Moto Morini is an Italian maker of motorcycles. It was founded by Alfonso Morini in Bologna, in 1937.
Earlier, Morini had also manufactured motorcycles together with Mario Mazzetti under the name MM. Morini came under Cagiva control in 1987, then in 1996 came under Texas Pacific Group, which had also bought Ducati, and in April 1999, the rights to the name were purchased by Morini Franco Motori spa, a company founded by Morini's nephew in 1954. After building large v-twin motorcycles early in the 21st century the company went into liquidation in late 2010. Moto Morini restarted the production of motorcycles in 2012.
Alfonso Morini was born on 22 January 1898. Before he was 16 he was repairing motorcycles, and at the age of sixteen, opened a workshop. This was just before World War I broke out. During the war he was with the 8th Motorcycles Unit, stationed at Padova.
In 1925 Mario Mazzetti, impressed by Alfonso’s work, asked him to build a single-cylinder 120 cc two-stroke racing bike, making Alfonso the designer, constructor, and racer. They were successful racing, under the MM name, and Alfonso’s finest racing moment came in 1927 when his MM 125 took six world records at Monza, during the Grand Prix of Nations. (These records were not bettered for twenty years.) In 1933 he set a new world speed record for 175 cc motorcycles of 162 km/h.
Moto Morini three wheelers
In 1937 Alfonso and Mario parted ways, and Alfonso Morini went into the production of 350 cc and 500 cc three wheelers, under the Moto Morini name. The government regulations favoured these lighter fuel efficient machines, and the successful Moto Morini M610 had advanced features, like cardan driveshafts.
This was interrupted by World War II, and Moto Morini was converted to produce aeronautical components. In 1943 the factory was bombed.
Undeterred, in 1946, a new three-speed transmission, single cylinder, two-stroke T125 emerged from the new Bologna factory, Via Berti. In 1947 a Sport version appeared. In 1953 a 175 cc pushrod OHV four-stroke model appeared in production. Models like Gran Turismo, Settebello, Rebello, Supersport, Briscola, Tresette, and Tresette Sprint also appeared. In 1956 Moto Morini moved to a larger production facility at Via Bergami. In 1958 Alfonso Morini, Dante Lambertini, and Nerio Biavati designed the 250 GP Double Camshaft.
On 30 June 1969 Alfonso Morini died. He was 71. His daughter, Gabriella Morini, took over management, and would remain in control until 1986. In 1970 Franco Lambertini (unrelated to the earlier Dante Lambertini of Morini's technical staff) left Ferrari works and joined Moto Morini.
In 1948, Raffaele Alberti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles on a two-stroke125 Competition. Umberto Masetti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles in 1949, on a 125 SOHC four-stroke that produced 12 hp (8.9 kW) @ 10000 rpm, and could exceed 140 km/h (87 mph). In 1952 Moto Morini won races outside of Italy with the 125 SOHC four-stroke, as Emilio Mendogni won both the Nations Grand Prix, and the Spanish Grand Prix. The 250 GP put out 37 hp (28 kW) @ 11,000 rpm and had a maximum speed of 225 km/h (140 mph).
In 1961, Giacomo Agostini began his racing career on a Moto Morini Settebello “Short Rods”, coming second at Trento-Bondone. Agostini was Italian Cadet Champion in 1962, and Italian Junior Champion in 1963. Tarquinio Provini, riding a Moto Morini 250 GP, won the Italian Championship in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, Provini convinced Alfonso Morini that they should try for the World Championship. Provini would wage a season-long battle with Honda's Jim Redman for the 250 world championship. Each rider won four races and the title wasn't decided until the final race in Japan, with Redman winning the championship over Provini by two points.
Moto Morini 350 & 500 V-twins
In the early 1970s, Moto Morini launched their first 72° V-twin engined motorcycles, designed by Franco Lambertini, and created by Franco and Gino Marchesini. The 350 Sport and Strada models displaced 344 cc and were complemented in 1977 by 500 cc Sport and Strada models. Equipment on the models was of high-spec and when released the Morini 3½ was around the same price as a Honda CB750.
The Morini 3½ still has a loyal following and a number of spare parts are available from specialist firms. The former editor of Classic Bikemagazine, veteran motorcycle writer Hugo Wilson, has owned a 3½ Sport since 1982 and still uses it as a regular commuter motorbike.
