Alfonso Morini was born on 22 January 1898. Before he was 16 he was repairing motorcycles, and at the age of sixteen, opened a workshop. This was just before World War I broke out. During the war he was with the 8th Motorcycles Unit, stationed at Padua.


In 1925 Mario Mazzetti, impressed by Alfonso's work, asked him to build a single-cylinder 120 cc two-stroke racing bike, making Alfonso the designer, constructor, and racer. They were successful racing, under the MM name, and Alfonso's finest racing moment came in 1927 when his MM 125 took six world records at Monza, during the Grand Prix of Nations. (These records were not bettered for twenty years.) In 1933 he set a new world speed record for 175 cc motorcycles of 162 km/h.

Moto Morini three wheelers

In 1937 Alfonso and Mario parted ways, and Alfonso Morini went into the production of 350 cc and 500 cc three wheelers, under the Moto Morini name. The government regulations favoured these lighter fuel efficient machines, and the successful Moto Morini M610 had advanced features, like cardan driveshafts.

This was interrupted by World War II, and Moto Morini was converted to produce aeronautical components. In 1943 the factory was bombed.


Moto Morini 175 Tresette Sprint
Moto Morini Corsaro 125 of 1960

Undeterred, in 1946, a new three-speed transmission, single cylinder, two-stroke T125 emerged from the new Bologna factory, Via Berti. In 1947 a Sport version appeared. In 1953 a 175 cc pushrod OHV four-stroke model appeared in production. Models like Gran Turismo, Settebello, Rebello, Supersport, Briscola, Tresette, and Tresette Sprint also appeared. In 1956 Moto Morini moved to a larger production facility at Via Bergami. In 1958 Alfonso Morini, Dante Lambertini, and Nerio Biavati designed the 250 GP Double Camshaft.

On 30 June 1969 Alfonso Morini died. He was 71. His daughter, Gabriella Morini, took over management, and would remain in control until 1986. In 1970 Franco Lambertini (unrelated to the earlier Dante Lambertini of Morini's technical staff) left Ferrari works and joined Moto Morini.

Competition history

Moto Morini 175 Sprint F3 Corsa, 1959
Moto Morini 175 Settebello “Short Rods”, 1961

In 1948, Raffaele Alberti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles on a two-stroke 125 Competition. Umberto Masetti won the Italian Championship for Lightweight Motorcycles in 1949, on a 125 SOHC four-stroke that produced 12 hp (8.9 kW) @ 10000 rpm, and could exceed 140 km/h (87 mph). In 1952 Moto Morini won races outside of Italy with the 125 SOHC four-stroke, as Emilio Mendogni won both the Nations Grand Prix, and the Spanish Grand Prix. The 250 GP put out 38 hp (28 kW) @ 11,000 rpm and had a maximum speed of 227 km/h (141 mph).

In 1961Giacomo Agostini began his racing career on a Moto Morini Settebello “Short Rods”, coming second at Trento-Bondone. Agostini was Italian Cadet Champion in 1962, and Italian Junior Champion in 1963. Tarquinio Provini, riding a Moto Morini 250 GP, won the Italian Championship in 1961 and 1962. In 1963, Provini convinced Alfonso Morini that they should try for the World Championship. Provini would wage a season-long battle with Honda's Jim Redman for the 250 world championship. Each rider won four races and the title wasn't decided until the final race in Japan, the Japanese team (250 4cyl) would not let Provini practise before the race to hinder Morini's chances with Redman just winning the championship over Provini by two points. The single Cyl 250 Morini is still the fastest single cyl (4t) 250 racer to this day.

Moto Morini 350 & 500 V-twins

In the early 1970s, Moto Morini launched their first 72° V-twin engined motorcycles, designed by Franco Lambertini, and created by Franco and Gino Marchesini. The 350 Sport and Strada models displaced 344 cc and were complemented in 1977 by 500 cc Sport and Strada models. Equipment on the models was of high-spec and when released the Morini 3½ was around the same price as a Honda CB750.

Moto Morini 3½ GT (Strada).

The Morini 3½ still has a loyal following and a number of spare parts are available from specialist firms. The former editor of Classic Bike magazine, veteran motorcycle writer Hugo Wilson, has owned a 3½ Sport since 1982 and still uses it as a regular commuter motorbike.

