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It went like this
The affairs of the Bologna firm as recollected and commented on by two important characters, Gianni Marchetti (General Manager from 1946 to 1989) and Franco Lambertini (Technical Director from 1970 to 1989). Behind the scenes revealed, decisions explained.
Interview with Marchetti
"It is certain that the moment of crisis could have been overcome and we could have continued"
So Gianni Marchetti asserts today, re-examining the Morini situation at the end of the 1980s. He continues: "The business was healthy, it didn't have, and had never had, debts. Despite the great production restraints imposed by the new helmet law, it could none the less therefore, survive and look forward to the good times with more adaptable designs.."
So why was it then given up?
"After the death of Alfonso Morini in 1969, the business was passed on to his only daughter, Gabriella, a lawyer. Married to a physician, owner of a clinic, she had no children. Devoted to her father, she really took to her heart the future of the business. No other woman would have had the courage to devote herself to the firm as she did. Unfortunately, in the 1980s, Morini had become a hotbed of Trade Unionists.
Persecuted by heavy confrontations, Gabriella had been reduced to entering the factory by the back door. So when she outlined the slump of the Custom market (which at that time was the backbone of the Morini production line) she could not keep it going. But the biggest reason behind this serious decision was the former."
Is it true that the business was given up for six billion lira?
"After a lifetime at Morini, I preferred to stay away from the negotiations. I can not therefore confirm the figure."
What type of person was Alfonso Morini?
"He always did it on his own, climbing the ladder without putting a foot wrong. Master of the subject in all of its facets. He also had a good nose for sporting activities. He was an optimist, approachable, he listened to everybody. He helped so many people, he who never had help from anyone. He was a great worker"
Didn't he do everything possible with the sporting activity?
"It was his single passion, not only for the competitive point of view, but I would say, chiefly, for the mechanical one."
How did he go about creating a new model? Who were his closest collaborators?
"Firstly he outlined his ideas and discussed them with the Technicians, then the prototype was sketched. After exhaustive testing, they drew up the definitive designs. An anomalous procedure which, however, he always used. His collaborators were Dante Lambertini, Domenico Lugli, Franco Marchesini and later his nephew Franco Morini, who in the '50s was to merge the homonymous construction of engines"
How did he expand the factory? What took place exactly?
"The first was at 1 Via Berti, around 700 covered square meters, with one hundred employees. Then in 1955 came the move to a larger property at 7 Via Bergami (6.000 covered square meters), that came to employ a maximum of 150 people. The castings and some components such as the gearbox came from outside, but inside all the workmanship and assembly took place"
When did they reach the peak of production and with which model?
"During the boom of the 125, astride the year 1960, we were making 9,000 Corsaro's per year. When the boom deflated, we remained on this figure thanks to the success of the Corsarino 50. In the good years of the twin cylinder, we made 6,000 - 6,500 of them per year"
which was the most successful model?
"Each model was bound to its historical period and it answered the requirements of the moment. It is not therefore possible to assign the absolute title. However the best selling Morinis have been the 125 two stroke, the 175 four stroke, the Corsaro and the 350"
"The Briscola 175 of 1956 was a poor model, with trailing link front suspension. Then the GTI 250 of 1966 and the Dollaro 50 moped of 1971. However, even in these cases, Morini was not too badly affected"
How well did the exports go?
"Up to the arrival of the 350 our output was not very interesting to the foreign markets, it was destined almost exclusively for domestic consumption. But, we exported 30% of the Twins, for use in Germany, Holland, Spain, France and England"
Was it not a little bit hazardous for a firm like Morini to undertake the design of the Turbo and to then abandon it after having promised the first deliveries for September 1982?
"It looked as if the Turbo was destined to burst forth. But it was fearfully expensive. Besides, the turbines that Alpha Avio promised us at some point were not available. Just as well, because the "blaze" of the turbo was short lived"
Is it true that at this time you had been approached by Harley-Davidson to create a small Italo-American Duo Glide?
"I can confirm the contacts. And I can add that they were not concluded."
"To strengthen the works Pirate 125-150 four stroke for enduros, this was my first assignment at Morini." This is how Franco Lambertini starts to unravel the skein of his memoirs. "It was 1970 and the two stroke was becoming more and more menacing. For the usual questions of budget, the assignment didn't allow me ample freedom of action, in fact, I had to achieve the result changing the design of the engine in the least possible way, it had parallel valves operated by pushrods and rockers. Then, based on my previous automobile experience, I designed a flat cylinder head with combustion chamber in the top of the piston, also the inlet port and curved exhaust port so as to stir up turbulence and best exploit the combustion"
With what practical results?
"The power output of the 125 was raised from 14 to 16.5 hp, that of the 151 (which competed in the 175 class) from 15.5 to 18 hp, all measured at the wheel. There was also an increase in torque, as demonstrated by the lowering of the maximum revs, from 10,200 to 9,800 for the 125 and from 9,200 to 9,000 for the larger engine. There were also benefits to the longevity of some parts like the crankshaft"
Excellent results, but why were they not applied to production models?
