Guzzi Cali Cafe - Build Thread


Coast to Coast
Where to begin ? Couple of years ago I looked in the garage and decided I needed another bike.. At the time I had three bikes on the road, all massively impractical, expensive and thirsty. What I needed was a cheap, fun bike, good around town and simple enough for me to maintain and tinker with. What I bought was a 70s Triumph Bonneville with a 60s Single carb engine and gearbox. ::)

I spent a few weeks getting it running, making new engine plates, re-tapping lots of damaged threads, new tyres.. it was turning into a money pit. Still it looked good, pity I hated riding it, it vibrated far worse than my big inch Harley, brakes were marginal and the suspension was clapped out. Thankfully a nice man came along and bought it for a price that meant I didn't lose any money on the whole nightmare. No pics, they were on my laptop that got stolen.

So my search for a light, cheap, fun little bike continued..

A few days later, I was offered a 78 Honda 400/4 for a very good price, all original, one elderly owner for many years who had recently died, unused for a few years, a rusty non runner. I took a risk and bought it...


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With a new battery, oil change and fresh petrol, the Honda fired up straight away, and idled quietly.. I was a happy man. Those old Hondas are lovely bikes, it felt so small and slim compared to modern stuff. It wasn't very fast, but sounded cool at high revs with that old Dunstall exhaust. My plan was to slowly restore it, just doing small jobs over the summer but keeping it on the road. It needed a cosmetic restoration, the engine ran fine. Well, that was the plan..


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That summer I was helping my mate out at his bike shop, so I turned up the first day on my little Honda and left it in a far corner, so as not to lower the tone amongst all the Ducatis, MVs and Jap superbikes they work on. I was amazed when just about every customer (mostly middle aged) made a bee line for the rusty Honda.. 'I had one of them !', 'is it for sale?' Can I have a go? How much do you want for it? .. I told everyone I'd only just got it and it wasn't for sale.

But one customer was very persistent, and wanted to buy it and have the shop restore it for him. He offered me so much for it, that I said yes, and found myself being paid to help restore it over that summer :)

Paintwork done..

Re chromed parts.

Hubs polished (took me ages), new rims and spokes

Engine painted,carbs stripped and cleaned ,frame powdercoated

And still I didn't have a simple, fun bike... ::)


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Finally we get to the Guzzi.. I decided I wanted a Tonti framed, carb model Guzzi. Early Lemans were already too expensive, even the boring touring models were getting expensive, except for one model that seemed to be overlooked by the classic mob.
The California Mk3.. it didn't have the looks of the earlier models, but was the last model to have carbs and the classic Tonti Frame. It also came with 18inch alloy rims and stainless spokes from the factory, a big bonus as far as I was concerned. Other folks had the same idea, and a few were being converted to Café racers or LeMans replicas, by fitting the LM lower frame rails (to fit rearsets in place of the Cali footboards) and a LM tank.

I found my Cali one cold winters day, owned by a chap who races Guzzis. He'd made a start on converting the bike, but decided to sell as he didn't have the time to complete it. I couldn't hear it running, but it came with the all important LM frame rails and tank, and the documentation showed it had been used recently.. so I brought it home.

A previous owner had painted everything black.. very badly


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Few more 'before' pics

The seat and Lemans MK5 tank they came with the bike


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The plan was to strip the bike down, get the frame powder coated, clean and polish everything, hopefully the motor wouldn't need much work.. rebuild it with minimum wiring, a single seat, a few upgrades here and there. such as delinking the brakes, braided hoses, make it lighter....and ride it. The engine in the Cali is tuned for torque rather than HP like the Lemans.. should make for a good everyday bike.

First step, strip the bike and lift the frame off the engine, a lot easier than lifting the engine from the frame. I took lots of photos along the way of every cable, wire, pipe, nut and bolt, all worthwhile when it comes time to put it all back together..


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Start with something easy and cheap. Strip the rear bevel box and paint it..

