1974 Moto Guzzi
Eldorado  \ California 850V

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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 quite a bit and will probably continue to change as time goes on.  That is part of the fun.

 California vs Eldorado vs LAPD history link: 

Roy's 1974 LAPD Eldorado/California 850V
"I just call it the 'Black Pearl"

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 disk 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 service bike.  

It had some areas repainted from parts replacement and some areas due to a brake fluid leak. The rubber 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 out.
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 properly.                     

Anytime you find an 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 handlebar.
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 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 lubrication.

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 fixed.

 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. Jan 2011 

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

The Moto Guzzi CALIFORNIA (aka Cali) is a motorcycle manufactured by Italian company 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 & functionality, 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. 

A unique 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 Brembo front brake.  Reference 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 fed.
  • 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 shocks.
  • Instruments: Speedometer with trip meter, tachometer and warning lights.
  • 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.