It lurched and grabbed into gear trying
to kill the engine in the process. So, I tried the old trick of washing out the
clutch cavity with mineral spirits. Hey, this worked great – for about 100
miles. After 100 miles the clutch became stickier and stickier until it was as
grabby and bad as ever. Hum, I washed it out with mineral spirits again – It
worked Again and the clutch engaged with the smoothness of a brand new bike –
for about 100 miles. Yeap, the grabby sticky clutch action returned just as
before. All the folks I told about this problem said that my only answer was a
new clutch. ARGH; I really didn't want to do that. (I had to replace a clutch at
the '99 New Mexico rally – Greg Field helped me tear down in-frame and with
clutch parts borrowed at the rally we got the Ambo-WA-ttitude running again!).
Ever since that, I hate doing the clutch job.
So, stubborn person that I am, I stayed awake one night pondering on: Why
the mineral spirits wash did fix the clutch action, even if it was for a limited
time. It did work; for a time.
The clutch really feels strong, except for getting off from a
start. It was like the mineral spirits cleaned and "Lubed" the clutch action. I
believe the mineral spirits lubed the moving parts of the clutch action until
the mineral spirits totally dried up. Probably after about 50 miles, then I
started really feeling it get stickier for sure about 100 miles.
Okay, If that is true, all I need to do is get some lube onto those parts
like the mineral spirts wash – but not On the clutch plates.
> > Ever heard of HHS 2000 spray lube by Worth? This is some fantastic stuff.
Can't find it at auto parts stores. (can buy it online) It is a spray lube used
at higher end mechanic shops. I called my local Mercedes Benz shop and went down
to buy a can. Surprise – the fella Gave me a can from the shop that was ¼ used,
so it didn't even cost me anything. Bonus.
HHS is a fast drying silicone spray lube. Spray it on liberally, allow
time to dry and it coats anything with a sticky "water proof" silicone
I opened that little black inspection hole on the side of the
tranny where I earlier poured in mineral spirits and I sprayed around inside. I
tried to aim it so it would drizzle down to the working parts – like the mineral
spirits must have done. I ran the engine and sprayed a little more. Let it set
for an hour and took off on a ride. YeeHaw! It worked just like the mineral
spirits trick. My clutch engagement was just perfect, smooth, and steady.
I came home, did a few other things and took it on another ride. I got
just about 100 miles on it and it is still as smooth as ever. SHORTLIVED fix. The clutch was shot. I only postponed the inevitable. Thanks to Matt Hitterdahl who came to the rescue with a slightly used clutch for me to repair with.
Then, I tried to
fix a leak in the head where the exhaust nut locks the pipe to the head. Dang, I
should have left well enough alone. The previous owner JB welded the nut into
the head. Now that I got it apart – the bike is sidelined until I get that
UPDATE: Feb 2010 - The Black Pearl gets Re-Born;
Several friends have been really helpful getting this ole Eldorado road worthy
again and I wanted to give you a quick update. Since I am not working there was
not going to be any Guzzi fixin’ - I was going to just drive it with my fingers
crossed. But, thankfully I started getting some great help with parts and advice
so, I had couldn’t ignore the ole bike and I was able to go ahead and fix just a
few things. Course, a “Few things”, tends to snowball into everything as soon as
you start taking apart an old Guzzi!! As I took things apart to get to the
clutch just about all the rubber bits and bearings and seals were 36 years of
needing some attention. Even some things like cables that were not 36 years old
were old enough to warrant replacement. I also had to get a new carrier bearing,
U-Joint and had the forks rebuilt and new front brakes – brake lines,
connectors, switch, and pads. Half the lights were working only if they wanted
too, so I also needed to fix those up. I found an old Yamaha switch gear and had
to rewire most of the controls that were fished up through the handlebars!
There are a lot of parts I am not touching because they are working, but – I am
crossing my fingers with things like starter, generator, rear drive and the
like. Still, I’ve fixed/replaced about 70% of this ole bike. I gotta say this
rebuilding has been extremely satisfying to do. Some would call it Bonding. More
like therapy in a way. I’ve had to remember stuff I’d put out of my mind years
ago, and it just feels really great massaging a 36 year old Guzzi back to on the
road again. I can’t wait to feel the harmonious character of an Eldorado on the
road. Gotta Luv it.
I would really like to find a rear wheel with Cush drive – know anybody with a
850T rear wheel in the basement???
Heck, I've heard of fellas adding all sorts of upgrades on these old bikes.
Some have rims and front ends from '2000 year model Sport bikes, Alternators
instead of generators, different rear ends, and some have gone even further than
putting a 1000cc kit and just made a new model Guzzi 1100i engine trans and the
whole works inside a loop frame. But, then, it would hardly be an vintage bike
any more - not at all.
