Just because you're not swimming in cash doesn't mean you can't treat yourself to a little bit of exotica. OK so a midsized Moto Guzzi from the eighties isn't exactly a Benelli Sei but when budget is tight you'd be hard pushed to find more soul-for-the-buck than with a V50. Shed regular Philip Marshall was looking for exactly this combination of motoring theatre on a busking budget. As with most people wanting an allrounder Philip needs a bike to carve through London's snarled-up streets during the week yet be capable of cruising with mates at the weekend. The crew at NW London's Untitled Motorcycles have made a name for themselves with a successful run of BMW airheads but within their near 50 builds to date, a few Guzzi's have fought for space on UMC co-founder Adam Kay's bench. Philip is a designer and Adam used to be a fashion designer so they both speak each other's language. Now spannering and fabricating for a living Adam also understands that not everyone can simply drop off a bike along with a blank cheque, this build needed to be attacked in affordable chunks. Starting with the vitals first UMC's team rebuilt the 500cc v-twin, removed decades of grime from the cases, painted the rocker covers and let the engine's architecture do the talking. Like them or loathe them, Guzzi's layout looks purposeful and in an age when mechanical honesty is king, being able to see so much engine is a real bonus. Next up were a few thrifty visual upgrades. The stock mudguards are actually quite well made so they were shortened and kept. To keep rust at bay these and the tank were primed prompting UMC's wiring guru Anita to name Philip's bike - The Shark. Parked-up at the Bike Shed the little Guzzi looked pretty good in flat grey and we thought it was to stay that way. With a few months and many pleasurable miles under The Shark's belt it was time for the next stage. Whilst the fork was being rebuilt Adam suggested a visitation to the powdercoaters. With the bike off the road anyway Philip agreed and the wheels, fork legs, headlight bucket and top yoke were sent for a layer of matt black. Guzzi mechanicals might be made from stout stuff but the electrics don't tend to fair so well, especially after more than three decades so Anita was tasked with putting together a fresh loom. A more modern speedo from a California now sits in a BSA headlight bucket and with it's white face is easier to read, the stock V50 dial requires a stare rather than a glance. A custom bracket drops the whole lot slightly lower for a racier looking front end. A soundtrack to go with the looks called for pod filters and ceramic coated reverse megaphone silencers, running on similarly coated but stock headers. To the uninitiated, Guzzi's linked braking system is rather curious but for town riding it's a cracker. The foot pedal actuates the rear disc and one of the two front discs allowing the right hand to carry out a single task. Which is fine until you require a bit more bite on the remaining, solid disc. An uprated master cylinder and new levers are a definite improvement.
If you've ever seen under the seat on a Tonti framed Guzzi you'll know about the cavernous potential for storage. Once the huge airbox and oversized battery have been removed. Philip didn't want to be left out of the build process so set about making a pair of V7-style side panels. Adam shortened the original seat base slightly and covered in chestnut brown leather, the saddle now looks the part and secures the tools, waterproofs and lock storage beneath.
Being a creative Philip was unable to settle on a final design and decided that he wanted another fuel tank, saying "I can change my jacket whenever I want, so I wanted to be able to do this with my bike" A spare was sourced and given to friend and fellow customiser Ged Palmer for a collaborative paint job. Philip stripped the sides but left the original, aged layers of black, now emphasised by Ged's pinstriping and number 13 roundel. Adam modified a US Army fuel can cap to finish-off the project.
Although that seems highly unlikely as Philip can't contain his enthusiasm for the Guzzi and rather than fork-out for another bike he's planning a third personality for the V50.
We've seen this bike at various stages of the build and can confirm that it's taken a while but that's all part of the customising adventure. If you deny yourself the hours of daydreaming about what to do with which bit next then you've missed out on half the fun.
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Photography by Ludovic Robert