The engine featured Heron heads, which were milled flat and the combustion chamber is recessed in the piston crown, aiding combustion and returning excellent fuel economy. A fuel consumption test by Motorcycling Monthly at Britain's Motor Industry Research Association in 1976 returned a performance of 65 miles per imperial gallon (4.3 L/100 km; 54 mpg-US) while a 3½ bike carried rider and pillion passenger. The engine also incorporated one piece forged steel crankshaft, ball main bearings (first series motors), plain big end bearings (second series motors), and the conrods run on a common pin, desaxe, and offsetting the rear cylinder to the front by 50 mm (2.0 in). Front and rear barrels and heads are interchangeable. VBH Dell'Orto (25 mm VHB 25 BS) square slide carburettors were fitted to the 350, with air fed via air-box with two filters. Bore and stroke was 62 mm × 57 mm (2.4 in × 2.2 in), respectively. The camshaft was driven by a small toothed belt, and was a revolutionary advance. They also included an electronic capacitor discharge ignition system designed by Ducati Elettronica. Early models had kick-start only but later ones also included a starter motor using three centrifugal friction shoes engaging the alternator rotor cover. The CDI ignition was powered by a coil in the alternator and using the kick-start a bike could be started and ridden with a flat battery.
The frame is a full steel duplex swingarm design, with Ceriani rear suspension, and Marzocchi front forks. The early models had a twin leading shoe drum brake up front (Strada: 200 mm (7.9 in) drum, Sport: 230 mm (9.1 in) drum) that was notoriously grabby on the Borranispoked wheels, but these were replaced with a single chromed 260 mm (10.2 in) Grimeca disc in 1976, and later optional double discs. The rear drum brake was replaced in the early 1980s with a Grimeca disc. Switchgear, tail and brake lights were the standard CEV model used on many Italian motorcycles of the 1970s. The month and year of manufacture is embossed in small figures on the side of each cast wheel, near where one of the seven cast spokes meets the rim. The helical gear transmission was a six-speed, with a top gear ratio of 1:0.954, making it akin to an overdrive. The transmission was engaged with a six-plate dry clutch, making a characteristic rattle similar to Ducatis when disengaged. Secondary drive was by a 5/8 x 3/8-inch chain to a rear sprocket with cush drive. Gear change is by right foot and the rear brake operated by left foot. Engine lubrication was by oil pump to the crankshaft but no force lubrication went to the rocker gear. Instead, crankcase pressure forced oil mist up the short pushrod tunnels to the rocker covers, where two 'crow's feet' allowed mist to condense and drip onto the rocker gear. Although ingenious, it required riders to gentle warm up their engines before using maximum revs, redlined at 9,200 rpm. Oil filtration was by plastic mesh filter.
The 1979 model incorporated a moulded tank-hugging seat, black crankcase side covers and a black exhaust system in homage to the Moto Guzzi Le Mans.
Footrests were placed too far forward for many riders and a common modification was to replace them with rearset footrests. Although not suitable for large riders, the 3½ was renowned for sharp and impeccable handling and was able to compete against larger capacity motorbikes on twisty roads. Maximum torque was above 6,000 rpm and so required high revving, similar to a two-stroke, to make the most of the engine's characteristics. Nevertheless, a 3½ Sport could still return 70 miles per imperial gallon (4.0 L/100 km; 58 mpg-US) when ridden hard. The 3½ Sport had a higher compression ratio than the softer-tuned Strada. The Sport featured Tomaselli clip-ons handlebars and throttle, a steering damper and Veglia instruments.
In November 1981 a 500 Turbo was shown at the Milan Show, producing 84 bhp (63 kW) at 8,300 rpm. It did not make it to production. An enduro version called the Camel 500 was released in 1981. In 1983 the Kanguro 350 was released.
In 1986 Moto Morini brought out a cruiser version, the Excalibur, available in 350 and 500 versions.
The 350 was conceived as a modular design, and single cylinder versions were made. (Looking like the V-twin with the rear cylinder removed) These were the 1975 six-speed 125 H and the 1978 250 T Mono, both unsuccessful, as was the later KJ 125 single of 1985.
350 performance figures
- Strada 35 PS (26 kW; 35 hp) at 8,600 rpm
- Sport 38 PS (28 kW; 37 hp) at 8,500 rpm, 32 ft·lbf (43 N·m) at 5,100 rpm.
500 performance figures
- 46 hp at 7,500 rpm
The early 1980s did not go as well for Moto Morini, with labour disputes and diminishing sales. On 18 February 1987 Gabriella Morini sold the firm to the Castiglioni firm, Cagiva. Despite their assurances that Moto Morini was important to them, the company was allowed to decline.
In 1988 the Dart 350, a fully race-faired version of the 72° V-twin, appeared. In 1989 the last enduro version, the Coguaro appeared, in 350 and 500 versions, and another cruiser version, the New York, also in both capacities. These were extensions of other models, and little to no development was being undertaken.