I’ve spent plenty of time ordering parts and talking with Greg Field. He says
working on an old beat up loop frame is like pealing an old onion. Take off one
layer to discover yet another. This bike ain't no onion! Really, I
was it's new caretaker, restoring it a bit back to it's ole self. Although
I can't afford to take it down and do a complete restoration on it, I can bring
it back into viable riding condition.
You might notice the extra little tool box on the left side in some pics which
is not usually there on a LAPD Eldorado California. One of the previous owners
bought a tool box and fitted the key starter switch inside the box. Much
better looking and still maintains the key start on the lower left
side, yet it is discreetly hidden inside a lock tool box that matches the other
side. Blending the look of the standard Eldorado with the LAPD version.
There you have it. A little history of this 1974 Moto
Guzzi California. It is a very spirited "Vintage" motorcycle.
UPDATE: 2013 Unforeseen events persuaded me to modify
the bike. I kept all the original parts, but have resurrected the look of
my first Moto Guzzi by re-using some old saved parts.
Check out; SANTANA a '70's Guzzi Hippie Rendition
HISTORY of the CALIFORNIA
The Moto Guzzi CALIFORNIA (aka Cali) is a motorcycle manufactured by Italian
Moto Guzzi since 1971, bringing together the company's heritage, their
iconic air-cooled 90° V-twin engines and styling that evokes the classic
American Cruiser motorcycle. The Cali became the deluxe Moto Guzzi model -
the Civilian version of the enhanced Eldorado Police bike. In particular, the 1974
850 Eldorado California along with the LAPD version have become the most coveted
and collected versions of the Moto Guzzi legend. Becoming more coveted with time,
these '74 models can be valued in the same range of the latest Moto Guzzi models
of the day. Today - (2013) - a newly restored 850 Eldorado California or
LAPD bike can bring between $14,- $18,000.00. A brand new 2014 Moto
Guzzi California 1400cc would cost about $16,000.00 - if you can find one.
The California's' introduction came in 1971 as a V750, and from 1972 to 1974 as a
V850. The California was the result of modified standard models
(Ambassador 750) designed for the Los Angeles Police Department. The
California was for civilians yet had all the LAPD modifications minus police use
specific additions. Some of the shared modifications were:
Electrics that would allow the officer to switch off power running the
motorcycle, yet leave power on for lights, flashers, radio, siren, etc. An
improved speedometer / odometer / dash controls unit, ignition placement &
larger capacity rear drives, strengthened engine cases,enhanced braking, solo seating, cargo rack, modified brake
levers, modified side stand, extended handle bars, chrome Boot Guards on the
cylinder heads, Spot lights - Flasher units and floorboards.
distinction of the early California's is a Chrome front and rear fender
establishing it as the deluxe Moto Guzzi for the civilians.
A CALIFORNIA 850 is basically an Eldorado Police bike with chrome
plated fenders and a double seat.
The '74 California may have been the first chrome fender model. Essentially
they were a police bike made for the
civilian market, the California does not have a siren bracket (or evidence of
one being attached) and conversely, the police models were not produced with
chrome fenders and a double seat. LAPD bikes would receive Police
accouterments like siren, special saddles, saddle bags & radio to become the
LAPD Police model used around the world and widely used in California for the
LAPD. The bike features a standard seating position, footboards,
heel-and-toe gearshift, and in '74 came with a single
Civilian vs LAPD.
In Europe they had a similar version called the 850GT. The GT was fitted
with some unique features like a large solo seat called a "Buddy Seat", sport
styled rear crash bars, no floorboards, and unique paint & pinstriping.
850 Eldorado CALIFORNIA Specifications:
- Engine Type: four-stroke air cooled
- Displacement: 844.05CC, 90° V-twin.
- Bore/Stroke: 83mm x 78mm.
- Compression Ratio: 9.2 : 1.
- Max. HP: 64 @ ? RPM.
- Max. Torque: ?ft/lbs. @ ? RPM.
- Valve System: OHV with two valves per cylinder.
- Fuel Delivery: Two 29mm Dell'Orto type VHB carb. Gravity
- Ignition: Single breaker points with two lead distributor.
- Transmission: five speed with shaft.
- Clutch: two dry Disks.
- Charging System: 25A x 14V belt driven generator.
- Frame: tubular duplex cradle.
- Suspension: 35mm, dual forks. Two dual adjustable rear
- Instruments: Speedometer with trip meter, tachometer and
- Fuel Capacity: 5.84 U.S. gallons.
- Braking: Front: Single Disc Brembo (upgraded to Dual Disk
Brembo); Rear: large expanding Brake Shoe (Honest, that what the
owners manuals says!)
- Tires: Front: 400x18 tube type. Rear: 400x18 tube type.
- Curb Weight: 548 lbs.
- Seat Height: 30.75 inches.
- Colors: red/cream, black, or white.