The engine featured Heron heads, which were milled flat and the combustion chamber is recessed in the piston crown, aiding combustion and returning excellent fuel economy. A fuel consumption test by Motorcycling Monthly at Britain's Motor Industry Research Association in 1976 returned a performance of 65 miles per imperial gallon (4.3 L/100 km; 54 mpg‑US) while a 3½ bike carried rider and pillion passenger. The engine also incorporated one piece forged steel crankshaft, ball main bearings (first series motors), plain big end bearings (second series motors), and the conrods run on a common pin, desaxe, and offsetting the rear cylinder to the front by 50 mm (2.0 in). Front and rear barrels and heads are interchangeable. VBH Dell'Orto (25 mm VHB 25 BS) square slide carburettors were fitted to the 350, with air fed via air-box with two filters. Bore and stroke was 62 mm × 57 mm (2.4 in × 2.2 in), respectively. The camshaft was driven by a small toothed belt, and was a revolutionary advance. They also included an electronic capacitor discharge ignition system designed by Ducati Elettronica. Early models had kick-start only but later ones also included a starter motor using three centrifugal friction shoes engaging the alternator rotor cover. The CDI ignition was powered by a coil in the alternator and using the kick-start a bike could be started and ridden with a flat battery.

Moto Morini 3½ Sport
Moto Morini 350 K2 1986

The frame is a full steel duplex swingarm design, with Ceriani rear suspension, and Marzocchi front forks. The early models had a twin leading shoe drum brake up front (Strada: 200 mm (7.9 in) drum, Sport: 230 mm (9.1 in) drum) that was notoriously grabby on the Borrani spoked wheels, but these were replaced with a single chromed 260 mm (10.2 in) Grimeca disc in 1976, and later optional double discs. The rear drum brake was replaced in the early 1980s with a Grimeca disc. Switchgear, tail and brake lights were the standard CEV model used on many Italian motorcycles of the 1970s. The month and year of manufacture is embossed in small figures on the side of each cast wheel, near where one of the seven cast spokes meets the rim. The helical gear transmission was a six-speed, with a top gear ratio of 1:0.954, making it akin to an overdrive. The transmission was engaged with a six-plate dry clutch, making a characteristic rattle similar to Ducatis when disengaged. Secondary drive was by a 5/8 x 3/8-inch chain to a rear sprocket with cush drive. Gear change is by right foot and the rear brake operated by left foot. Engine lubrication was by oil pump to the crankshaft but no force lubrication went to the rocker gear. Instead, crankcase pressure forced oil mist up the short pushrod tunnels to the rocker covers, where two 'crow's feet' allowed mist to condense and drip onto the rocker gear. Although ingenious, it required riders to gentle warm up their engines before using maximum revs, redlined at 9,200 rpm. Oil filtration was by plastic mesh filter.

The 1979 model incorporated a moulded tank-hugging seat, black crankcase side covers and a black exhaust system in homage to the Moto Guzzi Le Mans.

Footrests were placed too far forward for many riders and a common modification was to replace them with rearset footrests. Although not suitable for large riders, the 3½ was renowned for sharp and impeccable handling and was able to compete against larger capacity motorbikes on twisty roads. Maximum torque was above 6,000 rpm and so required high revving, similar to a two-stroke, to make the most of the engine's characteristics. Nevertheless, a 3½ Sport could still return 70 miles per imperial gallon (4.0 L/100 km; 58 mpg‑US) when ridden hard. The 3½ Sport had a higher compression ratio than the softer-tuned Strada. The Sport featured Tomaselli clip-ons handlebars and throttle, a steering damper and Veglia instruments.

In November 1981 a 500 Turbo was shown at the Milan Show, producing 84 bhp (63 kW) at 8,300 rpm. It did not make it to production. An enduro version called the Camel 500 was released in 1981. In 1983 the Kanguro 350 was released.

In 1986 Moto Morini brought out a cruiser version, the Excalibur, available in 350 and 500 versions.

The 350 was conceived as a modular design, and single cylinder versions were made. (Looking like the V-twin with the rear cylinder removed) These were the 1975 six-speed 125 H and the 1978 250 T Mono, both unsuccessful, as was the later KJ 125 single of 1985.[13]

350 performance figures

  • Strada 26 kW; 35 hp (35 PS) @ 8,000 rpm top speed 162kmh
  • Sport 29 kW; 39 hp (40 PS) @ 8,500 rpm, 43 N⋅m (32 ft⋅lbf) @ 6,100 rpm.

Weight 145 kg

  • Top Speed 175kmh (108.7 mph)

500 performance figures

  • 31 kW (42 hp) @7,500 rpm
  • Sport top Speed 172kmh (104 mph)
  • Sport dry weight 167 kg (368 lb)