Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Yeah mate, go past that knackered washing machine, squeeze by the old wardrobe, and then you'll probably have to move that rusty old Fiat 500…

So we all know how it goes - the bloke in the barber shop who cuts your hair says he knows the brother of another friend who reckons that their next door neighbour says they've heard about an old motorcycle stashed away in a garage somewhere that's been there for years and years.

This is what happened to my good friend Antonio out in Italy....

About five years back, he was talking to a good friend of his, and this friend who worked for a family building firm in the 1970s remembered that back then there was an old Moto Guzzi Sport 15 stuck in the back of the large garage of the family residence, but he’d never heard any more of it since. Antonio convinced him to contact the owner, and the friend managed after several attempts to speak to the two sons of the owner who had died some years before. They made it clear in no uncertain terms that the Moto Guzzi wasn’t for sale. Unfortunately, one of the sons then also died, but Antonio remained on cordial terms with the other son, who after two or three years came to Antonio for advice (Antonio works in a bank). Antonio at that point had more or less forgotten about the bike in the garage (let alone see it), until after his meeting, he recived an email from the son, asking if he was still interested in the bike, and would he still agree (as Antonio had suggested in an earlier meeting) to emptying the garage to get to the bike and buy it?

One Saturday in August 2008, Antonio and two friends and a lorry turned up at the garage (60 square metres) and started to clean out beds, old fridges, beds, boilers, furniture. After the second lorry load of junk, and just past the Fiat 500, they could begin to see the Guzzi, which had started to see the light of day for the first time in 45 years, and Antonio, a passionate Guzzi man, was mad with excitement. Finally, by lunchtime, and to the curiosity of passers-by, they got the bike out, and Antonio transported it home. The Guzzi was rusty, the paintwork had blistered and the chrome peeled off or dulled beyond a shine, but it was unrestored and unmolested. Antonio says he had to do little work on the Guzzi. “I took the cylinder head off, and sorted out the exhaust valve which was rusted and seized, and cleaned the valve guide. The magneto and dynamo were checked over and repaired, chain and sprockets replaced, the rubber parts replaced as they had perished, and I installed a new wiring loom. Finally, I cleaned the Guzzi very carefully to conserve what had remained, and then coated it all with bees wax.”

The motor was left as was, and runs perfectly. On researching his Sport 15, Antonio discovered that it was built and registered in 1933 and sold in Rome to the Consorzio di Bonifica – the governent department that would drain marshes and reclaim land. It was then sold in 1937 to the owner who then abandoned it in his garage in the 1960s – so it’s had two genuine owners since 1933.

I covet Antonio’s unrestored Sport 15 and would state that if I had to choose just three all-time favourite Italian motorcycles to sit in my garage, his ’33 Sport 15 would without a shadow of a doubt be one of them.

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