The first-ever Italian edition of the Wheels and Waves festival took place between October 7th – 9th 2022 at Lido Di Camaiore, Tuscany. The W&W event has always been a melting pot of cultures and the Italians weren’t about to play it down. The 3-day festival included beach races, a vintage dirt track, surf and skateboarding contests, art displays, live music and the now famous Artride custom motorcycle cruise.
Amongst the 2022 Artride participants was local custom motorcycle builder Filippo Barbacane. Those who recognise that name know Filippo as the man behind one of Italy’s top Moto Guzzi workshops, Officine Rossopuro. Filippo took part in the 2022 W&W Artride astride his latest custom Moto Guzzi project which he’s coined the Normalis B.
“Everything comes from the name of this bike,” says Filippo. “The customer, a great Guzzi enthusiast, wanted a motorcycle that was inspired by the Moto Guzzi Normale 500, a bike from the 1920s.”
The release of the 1921 Normale 500 was a significant milestone in Moto Guzzi’s 100+ year history. It was the first model released after Giorgio Parodi, Angelo Parodi and Carlo Guzzi founded the company and was the first Moto Guzzi to be produced in a series.
Filippo was of course intrigued by the prospect of building such a motorcycle, but he knew he’d be facing a nostalgia vs reality conundrum, especially since the donor for the project was engineered more than 50 years after the release of the Normale 500.
“Logically it had to be just an inspiration as the differences with the old Guzzi were really too many compared to the much more modern Tonti chassis and the 850 V engine. But the idea was there,” he says. “I started with an excellent T3 850 which is an incredibly functional bike. It is an ideal starting point for a special build that surprises even the most seasoned Guzzista.”
Knowing he wouldn’t be able to replicate many of the physical attributes of the 1920s Normale using a late-seventies T3 850, Filippo looked for design details that could be translated. Matching the colour would be the easiest task, a “glorious green” that was a trademark of the Mandello Del Lario brand during their early years. Wide handlebars, a common feature of all motorcycles of the era including the Normale 500 were another must-have. Spoked wheels also made the list with classic large wrap-around fenders. And centrally positioned footpegs for an upright riding position.
Those changes would certainly draw parallels between Filippo’s T3 and the 1920s Normale but in order to really tie the two together, he’d need to build some new bodywork. First things first though, the T3 needed a few modern upgrades.
“Once completely disassembled, I proceeded by revising the chassis and mechanics of the T3, making everything come back as if it had just left the factory,” says Filippo. “The secret with these projects is updating the bikes with technological innovations that improve their reliability and functionality. The major updates here mainly concern the electrics.”
In order to dispense with any gremlins in the T3’s 1970s wiring Filippo has fitted a modern Elektronik Sachse electronic ignition. The original starter motor has been swapped with a newer alternative too and the entire wiring loom is all new. High-output Dyna coils provide a steadfast and strong spark which, according to Filippo, when combined with a modern voltage regulator “makes these bikes indestructible and very reliable.”
Along with the electrical improvements, Filippo delved inside the Guzzi’s 844cc 90-degree V-twin to ensure everything was in top condition. Then, to extract some more grunt from the engine, he had the Italian company MASS design fabricate a bespoke 2-into-2 exhaust system for the bike.
Despite being styled after a 1920s motorcycle there’s nothing vintage about this T3’s handling. Sticking to the Italian-designed and built theme, the forks and rear shocks have received a serious upgrade using parts from Bitubo’s catalogue. The brake upgrades are of course by Brembo and consist of new callipers, controls and stainless steel braided lines. A set of Borrani flanged aluminium rims satisfy the spoked rim component of the Normale hommage design brief.
Then came the stage of the build that Filippo prides himself on, and enjoys the most – the bodywork.
“It would be much easier to have moulds that are always the same, but in my opinion, it would take away the very essence of customizing a motorcycle. So every time I make my bodywork from scratch with a completely different new design, listening to the tastes and needs of the passionate customer.”
In this instance, Filippo’s work was heavily influenced by the taut, angular lines of the original Normale. “I made a complete aluminium body. The fuel tank, mudguards, side panels and seat pan. They all started from a skeletal model in metal which I then recreated over dozens and dozens of hours of work,” he says. “The result is a low and sleek bike with a tank that is large enough for long journeys and with lines that recall the old Guzzi’s glories.”
To wrap things up, Filippo dressed the T3 in premium aftermarket parts and more Officine Rossopuro original accessories.
“The elongated headlight with the Daytona instrumentation contributes to giving this bike a retro look” says Filippo. “Similar to the custom-made fork covers.”
Parts from the Rossopuro catalogue include CNC-machined aluminium footpegs, a rear brake calliper support and engine mount brackets. There’s also an air filter kit which replaces the airbox with an aluminium box that contains a K&N filter. The cylinder head guards are original items too along with the risers and many other small details.
An important thing to note is that everything Filippo fits to his projects is legally approved to ensure hassle-free operation for years to come. As he explains it, “Making specials is now a lifestyle for me. I create bikes that people can ride comfortably and are very usable. This bike is now ready to ride through the streets of Tuscany, having part of that old glory of the Normale 500 in its DNA.”