First place at Café Racer Festival at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry!
In 1971, the Moto Guzzi 850 T arrived, sporting what would become known as the Tonti frame:
“Moto Guzzi Chief Engineer Lino Tonti not only reworked the frame (the triangular gusset, flat profile tubular steel cradle that would carry his name for the next 20 years), but he also re-engineered Moto Guzzi’s tried and true V-twin engine from a heavy touring mill to an 844cc sporting machine.” —Hemmings
The T was said to stand for either “Tonti” or “Turismo” — the latter a nod to the bike’s long-range touring prowess, though the 68-hp V-twin had enough grunt to make “Gran Turismo” a more fitting description. In 1975, the 850 T3 arrived, sporting a triple-disc integrated braking system and a number of other features:
“A sport touring motorcycle in the best Italian tradition, it had all of the improvements Guzzi had prepared for the Convert — linked triple-disc brakes, dual-point ignition, full air filter, a real oil filter…but with less weight and better agility for riders looking for both performance and long-distance capacity.” —Motorcycle Classics
Enter our new friend Nicolas Baux (@atelier_mcnc) of France, whose first motorcycle was a 1980 Yamaha RD80LC — two-stroke screamer! He’s owned a number of bikes since then, but it was his Honda CR500 that awakened his passion for modification:
“In 2012, after riding my supermoto Honda 500 CR for 8 years, I decided to modify it by mounting its engine in a 2006 450 CRF frame. For fun. That day I cut up my first frame! From there I felt that the limits in the modification of a motorcycle are in fact the ones that we set ourselves!”
Today he runs a workshop called MCNC, which stands for Motocyclettes Certifiés Non Conformes, which means “Certified Non-Compliant Motorcycles” — a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fact that his custom creations are delivered with a certificate certifying that they are non-compliant in origin.
His latest build is the 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 T3 you see here. His vision was clear:
“The project is therefore to transform this huge and comfortable roadster into a racy machine, boosted with anabolic steroids, refined and sweating testosterone.”
Not only did he convert the bike to a mono-shock rear suspension system — complete with simulations and kinematics of the various stresses on the suspension parts — but he also learned TIG welding and built the tank and trim out of aluminum.
“The motorcycle is now called ‘La Macchina,’ because I wanted to pay homage to the raw mechanics found on old machines, such as steam locomotives or war planes with aluminum fuselages.”
After 3.5 years of work, Nicolas took La Macchina to the prestigious Café Racer Festival at the historic at Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry outside Paris, where it won first place! Below, Nicolas gives us the full story on his incredible Guzzi cafe racer.
Moto Guzzi 850 T Cafe Racer: In the Builder’s Words…
I passed my motorcycle license at 16, my first motorcycle was an ’80 RDLC. Then I had a Suzuki 125 GT, 600 KLR, 600 Teneré, 650 NX, 750 Africa Twin, and currently a KTM 990 Adventure. In 2012, after riding my supermoto Honda 500 CR for 8 years, I decided to modify it by mounting its engine in a 2006 450 CRF frame. For fun. That day I cut up my first frame!
From there I felt that the limits in the modification of a motorcycle are in fact the ones that we set ourselves! After finishing the 500 CR, I decided to tackle another legendary 500: the Royal Enfield 500 Bullet.
I then embarked on the manufacture of more complex parts, and especially in the manufacture of tools that allow me to push my limits. For example, I made a small oven and a crucible to melt aluminum. This very old technique allows you to give free rein to your imagination. It’s really very pleasant to think of a piece, draw it, sculpt it then make a sand mold and finally pour the molten metal and discover the finished piece!
Thanks to this kind of tool and technique, I could finally let my creativity express itself. Motorcycle modification was not just a goal, but also a way to practice many of my passions: design, pencil drawing, sculpture, welding, working with different materials.
For the Moto Guzzi, I decided to go even further by modifying the chassis in depth to install a single shock absorber and by creating the trim and tank from an aluminum sheet. I am particularly proud to have succeeded because I had never done this, and I knew it was tricky. Tricky but not impossible. So possible…so I tried, and I succeeded even though I didn’t know how to use a TIG station! I love to learn!
Succeeding in challenges like this allows you to go from a stage where you think you can do it, to the stage where you know you can do it! The difference is huge! It gives a lot of confidence and allows you to go even further! I then started to better equip my workshop to push the limits even further. I invested in a big milling machine of 2.6 tons from 1974 — a pure marvel — as well as a lathe, a small CNC milling machine, a rolling machine, a TIG station that I paid for thanks to the reward (1st prize) that I had won with the 500 Black Bullet at the Café Racer Festival.
After 3½ years of work, the 1978 Moto Guzzi 850 T3 no longer had the same style! In original form, it was already a motorcycle with a magnificent engine, which seems to overflow everywhere, like on an airplane! It’s now a cafe racer on anabolic steroids! The motorcycle is now called La Macchina, because I wanted to pay homage to the raw mechanics found on old machines, such as steam locomotives or war planes with aluminum fuselages.
To my great surprise, this bike also won 1st prize at the Cafe Racer Festival organized at the mythical circuit of Linas Montlhery, in France. The first laps on the circuit are forever etched in my motorcycle memories.
After having completely disassembled and reassembled a motorcycle, especially over such a long period of time, there is always a risk of having reassembled something incorrectly… during the first laps, all my senses were on the alert — the slightest noise, the slightest vibration was to analyse!
Fortunately everything went well, and I was then able to appreciate this exceptional and so special engine. The vibrations are round, the overturning torque very present, the movements due to the universal joint also very present…in short, a motorcycle full of life, of particularities, with a very endearing character. I understand better that the owners of Moto Guzzi are a family within the family of motorcyclists.
This motorcycle is not for sale — it is a showcase of my know-how, and will be exhibited at the Lyon motorcycle show in a space dedicated to 101 years of Moto Guzzi.
Thanks to her, I have requests for work on motorcycles or all kinds of exceptional vehicles, whether for an entire motorcycle or for special parts. The common point is always the top-of-the-range and unique work. The name of my brand MCNC is a little humorous nod because my motorcycles are delivered with a certificate certifying that they are non-compliant at the origin.
On this bike, I pushed my limits, I also learned a lot about my abilities and that only accentuated my passion for mechanics, beautiful mechanics, what I call mechanical Haute Couture.
If you have project ideas, do not hesitate to contact me, whether for a motorcycle, a vintage car, a unique decorative piece, in France or abroad.
Photography by me and Jean-François Muguet.
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