Moto Guzzi Le Mans III - Archive


Moto Guzzi's V-twins first gained a place in racing history when an 850cc version of the V-7 Sport placed third in the 1971 Bol d'Or 24-hour endurance race at Le Mans, France, earning the bike its "Le Mans" nickname. When Guzzi produced a sporting 850cc machine, the name became official.

Because of the American belief that there is no substitute for cubic inches, Moto Guzzi replaced the original U.S.-market Le Mans with the CX100 in 1979. The CX featured the larger engine from the sport-touring 1000SP, along with that bike's frame-mounted fairing lowers. The engine may have been larger, but it was also slower; many Guzzi fans felt the CX didn't deserve the "Le Mans" name.

Moto Guzzi released the Le Mans III in 1981, though the U.S. market didn't get the new version until 1983. This bike featured the new "square-head" V-twin, named for the angular styling of the cylinders and heads. It abandoned the CX100's sport-touring amenities and returned to the high-performance formula of the original.

The magazines of the day raved. Cycle proclaimed Italy's premier sportbike to be "alive and better than ever." In the hands of American dentist Dr. John Wittner, the Le Mans even regained its racing glory, winning the AMA's endurance-racing series in 1984.

For 1985, Moto Guzzi introduced the Le Mans 1000, also called the Le Mans IV. The 1000 featured some performance mods, like bigger valves, stiffer valve springs and higher- compression pistons, but it also used the 16-inch front wheels then in vogue. In 1988, Guzzi switched back to 18-inch front wheels, but by that time the Le Mans had been far outclassed by such Japanese sportsters as the Suzuki GSX-R750 and the Yamaha FZR1000.

Clean, early versions of the original "round-head" Le Mans are now reaching into the five-figure resale range. Even the unlamented CX100 is starting to appreciate a bit, but the Le Mans III is still a relative bargain. You can pick up a 1983 model for approximately $3500 and a 1984 unit for roughly $3750.

Parts are extremely expensive and hard to find, but that's true of any Guzzi. All things considered, the Le Mans III represents one of the best bargains in classic European motorcycles currently available.-Darwin Holmstrom