Hoxton Moto’s lightweight Italian V-twin…
The Moto Morini K2 was a 330-pound Italian twin with a nimble handling and the company’s surprisingly sophisticated 344cc air-cooled V-twin — the work of Franco Lambertini, a young engineer with experience on the Ferrari and Serenissima F1 race teams:
“Against all odds, [Lambertini] designed a 350cc V-twin that turned out to be very compact yet tipped the scales at just 100 pounds, which was only fractionally heavier than most of the contemporary singles, and much hotter performing than them all. The vee angle was rather unique at 72 degrees, with the only ‘geometrical’ analogies being five-cylinder radial engines used in aircraft some decades earlier.” —Cycle World
The pushrods were belt-driven and the engine featured “Heron” heads, which moved the combustion chamber to the dished top of the piston and kept the surface of the head nearly flat, with small recesses for the valves and spark plug.
“The 72º v-twin produced a modest 35hp but a six-speed gearbox, a relative rarity in 1986 and absolutely exotic when it was introduced on the 3½ in the early 70s, allowed the rider to make full use of the limited power available.” —Rare Sportbikes for Sale
Enter our friend Shaun Fenton of the UK’s Hoxton Moto — a film production company that makes motorcycle films for their dedicated Youtube channel and also gets their hands dirty with custom builds, several of which we’ve featured on BikeBound, including their Ironhead Beach Racer and Yamaha XS650 Special.
This 1984 Moto Morini had been languishing in the back of their workshop for three years — a project they’d taken on to challenge and improve their fabrication skills:
“Always aware of its ghostly shape under a dustsheet whenever we entered the workshop, it haunted us like a tax return. A glint of guilt crept in so we finally decided get it sorted.”
Finally they found the fire to finish the project, setting out to create a lightweight V-twin café racer with hand-built bodywork, learning a ton in the process.
“Although influenced by the awe-inspiring artistry of Shinya, the elegance of Hazan, the flair of Rodsmith, and the virtuosity of Sosa, our build is certainly not a ‘show stopper’ but it is an accomplishment — built with a full tank of willingness.”
Below, Shaun gives us the full story on this Moto Morini café racer.
Moto Morini Café Racer Custom: In the Builder’s Words
Lurking in the back of the workshop for several years sat our incomplete Moto Morini Café Racer Custom. For no reason in particular, this project was abandoned, jilted, and left to witness our attentions and enthusiasm drift on to other custom builds.
Always aware of its ghostly shape under a dustsheet whenever we entered the workshop, it haunted us like a tax return. A glint of guilt crept in so we finally decided get it sorted.
Three years ago, the objective was to challenge and extend our rudimentary fabrication skills. We wanted to create a lightweight café racer with hand-built fuel tank, mudguards, front light housing, seat unit and side panels. We knew this would be a steep learning curve. But not possessing Uri Geller’s supernatural metal bending skills, it became a battle of mind over metal, with an ensuing litany of lacerations, frustrations, and rejections.
For a donor bike, we sourced a Moto Morini K2, 1984. Whilst the K2 never reached the iconic status of its elder brother, the Strada (1974-83), the new more angular styling proved undesirable with Morini fans. However, it still had the unique 350cc V-twin engine, respected tubular frame, an upgraded gearbox and twin disc braking system.
This K2 came to us scruffy, scratched, and battered. The instrumentation, switch-gear, and wiring had been molested but the engine, frame, wheels and calipers were in good condition — a perfect candidate for what lay ahead.
After stripping the bike, we took a deep breath and began to fabricate an ally tank with our rudimentary tools: sandbag, mallet, planishing hammers, and dollies. The tank design was driven by our primitive skills and evolved as we worked the metal. We had one eye on design and the other on the reality of what we could achieve. Finally, a shape emerged — streamlined, compact and with the mandatory knee scoops to create the café racer style. Finished off with fuel tap and an aero-styled filler cap.
The seat unit was a continuation of the tank lines with a simple solo seat and tail piece to incorporate the rear light and shaped for an under-seat exhaust system. The seat was then upholstered by master tailor, Glenn Moger.
We found a grilled front headlight in an auto-jumble which became the focus for the design and fabrication of the fairing cowl with windshield. After much cutting, bending, and bashing the cowl took shape and was mounted on the top yoke. We salvaged the speedometer and tacho mechanisms from the original instrument panel and made a new aero-styled housing which would fit within the cowl.
The front mudguard and side panels were hand-built with the help of an English wheel. A couple of Morini tank-badges were then whittled with a junior-hacksaw and needle files. To complete the hand-built styling, which is frankly just cosmetic, we fashioned some go-faster aero fins for the mudguard, cowl, and seat unit.
We then fitted and mounted beautifully engineered Barleycorn clip-ons and classic-styled rearsets, used the original ally cast rims, and rebooted with Pirelli Sport Demons. The Grimeca twin-piston brake calipers were overhauled and bespoke hoses fitted.
One of the unique items of the build is the exhaust system. It has a 2-into-1 with under-seat silencer, which is also the rear mudguard. This was ingeniously designed and built by Jake Robbins.
Our final tussle was a bout of wire wrestling to weave a loom and connect the switches, lights, and ignition to enable us to kick-start the bike into life.
To sum up: along the way we made mistakes, got frustrated yet (aside from the inexplicable hiatus) persisted. Ultimately, we learnt new skills and completed the challenge we had set ourselves.
Although influenced by the awe-inspiring artistry of Shinya, the elegance of Hazan, the flair of Rodsmith, and the virtuosity of Sosa, our build is certainly not a “show stopper” but it is an accomplishment — built with a full tank of willingness.
Donor: Moto Morini 3 ½ K2 1984
- Original: Frame, Forks, Wheels, Motor and Brakes.
- In-House fabrication of: Tank, Seat, Side Panel, Front Mudguard, Instrument Housing and Front Headlight Cowl.
- Barleycorn Rear Set and Clip Ons
- Glenn Moger upholstery.
- Exhaust system by Jake Robbins
- New loom built in-house.