Better late than never! Eight years after Piaggio purchased the bankrupt Aprilia Group in December of 2004, and with it acquired the historic Moto Guzzi trophy, the first all-new Guzzi model to appear under Piaggio ownership was unveiled at the Milan Show in November - in the form of a born-again upscale version of its legendary California custom tourer.
With more than 100,000 examples of the Guzzi California sold since 1968 (when the first such bike was built for the Los Angeles Police Department) - and over 20,000 of these still on the road today - this is by some way the most iconic Moto Guzzi model ever built. As such it represents an ideal platform for Piaggio to demonstrate its future commitment to the Guzzi brand, which celebrated its 90th birthday in 2011.
It's a commitment that has sometimes seemed in doubt, as annual Guzzi production slumped to just 4500 units in 2010, but that's since picked up to 6000 this calendar year, underpinning the $54.5 million investment that the scooter giant has pumped into the company to cover modernizing the infrastructure of its Mandello del Lario factory on the shores of Lake Como.
That money has also gone into the development of new models like the California 1400 in its motorcycle R&D center in the Aprilia HQ at Noale. Production of customer California models remains entirely in Mandello, though, insists its acclaimed progettista Miguel Galluzzi. "It's 100 percent Moto Guzzi, all built by hand in the Mandello del Lario plant," he says. "We didn't want to forget our heritage, but at the same time we wanted to incorporate the innovative, advanced, design themes that a modern day Moto Guzzi must have if it wants to capture new customers."
The new Moto Guzzi California 1400 is available in two versions, a full-dress Touring model complete with Plexiglas Highway Patrol screen and twin non-detachable 11.8-gallon hard panniers that can be locked but won't, however, hold a full-face helmet - "They look too fat and ugly if you make them big enough," proclaims Galluzzi - and the more stripped-down Custom musclebike variant that's essentially a Guzzi streetfighter.
Each bike comes with floorboards, twin rear shocks, and chrome-backed running lights masquerading as spotlights, and is powered by a re-engineered version of Guzzi's traditional air/oil-cooled transverse V-twin motor with shaft final drive. At 1380cc, this is the largest capacity twin-cylinder engine ever produced by a European. As such, it's the fruits of four-and-a-half years of development at Piaggio's motorcycle R&D center.
Check out the full test on the new 2013 Moto Guzzi California 1400 Touring in our Digital Edition.