Moto Guzzi T3 Special

Café Corretto

| November/December 2010

“Many riders, as in the past, have taken a standard motorcycle, maybe new, maybe old, and invested time, money and their ingenuity to produce a personal statement. A machine that — whatever its individual idiosyncrasies — immediately creates an impression of speed and purposefulness.”

Mike Clay’s words in his 1988 book Café Racers explain eloquently and concisely the reason why beautiful classic Italian motorcycles like the glimmering custom Moto Guzzi T3 Special in front of me exist at all. They’re called café racers because these bikes were and are used for short, sharp speed trips from one coffee bar to another.
Individuals like Paul Dunstall were the driving force of café racerdom in the 1960s, yet some factories felt compelled to produce their own café racers, and certain Ducati and Moto Guzzi models in particular, such as the Ducati 750 Sport and the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, arguably redefined the genre.

Italian Day at the Ace
Suitably enough, I first came across James Cracknell’s Moto Guzzi T3 special on Italian Day at the fabled Ace Cafe. The parking lot was packed with Italian bikes of all makes, styles and ages, and there was some priceless machinery on show. When the silver Moto Guzzi café racer pulled up, its noise attracted as much attention as its good looks. The Guzzi stood out for all the right reasons and drew admiring looks and comments.

We later met up at the family-run garage near Bury where James, 39, works as a mechanic and also runs the motorcycle certification side of the business. A well-used Guzzi California 850 parked in one of the workshops gives me the idea that James’ special was born of an extension of a passion for the Italian V-twins. “I’ve had that Cali for 18 years,” confirms James, “and covered more than 50,000 miles on it. I really appreciate the simplicity of these Guzzis, and I like the chunky engine that is so over-engineered.”

The Guzzi bug bit hard and another bike was soon purchased. “A 1976 T3 came up for sale. It only had one owner from new, who’d crashed it at some point and replaced the frame, but didn’t manage to sort out the documents properly. He was returning to his native Australia but wasn’t allowed to take the bike, so I bought it cheaply. I put it in a shed for six years, then eventually decided to get it going,” James says.

The transformation begins
The difference between the bike that James purchased and what it looks like now could not be greater. The transformation from ratty tourer to lithe and fast sportster has been a process that has taken four years of patience and quite a bit of James’ hard-earned cash. The result is stunning, and a credit to James’ mechanical and engineering skills, and also his attention to detail. Why a café racer though? Aren’t Guzzis better at touring?

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