For motorcyclists (or bikers, whatever you fancy), their machines are a crucial part of their lives. It’s a very special relationship which, most probably, can’t be defined in words. And so are the many experiences (good and bad) that we have had on our bikes. Most of us try to add or subtract some elements from our rides for that personal touch; a small gesture from a man to his machine. And whenever I do something to make my motorcycle stand out from others, my love and affection for it just doubles. Can you understand the connection here? The more personal the bike becomes, the more attached I get to it. So, I wonder what would happen if I have a complete custom-built motorcycle, that too a Moto Guzzi. I would probably die of happiness and would kill others if they mess around with it.
On a serious note, there is a new custom-built Moto Guzzi that one can buy. It is called the Airforce. It is built by Death Machines of London, founded by designer James Hilton and engineer Ray Petty. Let’s me just shut up for a bit. You just have a look at a couple of pictures below.
Yes, I know, right? It is magnificent! Really a work of art. The guys at Death Machines of London have designed it in memory of Giovanni Ravelli – a WW1 fighter pilot, motorcycle racer and one of the founders of Moto Guzzi. Inspired by one of Giovanni’s biplanes and the Futurist movies of the time, Airforce has been released on the birthday of the aviation pioneer.
These guys discovered a lonely and unattended 1982 Moto Guzzi LeMans Mk2 in a yard in southern Italy. It had seen many kinds of weather and seasons sitting outside under the sky. Over the years of its longing to seek a roof, it got corroded. After getting adopted by the Death Machines of London, it was soon brought to their ‘works’ in London. And then the process of reviving this machine began.
Surprisingly, the heart of the bike (its engine) was found to be in a remarkable condition with no major problems discovered. A full forensic inspection, vapour cleaning & reassembly, along with replacement bearings, seals gaskets completed the main engine work. The cylinder heads were subjected to a total refresh, along with our signature gas flowing. Carburation is through a pair of modified 36mm pumper Dell’Orto carburettors. The package is completed with our in-house velocity stacks and open slash cut headers.
Guzzi’s legendary ‘Tonti’ frame works. That is a fact. They handle well, you pick a line and they follow it, so any modification had to be limited. The guys at Death Machines of London were like ‘what would Giovanni do?’ version of ‘limited’ was to radically modify, in the spirit of those pioneering times of course. Giovanni would have approved. As well as the obligatory de-lugging and subframe modifications, a custom in-house headstock was manufactured, to increase the rake by 3 degrees to 30. The original swing arm was swapped out for a heavily modified Moto Guzzi California swinging arm which was braced and coupled to a mono shock cantilevered system.
The frame and front wheel were then coated in custom ‘Airforce Grey’, mixed specifically for this project. The wheels are modified California Hubs, laced to 21×3.00 aluminium rims, the rear utilising hand spun aluminium disc covers. Tyres are period Firestone items. The front end is a highly customised Aprilia RS250 arrangement, re-valved and refinished, while the rear suspension unit is an aviation-inspired bespoke item courtesy of Hagon.
Braking is taken care of by a pair of billet four-pot Brembo calipers, operated remotely via cable to a Brembo RCS master cylinder. Designed and built in-house by, of course, the Death Machines of London, the 300mm rotors are one-off DMOL designed steel items.
The custom work isn’t just limited to the body, the attention to detail on this machine is impeccable. All the controls on Airforce are custom-made: clip-on tubes, grips, and internal throttle have all been fabricated in-house with pegs and controls working on modified Stucchi gear change linkage. Airforce also features the firm’s first set of completely custom levers: the inverse Lever Type IN01. They’re precision machined from aviation grade aluminium and soon be available to buy as a part. I just love these.
An M-Unit and custom loom controls the machines electric functions, with a single Xenon projector light working both hi and low beam and an LED rear light housed in our custom cluster. The speedometer has been redesigned and precision-etched in nickel silver and brass, with dimmable radial illumination through a dedicated controller. It’s amazing how there’s a quarter-inch guitar jack for the ignition. This is just brilliant thinking. It also has a built-in immobiliser proximity sensor.
And finally to that bodywork. Beaten and welded by the hand of DMOL’s master craftsman, all the panelling has been built using the classic buck technique, where a wood skeleton is wrapped in aluminium – something Giovanni would’ve appreciated. This process, for obvious reasons, leaves imperfections – tiny hammer dents, small weld holes and the like. These are usually covered with filler and paintwork, but here the metal is left raw and is simply brushed – reminiscent of the WW1 fighter that inspired the project.
The front fairing slots into the side of the fuel tank, creating uninterrupted flowing lines. The lower concave curve of the fuel tank is mirror polished to reflect the high-gloss paint finish on the inside of the front fairing – the only part of the bodywork that is given this treatment. The belly-pan is double-skinned, enclosing the exhaust pipes. Finally, the Italian leather seat features a hand-stitched pattern based on air-flow to enhance the impression of movement.
The Moto Guzzi Airforce was built in 112 days. It is now available for purchase and if you’re interested you can order one from the website of Death Machines of London.