NRCD Motoguzzi V11 Café Racer build

Posted by Shane Newman on

I am a self proclaimed Guzzista. A lover of Motoguzzi motorcycles with an almost romantic attachment to them. Over the years I have owned many Italian bikes, Motoguzzi being my favourite.

Motoguzzi have a certain unique charm, a simple design that has stood the test of time. I had always wanted to build a Guzzi café racer big V but had never come across a motorbike I could justify taking a gas axe to. Every guzzi I had previously owned was 100% original, fully restored and sold for a tidy profit. That's the great thing about Italian motorcycles, if you can take your time to get them up to factory original spec and the engines are set up correctly, they are an easy sell and will hold their value. Building a café racer could be a financial risk.

Motoguzzi are very much set and forget bikes once the typical gremlins are sorted. 

  • If you are a Motoguzzi purist, continue reading at your own risk

Our project came to me via a Facebook marketplace notification.

A 2003 Motoguzzi V11 Sport. 1100 cc , fuel injected V twin.

  • 2003 was the best year for the V11 because Aprilia oversaw the factory production, with the end product having a very high quality of finish.

The bike was already customised and the price was cheap. An unfinished running project. A Mistral exhaust system came with the bike and could be sold later to help cover build costs as the end pipes would be too long for my design.

I test rode the bike, everything seemed fine except for the typical flat spot at 3200 RPM that the seller had been unable to shake and he had assumed the engine would required an expensive service, when in actual fact, only 20 minutes with a volt meter.

  • Have a plan
  • Do an oil and filter change even if the seller states it's been done. 
  • Motoguzzi have a dry clutch, similar to a car. Guzzi are shaft drive, not chain.
  • The engine, trans and final drive all require fluid changes. It is also a good idea to lube the final drive shaft at both ends with Moly paste 
  • Set the valve clearance. On Motoguzzi engines it's easy, the cylinders stick out the side of the bike for easy accessibility
  • Clean the injectors and set the TPS Mv, this should sort out any flat spots.
  • Once the bike is running well it is time to start on the build.

For café racers I really love the Triumph Thruxton factory front screen. They will fit a 7 to 8 inch headlight and give a very clean classic profile to any low handlebar motorcycle.


Due to their light weight design, the screen can be mounted directly onto the headlight mirror mounts. Finding an original second hand screen can be daunting, so cast your net wide, they are worth the trouble to find.

  • 7 inch projector headlight

    Many 7 inch aftermarket led and projector headlights fit into the V11 headlight bucket. Before choosing, check that the product is legal to use in your country.

        •  Electric gremlins


        Like most Italian bikes, factory electrics can be a nightmare. The Italian factories use complicated electrical systems prone to failure, often a simpler alternative will do the job more effectively.
        Hopefully by the time the bike is a few years old, those issues have already been addressed.
        • Run a good quality earth wire from the battery - terminal to the frame and another directly onto the engine.
        • Check the forum pages for any recommended modifications, the V11 requires a separate ECU earth wire and the starter relay requires a reroute so as not to burn out the starter switch if the battery ever gets low
        • It is also a good idea to check the earth on the battery regulator, located at the front of the bike, notorious for coming loose.
        • Relays should be upgraded as the original factory ones were garbage

        Seat had to go. The previous owner had fitted a BMW touring seat, too long and too high for my design.

        I did not plan on shortening the rear subframe. Seat unit support brackets would be attached to the existing mount holes or welded on. The new rear seat unit had to be wide enough to fit over the subframe side rails and so I chose an aftermarket fiberglass Yamaha FZR600R solo race seat unit. I also purchased the original FZR600R padded riders seat as I would need the base to modify and really liked the side triangular profile of the original. I also tracked down a 90's FZR600 integrated tail light.

        To do list:

        • Reposition the ECU and fuse box
        • Cut out the seat base for the padded seat to allow easy access to the battery and fuses.
        • Make a T bracket with a base plate to bolt onto the rear subframe so the seat unit has strong support 
        • Add car bumper grill mesh to the inside of the seat units air intakes
        • Change over electrical plugs and wiring of the FZR600 unique integrated tail light to match the Motoguzzi loom
        • As I was using the original subframe, the bike already had a very well designed waterproof tray that housed the electrics under the seat, this would save me a lot of fabrication time.

        Here I am using CAD ( cardboard aided design ) to help sculp a new seat to tank lip that I will fabricated from fiberglass

        Here are the tail unit front M6 threaded rivet mounts. These will be welded onto the frame 

        Tip: When building custom bikes, keep in mind, fasteners need to be easily accessible for future maintenance. Don't make things impossible to remove. All nuts and bolts should be within arms reach and have enough room for workshop tool operation

        • Less is best
        Café racer builds there are actually some build rules we try to follow. This is not always possible especially on modern bikes due to frame style and tank shapes but our aim is to:
        • Have handle bars, gauges, tank and seat sit at the same horizontal line
        • We want to see as much of the engine and frame as possible
        • Reduce weight by removing side covers, airbox, rear hugger, heavy exhausts, pillion foot pegs, reduce battery weight , strip back what we do not absolutely need

        Here I am using a string line to help determine the tail upward tilt angle. The side covers were later removed as they hid too much of the rear shock detail

        The café racer build is all about emulating the true café racers of the 1950's from England
        • Paint work

        I always use 2K automotive paint. The paint is hard wearing and fuel resistant

        I was a professional automotive spray painter for several years and lucky to have worked on classic European car repair and restoration. If you can master the ins and out of body preparation and painting, you can save a lot of money on the final build cost, returning you more profit

        Epoxy primers will seal off any old feathered paintwork, plastic has the habit of " frying up " on new paint edges, so it is best to fully prime each part in epoxy primer. The paint colour I chose was a modern high metallic black.

        The primers final surface wet rub would be finished in 800 grade sand paper, any courser and you run the risk of seeing prep marks in the final coat due to the metallic flakes settling into the deeper sanding lines

        • Tip : When painting plastics, use a plasticiser mixed into your primer and clearcoat. This will allow the paint finish to flex with the natural movement plastic panels have, reducing unwanted stress cracks
        Before the body was refitted, I invested in a set of good quality pod air filters, Corsa GP " shorty " exhausts and a " Beetle map " for the electronic fuel injection. This really added a massive power gain over the factory EU emission compliant version. 
        Thanks for reading my blog. I kept the Motoguzzi V11 café racer for a few years before it was sold. The motorcycle was unique, a joy to ride, had loads of torque and generated huge interest.

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