Morini V-Twin Buyers Guide
MORINI 350 Sport/Strada
74-84, 344cc, 4-str ohv V-twin, 39/37bhp, 27bhp, 95/90mph, 65mpg, 145kg (320lb).
First shown as a prototype in 1971 but not available in the UK until '74, the 350 Morini was sold in both Sport and Strada versions with different levels of engine tune. They are excellent handling characterful bikes that unfortunately cost almost as much as a Norton Commando when they came out, however they soon acquired a reputation for giant killing performance and very low running costs. Drum brake Sports are the ones to look at, the wire wheel disc version, 76-77, is better if you want to stop. The cast wheel disc model, 78 on, is commonest and best for starting and going, as the later the model the more up rated the alternator. Equivalent Strada had a smaller TLS front brake to the Sport’s twin sided SLS but had identical discs once these were introduced.
Engines had a period of evolution over the same time, resulting in better gearboxes on later models. Cam belts need replacing every 15k miles. Motors can last until 75k or more with good maintenance. Electrics are typically Italian and care is required when examining the electronic ignition circuitry. Original Drum Sports attract classic status and prices, but a cared for, one owner, resprayed late model is the better bike and buy.
MORINI 350 DART
87-89 344cc ohv V-twin, 29bhp, 105mph, 50mpg, 171kg (376lb)
The first result of the Cagiva buyout with a much updated 350 engine inside a Cagiva Freccia 125 body. One mag recommended a ‘Gentle Sports’ logo on the bodywork due to lack of speed for the high cost when new and the 16” front wheel can limit tyre choice. Sought after by many, even previous 350 sport owners, who recognise the benefits of a long life engine with Japanese electrics in a more modern package than a 350 Sport. They are an interesting option for new riders when certified 33bhp compliant. Most on the market now are unloved Italian greys. Very rare 400 version was a Japanese market learner special and is less powerful as standard.
81-91, 344cc, 4-str ohv V-twin, 34bhp, 90mph, 52mpg, 159kg (350lb)
As a continental manufacturer, Morini had to satisfy the continental market and in the mid 80s and 90s this meant off roaders, and then Paris-Dakar clones. Not having a single or the finances to produce one, Morini used their proven V-twin motor to produce both the 500 Camel, and slightly later the 350 Kanguro. All the attributes of the 350 motors applied to the Kanguro, with the original twin shock model having drum brakes and unique 6/12v electrics. They evolved into XEs with first one and then two discs and challenging styling with fake radiators and increasing tank size. Although heavier than lightweight singles and ultimately not so good in the mud as their Japanese rivals, these bikes make really good fun roadbikes with off road capability, and the long life of the 350 engine makes mechanical spare parts availability a cinch. Power output suitable for licence limited riders.
79-85, 479cc 4-str ohv V-twin, 46bhp, 105mph, 60 mpg, 159kg (350lb)
350 Sport owners eagerly awaited the 500 when it was announced - but it was not quite the same thing when it arrived, being bigger and more relaxed all round, in fact a true tourable sportster. The Sei V update in 81 brought a welcome sixth gear and a very nice black paint scheme. They were available in both Sport and Touring versions but, unlike the 350 the engines, were identical and the only real changes were the handlebars. Like 350s they are often found fitted with rear-sets and 2-1 exhausts. The engine is not as well regarded as the 350 by some. Check for bore wear and exhaust valves along with a history of cam belt changes, but they are less likely than the 350 Sport to have had a hard life. More reliable, cheaper to run and just as good as a Pantah and so much more sporting than a BMW R65 or Guzzi V50, it remains the choice of a gentleman.
81-85, 479cc, 4-str ohv V-twin, 39bhp, 90mph,
60mpg, 141kg (310lb)
85-89, 507cc, 4-str ohv V-twin, 42bhp, 100mph,
55mpg, 159kg (350lb)
Original 500 was renamed Sahara by the UK importers who feared the Camel label would stick, but it was a very complete off road bike and competitive long distance trial mount that was far better than many competitors’ equivalent 500 singles. Original Mk1s have their own fanatical following and are almost as sought after as 350 drum sports. 501 XE version introduced in 85 had very worthwhile engine update with slight overbore and new heads in a new monoshock frame with unsuccessful Japanese look-alike styling shared with the Kanguro. Final gasp in 89-91 was the rare Transalp style 350 and 501 Coguaro with another updated engine.
86-93, 344cc, 4-str ohv V-4 str twin, 34bhp, 90mph, 55mpg, 159kg (350lb)
507cc, 4-str pushrod V-twin, 42bhp, 105mph, 55mpg,
As Customs were so popular on the continent Morini had to enter the fray with a 350 and 500. It started as the cast wheel Excalibur, became the wire wheel New York for 89-91 with different visuals, and then returned to being the Excalibur. The engines were updated to 501 and XE at the same time as the off roaders. If you are looking for a custom bike then these are well worth a look as they are really capable cruisers. If you are not, but still want a Morini, remember you can’t see it when you are riding it and you can give sports bikes a real shock on a 501. Most 501s are robbed for the motors.