"We only made twenty of the works engines but really that year we interrupted the sporting activities in order to concentrate on the preparation of the new 350"
Why 350cc, a capacity that Morini had not built before?
"It was the best compromise between performance, cost, pollution, and consumption. Besides, this capacity was the maximum accessible by youngsters between 16 and 18 years of age"
How long was the gestation?
"I drew up the designs in a few days, at the end of 1970. Eight months later the motorbike was on the road. We displayed it at the 1971 Milan show, with the air filters still out in the open. Then we put them under the tank. This was the most apparent of the changes made before sales began, in the spring of 1972"
Were the smaller and larger versions anticipated in the original plans?
"Yes, the engine was "conceived" as modular, not only as a twin cylinder but also as a single, eliminating the rear cylinder. Obviously in order to use the same equipment and to reduce maufacturing costs"
Looking back, which was the best version?
"The 350 most hit the target, less happy was the Single, especially the 250 which vibrated in spite of its flexible engine mountings"
The Twin introduced various exclusive technical solutions, some already experimented with successfully in the Regolarita Corsaro, others were firsts like the belt driven raised camshaft in order to use short pushrods. Why not risk still more by adopting an overhead cam (and perhaps four valves), electric starting and some form of anti-vibration?
"I had also designed a belt driven overhead cam with four valves, electric starting, swing arm pivot passing through the cases, but had to drop them for reasons of expense. Note also that at that time in Italy there were no suitable electric starters available. As soon as some were available, we used them in the 500. That was in 1977"
The valve diameters seem small, especially that of the exhaust, why such unusual sizes?
"It was a concept that came from competition cars, to create a high exit velocity for the burnt gases (about 30% faster) to assist the arrival of fresh gases in the combustion chamber. In truth, that's why the engine did not produce high power but had good torque and reduced consumption. Thanks to the good combination of various factors of which I have already spoken, we established I believe a record with 190-220 gr/HP/h over a wide rev range. The optimal rapid and complete combustion allowed us to reduce the ignition spark advance drastically and to meet in full the strict Californian pollution standards"
The ideal "V" is one of 90 degrees. Why did you use 72?.
"In order to make the engine more compact and keeping it compatible with the needs of balancing. In this way the unbalanced masses were kept modest, and in fact the vibrations were less than those of a 125 single cylinder four stroke of the time"
The Morini Twin cylinder stayed in production for more than ten years. How was it improved over time?
"Only with alterations to the timing, ignition and exhaust. So the power output of the 350 went from 32-33 Horsepower at 8,600 revs to 37-38 at 9.200"
However, it was not all rosy. You remember when connecting rods kept breaking causing massive engine damage?
"That was a painful period. Afterwards we noticed that there were micro-cracks in the stamp formed connecting rod bolts. We went on to use bolts with nuts and the nightmare vanished"
Why did you not officially enter competition with the Twin?
"The desire was there and in the first years the motorbike, prepared opportunely, could boast a certain competitiveness. But the cost of racing was enormous, it was therefore excessive in relationship to the Firms sales volumes."
With a notable amount of courage, you studied and produced the prototype of a turbocharged 500. Why did you take an interest in this formula and when did you begin to work around it?
"The results achieved by the Renault Formula One engine impressed me. It produced almost double the power of the corresponding normally aspirated engine. And in fact, the Morini Turbo produced 84 Horsepower at 8,300 revs against the 42 at 8,500 of the normally aspirated version. I started research in 1979, the motorbike was tested in 1981, covering a good 70,000 kilometers, and displayed with great success at the Milan Show in that year."
And then why bury it?
"At the same Milan show we had shown with similar success the off road Kanguro 350. With the available resources, we could not start to produce two new models. It was thus necessary to choose one and we decided on the Kanguro. Besides, I don't deny that the Turbo would have caused some suffering to normal production."
When did you begin to work on the new V-Twin? Which capacities were they to be made in?
"The times had changed, the engines were still modular but were to be in 350cc, 500cc and 750cc capacities. In 1986 the first series of the prototypes were ready. The larger capacity version developed 86 Horsepower."
Why did you reduced the angle from 72 to 60 degrees?
"To limit the overall dimensions, espescially that of the largest capacity version. In fact the angle of 72 degrees would have been too open."
What technical improvements as regards the preceding twins?
"Everything changed: over head single cam driven by silent chain, four valves per cylinder, water cooling, contro rotating anti-vibration shafts."
Why were they laid up?
"The new owners made it know that they already had an excellent twin cylinder engine."
Also to the technician, the question on the fate of Morini: would it still be alive today it they had not given up?
"I am convinced of it, we did not have to produce large numbers in order to keep going, 2,000 motorbikes in a year would have been enough, besides the Custom market was starting to recover after the helmet shock. And Morini would have certainly benefitted"
The above was translated from an article that appeared in the Italian motorcycle magazine "MOTOCICLISMO EPOCA" in May 1996.