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Guest History – Morbidelli V8 – Eight Cylinder Exotica – Bike-urious

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Certainly one of my favourite motorbike web sites is OddBike, a set of musings by Jason Cormier during which he ‘obsesses over bizarre bikes from all over the world’. I respect his writing as a result of it’s completely researched and extremely informative. My every day posts listed here are sometimes fast hits, however a narrative from Jason is value grabbing your favourite sipping drink for since you ought to take your time to take pleasure in it. So…seize a drink and prepare to study concerning the Morbidelli V8, as a result of I’m honored to share of 1 Jason’s items right here right now:


Morbidelli V8 – Eight Cylinder Exotica
Story and Photographs by Jason Cormier


There are two elements within the motorbike business that may and often will doom any bike from the start:

1. A particularly excessive price ticket.
2. Styling courtesy of an automotive design home.

The topic of in the present day’s profile utilized each of those lethal sins to their full impact. It was licensed by Guinness as the costliest motorbike of all time. And it was declared the ugliest motorbike of all time by anybody who had the misfortune to gaze upon the bodywork penned by Pininfarina.

That is the Morbidelli 850 V8. Technologically fascinating and produced by an organization that ought to have had no proper to construct an eight-cylinder grand touring machine, it was an formidable try to interrupt into what has historically been the black gap of motorbike genres: the boutique luxurious motorbike.

Morbidelli as an organization had an extended and profitable historical past constructing small bore two-stroke racing machines, however oddly these have been a aspect gig for what was in any other case a profitable woodworking gear agency based in 1959 by Giancarlo Morbidelli in Pesaro, Italy. That firm’s legacy continues beneath the SCM banner. Stranger issues have occurred; Bimota had its roots in HVAC in any case.

What we’re involved with started in 1968 when Morbidelli entered two machines, a Benelli and a Motobi, into the Italian Junior Championship. This foray impressed the creation of Morbidelli’s first Grand Prix machine in 1969, a liquid-cooled rotary-valve 50cc machine designed by Franco Ringhini. The machine achieved success proper out of the gate, with a 1-2 win in Yugoslavia and a sixth place end in East Germany. Success continued in 1970 when Ringhini developed a twin-cylinder 125cc, adopted by four-cylinder 350cc machine.

Morbidelli 50

In 1974 Morbidelli employed ex-Van Veen engineer Jorg Möller. Möller helped develop a brand new 125cc twin that proved to be the manufacturing unit’s most profitable design, profitable the 125 GP in 1975, 1976 and 1977. After years of manufacturing unit effort Morbidelli was now able to promote machines to privateers in partnership with Benelli Armi (oddly this was the small arms manufacturing unit relatively than the motorbike firm; the latter had been acquired by Alessandro De Tomaso in 1973). These 125s turned so dominant that by 1977 they accounted for greater than half the grid of their class.

Morbidelli 125

The 125 begat a 250cc twin (which was additionally campaigned in 350cc guise) which gained the 1977 championship. By 1978 the manufacturing unit effort turned Morbidelli Benelli Armi (MBA), whose machines gained the 125 championship in 1978 and 1980. MBA 125s remained aggressive proper up till 1988, when FIM rule modifications made twin-cylinder 125s out of date in favour of single-cylinder entries. The last word evolution of MBA’s efforts can be their luckless try at a 500 GP entry ridden by Graziano Rossi (you’ll have heard of his son Valentino?), which suffered a collection of failures and prompted Morbidelli to wind down their Grand Prix marketing campaign.

Morbidelli 350

So how did Morbidelli go from woodworking to Grand Prix racing to constructing a V8 powered sport tourer?

The reality is it wasn’t “that” Morbidelli that constructed the V8. Somewhat it was produced by a brand new firm that bore the Morbidelli identify however was distinct from Giancarlo’s earlier enterprise, which had been a woodworking outfit first, with bikes being an elaborate interest funded by the principal operation. Giancarlo bought this firm in 1990 to focus solely on bikes, with the V8 being the primary (and finally solely) machine produced.