Franco Lambertini had a new 60° engine design, but Cagiva was not interested. In the same year as the last models appeared, he left Moto Morini, and went to Piaggio-Gilera.
The Via Bergami factory was closed and by 1993 Excaliburs are assembled at Agostini works.
In 1996 Ducati and the Moto Morini name are sold to TPG. There were no plans to revive Moto Morini.
Morini Franco Motori spa
In 1999, Morini Franco Motori spa bought the Moto Morini name from Ducati. Morini Franco Motori spa was founded in 1954 by Franco Morini, Alfonso's nephew. A new joint-stock company was officially presented in 2003, and the principal Moto Morini SPA shareholders were the Berti and Morini families.
Corsaro 1200, 9½, Corsaro Veloce, 1200 Sport, 1200 Avio and Scrambler
In 2004, a new motorcycle was announced, the Corsaro 1200 naked bike, which appeared in 2005. It was followed by the "9½" road bike. There was criticism of the snatchy fuel injection mapping in these early models; however, power delivery was improved in time.
They were both powered by an 1187 cc Bialbero CorsaCorta 87° V twin-cylinder engine that developed 140 bhp (100 kW) at 8500 rpm, and 123 N·m (91 lb·ft) at 6,500 rpm, in the Corsaro, and 105 bhp (78 kW; 106 PS) at 8000 rpm in the 9½. The engine was designed by Franco Lambertini, who was the young engineer responsible for the "3½" model in the 1970s. The engines were tuned differently for different applications.
On 10 October 2006, a Corsaro Veloce 1200 was announced. In 2008, at the "Padova Motorcycles" fair, the 1200 Sport was announced (and went into production) together with the Scrambler, that was afterwards produced,from 2009, just in few pieces due to the sudden financial empasse of the company
Granferro : the unrealised dream
At the end of 2009, the latest marketing attempt by Morini was almost ready to enter the market : the hypermotard "Granferro", designed by Rodolfo Frascoli (of Marabese Design). The production was due to commence in April 2010. The company was already in financial turmoil and mass production was not realized.
Bankruptcy, liquidation and sale
The company went into voluntary liquidation in 2009, after failing to pay suppliers or staff in September while hoping to find further financing. Paolo Berlusconi – brother of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi – was interested in buying Morini. He already owned the Garelli brand. However, he could not reach an agreement with the labour unions and he pulled off from the venture.
By July 2010, interested buyers could download a pdf of bike stock held by the company and being sold on a direct basis to customers. Prices in the "fire sale" included four red 2007 Moto Morini 9½s selling for €3,600 each, while other cheap deals included €4,800 for Corsaro Neros and also a stock of 42 variously coloured 1200 Sports selling for €5,760 each.
Some staff were recalled in early 2011 by the liquidator to construct a number of bikes from spare part stock. Liquidator Piero Aicardi believed there were enough parts left in the factory to build as many as 45 bikes, with the production being split between 16 Scramblers and 29 Granpassos, seven of which would use frames originally built for the stillborn Granferro.
After the sale of around 40 bikes assembled from remaining parts the company and the intellectual property were put up for sale in April 2011. Many potential bidders emerged; but the sale did not go through.
Finally, in July 2011, the company was sold to Eagle Bike, a newly formed company that is run by two Italian entrepreneurs, Sandro Capotosti and Ruggeromassimo Jannuzzelli, for 1.96 million Euros. The factory was not included in the sale although they are thought to have a two year lease on the premises.
2012, back on the market
In March 2012, the factory restarted producing a limited edition of the Rebello 1200 named Giubileo. Other models are following, including the Corsaro Veloce, Granpasso and the Scrambler. The assistance of the bikes will be made via the dealers' network, whilst the choice and purchase of them is going to happen via the new website
- 125 Turismo
- 125 Sport
- 125 H
- 125 T
- 250 T
- 250 2C(J)
- 175 Briscola
- 175 Turismo
- 175 GT
- 175 Settebello
- 175 Super Sport
- 175 Tresette
- 175 Tresette Sprint
- 3½ Turismo ("Strada" in South Africa)
- 3½ Sport
- 3½ GT
- 350 K2
- Dart 350
- Dart 400
- Corsaro 1200 (1187 cc) 2005 - 2010
- Corsaro 1200 Veloce (1187 cc) 2006 - 2010
- Corsaro 1200 Avio (1187 cc) 2008 - 2010
- 9 ½ (1187 cc) 2006 - 2010
- 1200 Sport (1187 cc) 2008 - 2010
- Corsaro 1200 Veloce (1187 cc)
- 1200 Rebello Giubileo (1187 cc)
- Granpasso (1187 cc)
- Scrambler (1187 cc)
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