Words and photography by Mick Payne
Honda once claimed that it would have been cheaper to buy the Moto Morini concern and close it down than to develop a machine to beat them in Grand Prix so successful were the Italian singles. Formed in 1937 by Alfonso Morini, the Tresette (Three Sevens) was one of the company's most sought after road models before the advent of the popular 'Wee Vees'. One man who probably has 'Moto Morini, Bologna' running through his body, like a stick of rock, is Stuart Mayhew of Morini specialists North Leicester Motorcycles.
This particular machine is one of their mouthwatering stock of Italian bikes that encompasses the most popular and quite a few less well known makes. Morini are well represented of course and as Stuart points out, "As well as the Tresette Sprint, a 175, we also have its smaller brother the 98cc Sbarrazzino". It's an unrestored but well looked after 1961 example and the previous UK owner has been in contact with its former Italian keeper, so there is a fair amount of known history too.
Typically Italian in appearance the almost all encompassing red is set off by sweeping ivory panels lined in black. The tank and side-panels bear the Moto Morini logos and the Three Sevens playing card transfers respectively. "Alfonso was a very keen card player", Stuart points out, "and the games, often with the Benelli brothers would go on for days". He also said that the three Tresette Sprint cards were of a form unique to Bologna, other areas having their own designs.
One unusual feature is the twin silencer set up that apparently gave less back-pressure while still keeping noise levels down. The second is the raised, although still dip-on, handlebar; apparently a rarely fitted factory option, with an electronic cycle speedo clipped to the cross-bar. The original is still fitted although, as Stuart remarked, "It's a typically inaccurate instrument". It has a right foot gearchange with heel and toe operation for its five-speed box and the left side is shared by brake and kick-start pedals. Decent sized light alloy drum brakes are also part of the package, so here is an early 60s bike that should go, stop and sound just right. Looks a million Lire too!
The castings have that almost jewel like appearance that the Italians seem to master so well and as Stuart informed me, "The more sporting models have their points on the end of the camshaft", indicating the bulge in the timing side casting. The push-rod engine is quite unlike an English machine of the era and is far more modern in appearance, as well as being a stressed member of the frame. All is finished off with a Dell'Orto carb and polished bell-mouth.
Morinis in the UK have never been cheap however and this one is no exception. At £6000 - serviced, with full MoT and three month warranty - it is a lot to pay for what is usually seen as Bantam or C15 territory, but there really is no comparison. I'm sure I know which one would get me looking at my reflection in shop windows as I rode past!
North Leicester Motorcycles,
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