Someday within the early 90s the venture started with the event of an 850cc, quad cam, 32-valve V8. With a 90 diploma Vee angle, phrase was that the Morbidelli V8 was a scale copy of the venerable Cosworth DFV and was penned by designer Giorgio Valentini, although precise perception into the event and engineering of the powerplant are sorely missing from most sources.

What is understood is that the engine featured a 55mm bore and 44.6mm stroke netting 847.8ccs. The consumption valves have been 21mm, exhaust 17mm with a 28 diploma valve angle, and the 4 camshafts have been pushed by a pair of toothed timing belts. The crankcases have been sandcast magnesium. Peak energy was reached at 11,000 rpm; the prototype produced 100 hp and 54 lb/ft of torque, abiding by the (not often noticed) early 1990’s gentleman’s settlement to restrict output to not more than 100 horsepower. Later revisions upped this to 120 hp and 60 lb/ft by way of an up to date injection system that utilized spherical throttle valves. Fueling was by way of Weber-Marelli gasoline injection metered by way of eight 25mm throttle our bodies, the airbox sharing area with the radiator above the longitudinally mounted engine to maintain the entrance freed from muddle. This injection system was based mostly on the P collection Alfa-N system fitted to modern Ducatis and featured swappable EPROM chips that contained the gasoline and ignition mapping for straightforward on-the-fly tuning.

These have been comparatively modest energy numbers, notably for a V8. One benefit of going to extra cylinders is the power to scale back piston velocity and improve the rev ceiling considerably; Ian Drysdale’s exceptional little V8 simply revs to 17,000 rpm in “road” guise and 19,000 rpm in race trim. At 11,000 rpm the Morbidelli is slinging pistons at a leisurely 16.four meters per second; for comparability Yamaha R6 pistons are shifting 23 m/s at 16,000 rpm.

The reply as to why Morbidelli didn’t push the V8 to the restrict is the appliance. It was not meant as a sport bike, and racing was by no means a aim regardless of Morbidelli’s historical past. The V8 was conceived as an expensive gentleman’s sport touring machine aimed toward a rich clientele. In case you are struggling to image that motorbike area of interest in your thoughts then you aren’t alone; efforts to create the two-wheeled equal of an costly grand touring machine are virtually by no means profitable, until they attraction to present model loyalty (Harley) or rose-tinted nostalgia (Norton and Brough-Superior).

Given this modus operandi the selection of shaft remaining drive was not shocking. It made sense given the longitudinal format of the V8, with a twin plate clutch bolted to the rear of the engine forward of a separate five-speed gearbox ala BMW or Moto Guzzi. In reality this format gave the machine greater than a passing resemblance to a up to date BMW Okay-bike, right down to the single-sided swingarm, left aspect exhaust, and straight-rate monoshock appearing immediately on the driveshaft housing/swingarm. Even the three-spoke Marvic wheels fitted to the V8 had greater than a passing resemblance to what BMW had on their flying brick on the time (although they aren’t similar).

The body was a chrome moly metal trellis designed by Bimota that featured 27 levels of rake and a 58.7 inch wheelbase. As you’d anticipate for a high-falutin’ machine the V8 was outfitted with Brembo goldline brakes and absolutely adjustable GCB suspension. The sprint featured a digital show set right into a slab of burled walnut, and apparently the mirrors have been energy operated. Dry weight was quoted as 441 kilos, not notably mild by trendy requirements however impressively svelte for an early 1990s tourer with eight cylinders. Prime velocity was someplace between 140 and 150 miles per hour relying on what supply you belief.

Up to now so good, however issues started to unravel as quickly because the Morbidelli V8 was unveiled to the general public in 1994. Introduced (appropriately?) on the Milan Woodworking Present the V8 featured bodywork penned by famend Italian styling agency Pininfarina – the end result was, in a phrase, horrifying.

I’m one to offer credit score the place credit score is due and I respect anybody who makes an attempt to interrupt the mould in motorbike design. I’m one of many few individuals who appreciates the distinctive styling of the Bimota Mantra (which, regardless of what you may assume, was one among Bimota’s best-selling machines of all time). I typically discover myself defending in any other case maligned designs as a result of I recognize various concepts in what has grow to be a staunchly conservative business.

