Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Hacking: Morini 500 games

There are two ways to approach Morini ownership. The most common is that of the enthusiast who sees these 72 degree vee twins as a little jewel of Italian engineering to be used and worshipped in a way not unknown to owners of ancient British classics. The other route is to consign the bike to life as a hack and abuse it until it falls apart.

The latter route is difficult with the 350s as these are recognised as real classics and thus difficult to pick up cheap, whereas the 500 has a reputation for falling apart rapidly and losing the grace and balance of the smaller vees.

Thus it was, that I was the only person who bothered to turn up to look at a 1981 Maestro for sale in Hackney. Given the dubious nature of most of the people who seem to lounge around this particular area of Shit City, this seemed quite understandable but I’ve always found that turning up in a scruffy leather jacket dissuades muggers and hoodlums. The bike looked tatty as an accident victim after rolling through a muddy field but the engine ran and the wheels lined up. He wanted £750.

After I’d picked myself up off the floor and stopped laughing hysterically, I suggested a hundred notes. We eventually avoided a bout of fisticuffs and compromised on £275 which I still think was too high.

The ride home revealed a bike that (shock, horror) shook its head viciously above 70mph, wouldn’t change into fifth gear and had a front brake that didn’t work after three stops. The engine burbled along quite naturally only disturbing my peace of mind by vibrating horribly around 70 mph.

The next morning I sprayed a couple of cans of Gunk over the bike, left it to soak in for a few hours and then sprayed it off with the garden hose. The frame was rust with the odd patch of faded black paint and all the alloy was a smart shade of white. The handling problem was soon diagnosed as shot swinging arm bearings. Of course the disc brakes were all seized up, the exhaust system was rusted through and all the bolts and nuts had rounded off corners.

Nothing for it but to pull the motor out and strip the rest of the chassis down and repaint everything. Only took me a week to clean up the chassis and paint it all a nice shade of bright red. I had to buy new brake pads, drive chain, cables, swinging arm bearings and bulbs. The wiring was a mess so it was rewired, the exhaust was patched up and painted matt black, whilst three tubes of Solvol were used up cleaning the alloy.

The timing belt in the engine had the flexibility of knicker elastic so that was replaced as well. All of the other engine settings were, surprisingly, all correct.

When I threw the bike back together it looked lovely, the line of its tank and engine somehow looking just right. The engine was noisy but it would run right up to 105mph with hardly a murmur of discontent, although there were some vibes beyond 85mph. The gearchange had cleaned up after the oil was changed but did need a hefty boot to keep it in line.

With new swinging arm bearings the vicious head shaking was replaced with a high speed weave that always felt as if it would turn into a speed wobble but never actually did. It was delightfully light for flicking through country lanes.

Total cost so far has been £365. The bike returns 60mpg and in eight thousand miles hasn’t given any trouble (there's 37000 miles on the clock). Tyre. chain and brake pad wear seems minimal. So I think I've acquired a classic hack for next to nothing.

John Evans

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