Precious Metals: Raven MotoCycles 750

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Raven Covus Lanora 750

“About 15 years ago I thought of the possibility of combining a Moto Guzzi engine and a Norton transmission,” Jeff Gundlach said.

That should be enough to get any sensible person to stop in his tracks, and Raven MotoCycles’ Raven 750 (full name: Raven, Corvus Lanora 750) is determined to do just that.

Custom motorcycles that source from too many countries require the full attention of a clear-thinking mind with a singular purpose to avoid Frankenstein-like results. Although beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, it is difficult to deny the positive attraction that the Raven’s magnetic personality possesses.

Gundlach comes upon his Moto Guzzi obsession honestly.

“I’ve been riding Moto Guzzis for 35 years. I was just attracted to them. They were different; I like the Moto Guzzi’s agricultural kind of look. I like the simplicity of the Moto Guzzis. They are much simpler than a BMW.

“The torque down low is good, but once they get rolling they do well. They sing over 5000 rpm. I have owned many Moto Guzzis and even raced 750s and 1100s for 12 years with AHRMA with good results, and a lot of great fun and great friends,” the Vintage Superbike class racer says.

Gundlach continues, “I am a true fan of the bikes from the 1930s. I find them the most beautiful and functional. When I came up with the idea for this bike. I was thinking about George Brough (founder of Brough Superior) and the Moto Guzzi V-twin. From the ’30s to the ’50s, Moto Guzzi raced a transverse V-twin. It is where (Fabio) Taglioni got his idea for the Ducati twins.”

The Raven 750’s Moto Guzzi/ Norton connection is the fruit of a singular dream of a unique drivetrain. “For 15 years I fantasized about turning the motor and hooking it to a tranny,” Gundlach reveals. “I made some sketches and put it on the back burner.”

Two years ago, Raven MotoCycles and its Raven 750 began to take flight. “The bike went through quite a few changes before I settled on this design,” Gundlach says.

He describes the process: “I use wood a lot to mock things up before I start with metal.Wood is very easy to change when I make a mistake, plus it’s strong enough to actually add the components. Once I was satisfied with the frame, I started with the steel.

“The steel that I used to build the engine/transmission pod is really good 150-year-old quarter-inch plate from an old mica plant. It was used on the wood floors in the plant to roll heavy carts on.After I got the engine and transmission hooked together, I had to build the
primary.

“This was a bit of a brain teaser, but, I had the help of my good friend, and National Superbike Champ, Jamie James. He came up with welding a machined tube to the lightened flywheel, opening the primary sprocket, measuring all distances and welding in place. It worked beautifully.”

The frame is hand-built by Gundlach – his first – and it is surrounded by parts from another unexpected source.

“The wheels, brakes, front end, and swingarm are from a Honda CB350,” Gundlach says. “They’re light and available, and the chain is on the correct side. It simplified that part of the process. Building a swingarm is a big deal. If you have one that works, use it.”

Gundlach has a straightforward reason for the selection of bottom end: “Norton was the most obvious choice, because it has a pretty case. One important part of the design was to not do any cutting of parts. I want the parts to come off the shelf and bolt on.

“I took it to the track at an AHRMA event to test it, and I’m very pleased with the machine. It’s fast, handles great, and stops well. The bike revs quickly, as the 20-pound flywheel and clutch assembly is down to around three pounds now. I always wondered what a Guzzi engine would do without all the heavy stuff it takes to get to the wheel. The first lap was frightening-the third lap was a spiritual experience.”

Raven MotoCycles intends to make the Raven, Corvus Lanora 750 a “production” bike available to the public as a street-legal reconstructed bike.

“You have to know how to kick start a big motor,” Gundlach reminds us, “plus it’s a four-speed with a right side shift.”

Ah, simplicity.

Photos by Frank J. Bott