That being stated, even I can’t name the Pininfarina design something however bug fuck ugly.

photograph from Motorbike Specs. Editor’s Notice: That is the primary era. Jason’s different pictures present the redesign, detailed under.

Then there was the worth. Preliminary estimates projected the retail round $45,000 USD, which was unprecedented for a motorbike. It was unfathomable for one thing so hideous. Morbidelli claimed that they might produce one V8 per thirty days and make the most of a direct gross sales mannequin. Clients would have the machine despatched on to them, and for service work, they have been anticipated to re-crate the bike and ship it again to the Morbidelli manufacturing unit “for free of charge”. Whether or not this A. partly justified the worth tag or B. made it apparent that you simply have been utterly by yourself in case your V8 broke down wasn’t famous.

After the (understandably) poor response to the Pininfarina prototype, the V8 was reworked and re-unveiled in 1996 with far cleaner styling courtesy of Bimota. It was so clear and easy that the majority pundits thought it was a bit boring, making the V8 appear to be a financial institution commercial’s interpretation of an nameless sporting motorbike. The styling went from Lovecraftian horror to Cream of Wheat bland; one thing in between the 2 may need been extra interesting, however Morbidelli was little question burned properly sufficient by Pininfarina’s work to play it as a protected as potential with the redesign.

Together with the revised styling , output was elevated to 120 hp and the the wrong way up GCB forks have been changed by typical Paoli models. By this level the retail worth had ballooned to $60,000. Shortly after it was quoted as $70,000. By 1997, the magic quantity was $160,000. The latter determine was sufficient to make the V8 the Guinness World Report holder for “Most Costly Motorbike in Manufacturing” till 2004, when the MTT Y2K Turbine Superbike took the crown with its $185,000 price ticket.

By 1998 Morbidelli had spent four billion lire (roughly 2.7 million USD) on the event of the V8 and had constructed a grand complete of 4 machines – the Pininfarina prototype and three restyled examples. It turned evident that producing a return on their large funding was going to be well-nigh unattainable, even when they might discover a handful of consumers prepared to pay six figures for a motorbike. Orders have been pending and homologation was almost accomplished (the prototypes even have catalytic converters of their eight-into-one exhaust) however Giancarlo was unable to safe additional funding. Thus the Morbidelli V8 was quietly shelved. Giancarlo stored one, the Barber Motorsports Museum purchased one, and a 3rd ended up within the palms of personal collector Robert D. Arnott and has lately been exhibited on the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. I wasn’t capable of decide the destiny of the lone Pininfarina machine.

In 1999 Giancarlo transformed his former manufacturing unit area in Pesaro right into a highly-regarded museum displaying round 350 machines. The 32,000 sq. foot constructing additionally homes a full workshop to protect and restore the opposite 250-odd bikes that Giancarlo has in his assortment, making him one in every of Italy’s most prolific motorbike collectors and the custodian of certainly one of Europe’s largest motorbike museums. Naturally the museum has examples of all of Morbidelli’s work, together with the V8 which sits on the entrance.

Someday within the mid-2000s phrase obtained out that Giancarlo was engaged on one other unique venture, this time a 750cc V12 designed to suit into the body of a Honda CBR600. Footage of a picket mockup of the powerplant have been circulated and some scant particulars have been offered. Nevertheless this was not the rebirth of the Morbidelli identify, fairly it was a one-off undertaking funded by Giancarlo as a enjoyable engineering train to fulfill his private fascination with 12 cylinder machines. Working with out pc aided design, Giancarlo has been designing the engine the quaint approach with pen, paper and picket mockups. The V12 includes a 60 diploma Vee and is a remarkably slender 380mms large, which can permit it to be mounted transversely in a body that was initially meant to accommodate a 600cc 4.

Sadly after a flurry of curiosity round 2007 nothing appears to have come to fruition. On the time it was famous that that they had spent round 6 years engaged on the V12 idea, 2 years on the crankshaft alone, and it was nonetheless within the early conceptual part. With current murmurs that the Morbidelli Museum is perhaps in monetary hassle following disagreements with the native authorities it appears more and more unlikely that we’ll see the V12 come to fruition.

