1982-2008 Moto Guzzi California

Smart Money

The first Moto Guzzi California appeared in 1971 as the baseline 850 Eldorado, with chrome trim and a massive touring seat. Glacial Italian evolution led to the '82 California II, featuring an updated 949cc engine. The California III came in '87 with more congruent curves and, later, fuel injection. The big bore California 1100 arrived in '94. Later Californias, particularly 2003 models, were riddled with recalls for defective hydraulic lifters and a short-lived clutch. Earlier Californias, though, are an outstanding, economical entry into the world of Guzzisti.

The California cruisers are all powered by Guzzi's iconic air-cooled, two-valve, longitudinal, 90-degree V-twin-a powerplant as bulletproof as Silvio Berlusconi's limo. From '74 on, they utilize the same frame Lino Tonti designed for the 850 Le Mans superbike, so out-handle most competitors. Throwing sparks from a California's floorboards in the twisties is frighteningly fun.

Guzzi guru Mark Etheridge of Moto Guzzi Classics in Long Beach believes the early Californias are best. He advises to watch for loose universal joints on high-mileage examples; replacements cost around $300 and a failure can lock the rear wheel. The Digiplex ignition box from the early-'90s models is unreliable and unobtanium. Mark says to check the valves every 5000 miles, too.

Despite dated looks, an '82 California II provides loads of Guzzi grunt for just north of $2000. Well-kept examples run for hundreds of thousands of miles and feature easily tuned points ignition and carburetors. For a few Franklins more, a committed highway hooligan might consider a California III Tourer with hard luggage and a fairing as broad as Grandma Giuseppe's girdle. For around $4000, a '94 1100 accessorized with hard bags and a windshield will eat up miles like Pavarotti inhaled plates of polenta. Typical Guzzi blue book values are somewhat inaccurate, so do real-world price comparisons before you buy.

Sourcing Guzzi parts can be like negotiating with the mafia. Suppliers are few, but well connected. MG Cycle in Wisconsin and MPH Cycles in Houston both carry gaskets, filters, OE sundries and performance parts. Locating some arcane components may require an E-mail to parts supplier Duilio Agostini, located a scant few hundred feet from the Guzzi factory in Mandello del Lario, Italy.

For almost four decades, the California series has provided Europhiles with reliable mounts for rumbling along the world's backroads. The early Californias are an exceptional value for anyone who wants to go Guzzi

Prodigious torque, sweet handling, respectable cornering clearance for a cruiser.

Shaft effect, iffy parts supply, insufficient time to attend all the Guzzi Rallies.

Watch For
Hydraulic lifter and single-plate clutch issues, loose U-joints, high mileage.

A Euro-style cruiser with a racer's soul.

1982 | $3350
1994 | $2730
2002 | $4985


Ducati Indiana
1987 | $1500

The Diavel isn't Ducati's first cruiser. The Indiana preceded it by more than two decades. Meager power, obscure, un-supported ... the poor Indiana was born orphaned. Make Ducati purists cry when you paddle up to the local watering hole.
BMW R1200C
1998 | $4000

Gaudy, but dignified enough for James Bond. BMW's R1200C maintains a cult following amongst those who embrace its comfortable seating position and relaxed disposition. Run, don't walk, from any 1200C with fishtail pipes and a sissy bar.
Bimota Mantra
1998 | $5800

Is the Mantra a cruiser? Maybe. It does have a wood-paneled dashboard and a freakin' glovebox! Bimota's bizarre Ducati-powered enigma is relaxed enough to serve as a weekend backroad punter. Parts (un)availability makes grown men weep.