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Moto Guzzi 235 Lodola

Bella Italiana: Morini Corsaro 125 & Moto Guzzi 235 Lodola

February 11, 2017

Regular readers might remember my earlier Italian rebuilds a Morini Corsaro 125 and a Moto Guzzi 235 Lodola. So now for something (not) completely different,a Moto Gilera Giubileo. My next rebuild will definitely be something from another country – well, maybe. Maybe not. I really like the Italian stuff from this era and there are so many manufacturers to choose from. A friend has likened my attraction to these small machines to a disease, probably incurable…

After the last Guzzi rebuild I was idly looking for another winter project when a Gilera 175, c1960, appeared on eBay. I bid but lost. Hey ho, no problem. Some you win, some you lose. However a little later the seller contacted me to say the item had not sold. It turned out that it wasn’t a 175 at all. The winning bidder had advised the seller that the machine was actually a Moto Gilera of 98cc. Negotiations followed, and soon the machine had a new owner. Me!

The bike had been imported with no Italian documents and no NOVA (Notification Of Vehicle Arrival) docs and hence no UK registration. So there was no real proof of age other than the fact that this model was first made for the 1959 market. So my first step was to determine exactly what I had purchased. It looked vaguely like an off-road machine.

Moto Guzzi 235 Lodola

After detailed investigation of the frame and engine numbers, I discovered that the machine was a indeed a Gilera Giubileo 98 When it first arrived, Stu wasn’t at all certain what he’d purchased. Some sort of off-roader,maybe? At least it came with a complete toolkit… 86 I OCTOBER 2015 See for hundreds of classic bike profiles Stu Thomson is something of a sucker for a sweet little Italian, and he’s revitalized several already. A MotoGileraGiubileo is an entirely new experience, so this time he has to figure out exactly what he’s bought before he can set to with the spanners… Photos by StuThomson / RC RChive Sadly, Stu’s Gilera didn’t turn out to be a Regolarita Competitzione like this one Gilera’s ‘Fuoristrada’ cross-country kit of parts to transform a standard machine (left) to modified muddy marvel (right) from the early 1960s which, in a previous life, had been converted for off-road use. Some nonstandard parts had been fitted, like the knobbly tyres and a very special petrol tank with a toolbox in the top. Very natty, and very similar to the special ‘Regolarita’machines produced in very limited numbers. The tank had even been modded for easy removal when in competition.

At this point I wondered if I’d somehow happened across a very raremachine? That would’ve been a dream come true, but alas no. The real Regolarita Competitzione has some very subtle frame modifications with extra strengthening ribs for off-road use. Shame, it’s a very purposeful looking machine with considerably larger brakes, QD hubs (requiring a crossover for the brake linkage at the rear), single seat, high guards, a strengthened centrestand, knobblies on bigger diameter wheels, an easy chain adjusting mechanism, its chainguard fixed to the swinging arm, a lower chainguard guide, high level pipe and several other unseen and more subtle mods. Apparently a kit was available to modify.

Morini Corsaro 125

Apparently a kit was available to modify standard machines to cross-country (Fuoristrada) spec, so there were probably many 98 and 125ccmachinesmodified in the same way as the one I had bought. It’s abit like the old clubmans’racing kits for British singles. But in Italy in the 1950s and ’60s, six-day trialling and the general off-road scene appealed to the Italian imagination as well as circuit racing. My petrol tank does seem to come from a 125 Regolarita; the design is not quite the same in the mounting area but is very similar. I’m sure it’s not been modified fromastandard tank, as the reduced fuel capacity is quite substantial and the work would have been pretty complicated to do.

On the paperwork side, the NOVA certificate is very important. Without it you can’t get a UK V5C or registration. In theory the Gilera is old enough not to need a NOVA but its absence causes problems. The forms can be downloaded, but to complete them you need the bike’s background info including its year of manufacture, and some proof of this. First I contacted the VMCC and sent them photos with frame and engine numbers and the other details I had to determine the year of manufacture. I knew it was a 98ccmachine – in theory – from the first three numbers of the matching frame / engine numbers.

Correct NOVA docs clear the imported bike with Customs & Excise. Some unscrupulous people were importing new vehicles without then paying the VAT or duty in the UK. The date of manufacture is crucial to determine whether an imported machine will attract VAT, which would have to be paid before it could be UK registered. Without confirmation from HMRC, the DVLA will just refuse the next step. (I have to thank my friend Tiggy for the info on this otherwise I would have been totally lost). It feels like another rule built for some which has to fit all, even though there was no requirement for the rule in the first place! Anyway, it meant I needed to research what exactly I had bought.

There are several books written about Gilera, including a very good one by Mick Walker which is well worth a read. It covers the marque history from the beginning and goes into detail about the four-cylinder Rondine developed machine. But I was more interested in the development of the cooking models, the single cylinder bikes that anyone could buy and which inevitably funded the more expensive variants.

The VMCC identifiedmy bike as a 1964 variant of the 98cc Jubilee machine. Confusingly the VMCC dating certificate just says ‘Gilera 1964’with no reference to the model type, which I find a bit strange. Sometimes I think the individual clubs have more in-depth knowledge than the experts at the VMCC.

The ‘Jubilee’name came from the first incarnation of the model in 1959. This was the 50th anniversary of the company, which was started by Guiseppe Gilera in 1909. When Giuseppe, a trained mechanic, embarked on this new business of making and selling motorcycles, the first models were overhead valve with a belt final drive. Chains came along sometime later. Like several other Italian manufacturers, Gileramade most of their money from the sale of small capacity machines which had a bit of a reputation for speed. Like Morini, their small machines gave extremely good performance, both in speed and fuel economy.

Again like Morini, Gileramade some very pretty looking, small machines. The 175 and bigger bikes tended to look a little portly in the petrol tank area, but the little Jubilee had a very nice sculpted tank with quite complex graphics. The Italian youth was definitely spoiled for choice in the late 1950s and early ’60s. The Gileras must have been popular as the 98ccmodel was made in great numbers. My bike has an engine number in the 50,000 range – they obviously quite a lot of them. These included exports to America which appeared as Sears /Wards badged machines, as well as the Gilera ‘Town & Country’model. In those days you could buy a motorcycle by mail order from a catalogue. So Sears were well ahead of their time: it was almost internet shopping…

My bike is pretty simple in design, with overhead valves, vertical in operation, a squish type combustion chamber, a gear-driven primary drive so the engine runs backwards (standard for many of these small capacity Italian machines), and a wet sump. So there’s no separate oil tank, everything for the engine and gearbox resides in the sump of the engine. It’s all pretty bulletproof with very little maintenance required – no need to adjust the minimalist primary chain like on some of the large capacity British offerings of the time.

Manuals for my bike are readily available on the web, and are free from rpw. it – a really good site run by true enthusiasts for all Italian two-wheelers. They have many manuals for quite obscure models, including most of the scooters which were also very popular in Italy. So armed with this information, I could read more about the engine design and prepare to start taking it apart.

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At only eighteen years of age David is the most respected mechanic in ERIC & SON’S garage. He demonstrates expertise and the will to work on big machines.

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