So what can we make of the Morbidelli 850 V8? In contrast to many different boutique machines, this isn’t the story of a challenge gone awry on account of large monetary mismanagement or poor execution. By all accounts the V8 was and is a stunning machine, clean and pleasant to journey with a sonorous exhaust notice that solely a eight cylinder engine can present. It fulfilled its mission as a gentlemanly sport touring machine of unparalleled exclusivity. Reliability and high quality is tough to guage with solely 4 prototypes in existence, however no one has blown one up as of but.

So what went improper?

The motorbike market is notoriously fickle and conservative, and one area of interest that has but to be cracked is the one of many unique, costly boutique motorbike. Many have tried and proceed to attempt to construct a no-expense-spared machine in an try and craft the two-wheeled equal of an unique vehicle. However again and again we as a market have rejected these machines as frivolous, overpriced, and elitist units.

At its core motorcycling is a populist pursuit. When a $30,000 machine is taken into account extraordinarily costly and can perpetually be berated for its “excessive” price ticket, there isn’t a lot room for six-figure workouts in shifting the motorbike upmarket.

It isn’t a query of worth or craftsmanship or design justifying the price. It’s merely a psychological barrier that forbids something from succeeding ought to its retail exceed the accepted median. The fixed barrage of negativity surrounding worth from the moto rags simply reinforces this reality; what number of occasions have you ever learn that Moto X is “the costliest in our check” as a result of it retails for 500 bucks greater than Moto Y and Z? Costly boutique machines from corporations like Midual, Horex, Accomplice/Curtiss, Ecosse, Ariel, and lots of others are damned from the start by persistent criticism of their worth tags and inevitable comparisons to far inexpensive machines. What number of auto mags dare whine concerning the worth of a Ferrari in comparison with a Dodge?

(I could also be harboring some bitterness on the topic because of the current failure of Motus, a model I had excessive hopes for producing an distinctive machine I fell in love with after driving it by way of the backroads of Alabama. The persistent and unfair criticism leveled towards the MST was its “excessive” price ticket, which nonetheless undercut a CVO Harley by a good margin regardless of being constructed from the bottom up with prime notch elements and a bespoke engine utilizing costly American labour.)

The opposite issue that doomed the V8 was the atrocious preliminary styling by Pininfarina, a outcome that was incongruous with the output of a styling home that has produced a number of the most lovely cars of all time. The ridicule heaped upon the design made the machine appear to be an costly joke, a popularity that adopted the undertaking even after the clean-sheet restyle. It wasn’t the primary nor the final time an automotive styling home received it fallacious – take a look at the Giugiaro Ducati 860, or the Zagato MV Agusta F4Z. There aren’t many examples of auto designers making an attempt their hand at two-wheeled designs, however most of them are fairly horrible.

In the long run the Morbidelli V8 proved to be an untenable idea. It aimed to create a brand new area of interest for an costly and unique gentleman’s categorical, and had little hope of ever being a worthwhile enterprise given the complexity of the design and the relative lack of curiosity from consumers. It maybe wasn’t unique sufficient to justify its excessive worth, although it will appear that any two-wheeled machine with a six-figure retail is doomed regardless of how interesting it may be. The truth that the V8 was an actual machine and never conceptual vaporware was a exceptional achievement.

It’s a credit score to the imaginative and prescient of Giancarlo Morbidelli and the workforce he assembled that the V8 went so far as it did, even when it didn’t obtain the success that may have justified the expense of improvement. It caught within the hearts and minds of many motorcyclists entranced by the potential of a howling eight-cylinder machine. It might be immortalized by its inclusion within the Guggenheim’s Artwork of the Motorbike exhibit and its place within the everlasting show of the Barber Motorsports Museum. Regardless of all of the criticisms and its failure to discover a area of interest, the Morbidelli V8 was, and is, a powerful achievement that confirmed what might be finished by a small firm pushed by ardour to create a brand new excessive water mark for motorbike design and engineering.


Publish script: In 2014 a documentary movie referred to as Morbidelli – A Story Of Males And Quick Bikes was launched, profiling Morbidelli’s historical past as a racing outfit.

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