This 1965 Motobi Motorcycle is the Family Jewel

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1965 Motobi – The motorcycle itself is far from memorable, but the memories are something else.

If you’re going to expend a little sweat, more money and plenty of time restoring an extra-ordinary little Italian motorcycle that no one has ever heard of, there has to be a great back story. And in the case of this 1965 Motobi, there is.

For Dino Finot of Calgary, the Motobi is one of his earliest memories. As a child, he traveled with his parents back home to Italy. At his grandfather Guerrino Vivan’s farm in Treviso, the Motobi was daily transportation.

“My grandfather didn’t have a car,” Finot says. “He rode the Motobi through the late 1960s into the early 1980s. He rode it to church, he rode it to the bar — he rode it to play bocce. And I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. As a kid, it was the biggest motorcycle in the world, and it could have been a 1,000cc Harley.”

It wasn’t. The Motobi Tipo BS, as it was known in Italy, or the Motobi America for the U.S. market, was a diminutive lightweight motorcycle. Trolling the Internet for information about the model yields — nothing. What we know, however, is the Tipo BS utilizes a 49cc two-stroke coupled with a four-speed gearbox. Compression is 6:1, and the carburetor is from Dell’Orto. Electrics are 6-volt, and the 18” wheels are shod in skinny 2.75” wide tires.

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Grandfather Vivan – or Nonno as Finot called him — wasn’t the first owner of the Motobi, but his sons (and consequently, Finot’s uncles) Giovanni and Gino were involved right from the start. Originally, the Motobi was purchased new in 1965 by Signor Dalla Torre G – Giovanni’s father-in-law. It was Finot’s uncle Gino who rode the bike home for Dalla Torre. The bike was used for a few years before it was sold to Nonno, who, as noted, put the motorcycle to good use.

Nonno stopped riding the Motobi in the mid-1980s, but every time Finot’s family returned to Italy to visit he and his younger brother would drag it out, fire it up, and race up and down the rows of grapes in the vineyard.

“My grandfather taught me how to ride it, and once I found out what a clutch was and that you could dump it and be off like a shot, that was it, I was hooked on bikes,” Finot says. Currently there’s a 2004 Ducati S4R, 2011 BMW K1300S and his wife, Collette’s, 2010 Ducati Multistrada in their garage.

Grandfather Vivan died in 2001, and the Motobi was left to gather dust and chicken guano. That’s when Finot began thinking about the Motobi, and having it home in Canada. He asked his father, upon a return trip to Italy, to ask if anybody in the family had any interest in the little machine. His Dad and uncle Gino went to the farm, uncovered the Motobi, and immediately thought it worthless due to its condition. They took it to a motorcycle shop.

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“They told the guy there to sell it if he could,” Finot says. “They were later told it sold, and that was it, I thought the bike was gone. I was upset – but I did eventually talk to my Dad again.”

1965-Motobi-Motorcycle-TractionLife (10 of 12)Finot didn’t give up easily, however. He continued to think, and talk, about the Motobi. In 2005, his Dad found out the dealer hadn’t sold the bike; that he’d kept it for himself. Finot decided he’d return with a fistful of cash and offer a stupid number just to get the Motobi back.

In 2010, he and Collette traveled to Italy, and found that uncle Gino had visited the shop and somehow secured the return of the Motobi. The two were reunited, and Collette got to work organizing how to ship it to Calgary. The bike was crated by his cousins Denis, Cristian and Ettore Ciot, owners of the motorcycle shop Motosport-ciot in Gorgo, Italy, and picked up by truck and driven to London, England, where it was transferred to an airplane. It finally landed in Calgary on Feb. 15, 2012.

Over its lifetime, the Motobi had suffered serious degradation. A brazing repair to the frame had left it cracked and twisted near the footpegs, so Finot chose to fix that first. Everything came off, photographs were taken, and Finot cut out the offending front and lower downtubes. He located new metal, and using a manual pipe bender, fabricated replacement rails. Plugs were machined on a lathe, and he taught himself how to TIG-weld just so he could join everything together.

The bike was crated by his cousins Denis, Cristian and Ettore Ciot, owners of the motorcycle shop Motosport-ciot in Gorgo, Italy, and picked up by truck and driven to London, England, where it was transferred to an airplane. It finally landed in Calgary on Feb. 15, 2012.

While repairing the frame, Finot made a list of required parts, and sent it to his Italian cousins. They found many of the pieces, including decals, engine seals and gaskets, muffler, rims and spokes, footpeg rubbers and grips and rear shock absorber mounting rubbers.

Engine cases were split, and the bearings were seized with rust – the crank was spinning in the bearings. New ones were found at a bearing supply house in Calgary, and the bottom end with fresh seals was buttoned up. Piston, rings and cylinder were in good shape, and with a coat of paint on the fins, the top end put back together.

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Everything was sent out for paint, including the frame. Finot’s friend Ralph Stotschek in Cochrane got the panels into shape before laying down primer and colour. Andrea Briggs of Powersport Seats in Calgary stitched a saddle cover, and Alberta Plating, also in Calgary, applied chrome to a few pieces.

With it back together, Finot realized he was missing spark because of a cracked magneto pickup. His cousins are sending a replacement, and it looks like it will be next year before he can attempt to light it up.

“The family is shocked and surprised at how far we took this restoration, but they’re pleased,” Finot says. “I have a lifetime of memories wrapped up in the Motobi, including my grandfather teaching me how to ride and shift gears on it. He’s still influencing me, because now that it’s finished, I want to build something else. I’m looking at a CB360 to build as a café racer.”

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Greg Williams
After graduating from the Journalism program at Mount Royal College in 1995, Greg Williams set out to write about powered vehicles, and more specifically motorcycles – and has been doing so ever since. This isn’t a part time gig for him. Williams has written for every major Canadian motorcycle magazine, and spent ten years with Inside Motorcycles where he penned the Western Perspectives column. He now contributes the New Old Stock column to Cycle Canada, the Pulp Non-Fiction column six times a year to the Antique Motorcycle magazine, and feature articles appear regularly in American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Classics. His On the Road column runs weekly in the Calgary Herald Driving section and also republished Modern Motorcycle Mechanics — the motorcyclist’s bible. Greg is also the recipient of the Julie Wilkinson Motorsport Journalism Award.