Giving Morini a Boost - literally
This is the mythical Morini 500 Turbo, first shown at the 1981 Milan show. Turbomania started with the Renault RS01, the first Formula One car with a turbocharged
engine, débuted at the 1977 British Grand Prix. What wasn’t to like? Free power from exhaust gasses to supercharge an engine, rather than use a power-sapping mechanical supercharger like those used on aircraft for decades. These days most cars run a turbo, but no motorcycles. Packaging and throttle response are the big issues – it’s easier to just increase the capacity of the engine.
But that wasn’t an option for Morini’s designer Franco Lambertini, his V-twin pretty much maxed out at 500cc and with no budget to retool for a new motor. His old paymasters down the road at Ferrari were clearly developing a turbo for the road, and the 208 Turbo was launched in 1982 with the V8’s power lifted from the normally aspirated version’s 152bhp to 217bhp.
Lambertini reckoned his turbocharged 72° V-twin could make 80bhp, still way behind the Japanese 1100s 110+ horses. But they weighed almost 100kg/220lbs more than the Morini’s 180 kilos which, with its aerodynamic bodywork, was targeted to hit 200km/h(125mph). Might a sporting rider have chosen the Italian beauty over the Japanese bruisers?
It wasn’t to be of course, and perhaps just as well. The Japanese own turbos were a commercial flop. Morini’s Bolognese bosses preferred to focus on the Kanguro and on the enduro niche, a market segment that was then experiencing its first big boom. So it proved the right thing to do commercially, even if I’d much rather have a motorcycle that looked like the Morini Turbo than a Kanguro.
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