The Moto Guzzi “small block” 90-degree V-Twin, a.k.a. the V7, has a long story behind it. The engine started life in 1977 in the V35 and V50, with 350 and 500cc displacements. Plagued by a number of basic faults forced into the project by then-Moto Guzzi and Benelli chieftain Alejandro DeTomaso, the compact Twin reached positive maturity when it was enlarged to 650 and later 750cc. Never a high-powered engine, the Moto Guzzi V7’s strong points lay in its compactness and light weight. When Piaggio took over, major development work was concentrated on the legendary “big block.” But it was quickly realized that the V7 still retained good marketing potential as an “entry-level unit with great personality” once it could be fitted to a properly styled family of accessibly priced models.
Everything to make that happen was already on the shelves: a fuel-injected evolution of the 750cc V7 unit, a classic-looking steel tube double-cradle frame, and the same tank and seat created back in the early ’70s for the legendary V7 Sport. The new V7 family of models was an instant success by today’s Moto Guzzi standards and, above all, proved worth the investment required to refurbish its dated components, starting with the engine.
The V7 induction system has been completely revised, going to a single Y-shaped 38mm throttle body that splits into two 36mm runners, each with an individual injector, leading to larger valves. The single throttle body inhales much cooler air than its previous counterpart, thanks to the relocation of the airbox to a more rational and efficient position. The result is more efficient filling of each cylinder through the whole range of usable revs, starting from as low as 2000 rpm. The V7 has also received new lighter, stronger pistons sporting thinner, low-friction rings, and a vastly redesigned Heron-type combustion chamber that bumps compression ratio from a too-mild 9.2:1 to a more credible 10.2:1. This required larger fins at the heads and cylinders for increased cooling, resulting in a stronger look for the whole unit. More importantly, the revised V7 delivers performance that I would definitely describe as much more rewarding, even beyond the Moto Guzzi-issued numbers of 51 horsepower at 6200 rpm and 42.8 foot-pounds torque at 5000 rpm.
The new V7 powers a family of three models: V7 Stone, V7 Special and V7 Racer. V7 Stone is the base model, with cast wheels and in matte black; essential and austere, it gets more intriguing the more you look at it. V7 Special is the intermediate version, rather extroverted in shining two-tone paint, wire-spoke wheels with aluminum rims and, in my case, saddlebags for more functionality as everyday transportation. V7 Racer shares the same wire-spoke wheels, but is much richer in every detail, starting with the glorious-looking chromed tank, a frame painted red like the original V7 Sport unit and exclusive Bitubo shocks adjustable for preload, compression and rebound. Clip-ons and aluminum rearset pegs complete the job, along with an eyebrow mini fairing. It looks like it would do 150 mph.
I had the opportunity to extensively test the V7 Special, which to me represents the most logical variation on the V7 theme, with its comfortable riding posture, nice seat and the carrying capability granted by the bags. I rode it on the twisty roads alongside Lake Como, starting from Mandello del Lario and going north into mountains full of sharp corners and steep grades. The new V7 really is an engine with a completely new personality. Throttle response at low rpm, a weak spot of the previous unit, is much stronger. But the increased vitality of the 750 goes all the way past peak power; the engine continues to rev into the 7000s, which is a pleasant surprise because the long intake runners do induce a strong ram effect at low rpm.
At this stage, I would humbly suggest it’s time that the rolling gear receives thorough attention. The bike is adequately agile around tight bends, true to line around fast ones and stable at speed, but the additional pleasure coming from the new engine makes you aware how much better things might be with modern radial tires and updated steering geometry, though those changes might play havoc with the bottom line. I discussed this with Chief Project Engineer Romano Albesiano, and offered the idea of asymmetrical triple-clamps as used by Harley-Davidson on the XR1200R and by Erik Buell before that. A very rational solution (frame jigs remain untouched) that produces excellent results. (If Guzzi does it, I will send them a bill.)
And if they don’t, the “new” Guzzi V7 Special is a great bike as it is; friendly, comfortable and functional, and the extra punch from its reworked-yet-still-classic “small block” transforms it into a very attractive motorcycle.