Ditto for the rear swing arm. I was going to paint the frame the same way, but it turned out cheaper to get it powder coated, given the cost of materials these days..


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The rear shock mounts were damaged, so had to grind them out, make new ones and get them welded into the frame..While the frame was being welded, I also took the chance to cut off a lot of tabs, I went a bit far, as later I wished I had kept a few of them ::)


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I took the frame to a powder coater I hadn't used before, on the recommendation of a local restorer. They were cheap, but when I got the frame back I wasn't that impressed. The finish isn't as good as the usual place I use, they'd not bothered to protect the head races when they blasted the frame, also the swingarm threads had been powder coated, as had the chassis plate. Not the end of the world, but hassle I didn't need..


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I tried to like the seat unit, but I cant, it'll have to go, it just doesn't work with the angular tank, nor does it sit right on the frame rails..


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The good news was that I borrowed the correct tap to clean out the powder coat from the swing arm thread. For a change it worked fine..


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Its nothing too fancy, well not in my original plan anyway, but I do seem to evolve my ideas and end up going much than further than I first thought ;)

My first new part order.. Tarrozi rear sets, and a pair of alloy bell mouths .. so much for practical..

Well, one thing you cant avoid with these old bikes is polishing old alloy and cleaning up rusty parts. So best get started..
One thing I like about the Guzzi is that it comes apart so easily, with no tricky assemblies or special tools required.

These are the front disc spacers/mounts, they polished up ok, I didn't spent too much time on these, as I didn't want to build an over restored show bike, but a usable road bike ..

The fork tops were looking very tired, so I skimmed them in my mates big old lathe and filed and polished the sides by hand..

Multiply the work in those fork tops by the rest of the bike, and it takes hundreds of hours..but that's ok, keeps me occupied..


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Cleaned up the discs and wheels (they'd been oversprayed black), and fitted Bridgestone BT45 tyres..

Guzzi still fit some brass parts, such as this oil dip stick. Using various grades of wet and dry it came up pretty well..

I cleaned up and polished the alloy carb manifolds, valve covers etc the same way. I'd love to have a big compressor and a blasting cabinet, but got no room for such luxuries..


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After far too many hours cleaning the engine cases, painting the barrels and replacing most of its fasteners with shiny new stainless, this is how the motor looked..

Finally it was time to lift the frame back on the engine, I managed it on my own and didn't even scratch the powder coat..

I had a change of heart about the bevel box that I'd carefully prepped and painted months before. I had intended to paint the engine too, but didn't in the end, so now the painted bevel box stood out.. so I stripped it again.. pity as I'd done a nice job on that..


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A still summers day, ideal for painting the starter motor and a few brackets..

The bike came with this aftermarket alloy battery tray, which didn't fit. By the time I'd got it to fit, drilled it and bevelled all the mounting holes it would've been quicker to make one from scratch..

Cleaned and fitted the rear brake master cylinder, this usually activates the rear caliper AND one of the fronts too, but I've got rid of that and will run them delinked..


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Looking good so far! Too bad about the seat, I like it. Maybe you can make it fit...
Thanks all, now its time for the rear sets saga. I'd left them in their packaging till it was time to fit them. Checking all the parts, there seemed to be some missing..

And there were, quite a complex linkage for the gear change, a simple link rod for the rear brake and some kind of bush where the levers pivot through the frame rails. Since the kit was designed to fit a Lemans, I guess they assumed I already had these missing parts, as they'd be OE on a Lemans..

I checked the photos I'd taken of the Guzzi race bike owned by the previous owner, and saw I needed this linkage..

Need some kind of bush, where the rearsets pivot through the frame, a Guzzi dealer wanted £7 for each bush, sod that!,I got mine for 0.79p from an online bearing shop..

On the brake side, I used a pair of stainless rose joints, measured how long the link rod needed to be, and went over to my mates workshop to make it.. this is about the limit of my machining skills..
Cut a piece of stainless rod..
Machine down each end, cut a thread for the rose joints, looks a few mm too long, but can always shorten it if needed.


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