“I really liked the look of the engine,” Edi Buffon of Machine 1867 explains, “and I thought I’d make something really interesting from it.”
The motor in question is from a 1957 Gilera Extra Rossa 175—a sporty Italian number of its time. This particular example uses the best parts of two engines combined into one functional powerplant by Buffon. The only other original Gilera part retained in this build is a set of wheels that came with the motors.
Buffon’s relationship with Italian motorcycles started early; he had a Matchbox Benelli when he was about four years old. It took until he was 16 to ride a motorcycle, when a spin on a friend’s Suzuki TS185 dual-sport bike confirmed his status as a motorcyclist. “I’ve been hooked ever since,” Buffon says.
Eventually, Buffon moved into customizing motorcycles. “The freedom to create and design what I imagine; the challenge of fabricating parts with limited equipment,” is how he describes the appeal of building custom motorcycles.
With builders Shinya Kimura of Chabott Engineering in California and Argentina’s Patricio Castelli listed as his favorites among the custom motorcycle elite, Buffon favors Art Deco and the 1950s Rocket Age. His preference for motorcycles is “anything that looks vintage—simple design and function.”
Machine 1867, the company he started in 2017, is named after the year Paris-based inventor Ernest Michaux added a steam engine to a vélocipède. A solo enterprise, Buffon works in a shop measuring less than 400 square feet in Sydney. There, he builds almost everything by hand.
His Gilera is both minimalist and intricate. Typical functions are accomplished through unorthodox means that would have beguiled the designers of the Extra Rossa 175.
Let’s start with the braking. Although the wheels are Gilera’s, the hubs are free of brake shoes. Instead, Buffon guides the drive chain onto two sprockets between the drive sprockets. One of those auxiliary sprockets has a disc that is slowed by a cable-actuated caliper. “I prefer to build as much as possible,” he explains. “A different brake setup allows for more design and fabrication.”
The Gilera originally had a traditional foot shifter and hand clutch. Buffon operates outside of that convention, going farther back in time. He employs a foot clutch and a left-hand shifter with hand-bent linkage.
Buffon designed the springer from scratch. “I like to use a mix of brass, so all the wheel spacers are brass,” Buffon says. “The hardest part of the front end was dialing in the rate. Once I got that right, it was obvious that a damper was needed. I made a vintage friction type from some stainless, and it works a treat. Getting the front suspension to function took some trial and error, but it worked out in the end.”
With a hardtail frame, the thin seat needed some assistance to be comfortable. Buffon appropriated a spring from a mountain bike shock and built a damping unit that links via a pivot to the seat base.
The frame has a generous 28 degrees of rake and sits low to the ground, and it is an integral part of the build. Ask Buffon what his favorite aspect of the Gilera is, and he’ll tell you, “I like how the chassis frames the engine.”
“When I first started bending up the tube for the frame, the geometry reminded me of a vintage hillclimb bike, so I fitted the trials tires to add to that look.” Mitas ET-05 rubber got the nod, an unlikely choice for the Gilera wheels.
Buffon fabricated the tank from sheet metal. He wanted “something simple to complement the lines and not take center stage.” To further that goal, he had the powdercoated black with a textured finish. However, Buffon says that if he had it to do again, “I think I would make an aluminum tank.”
Inspired by vintage racecars, many brackets, levers, and brace are drilled. Buffon didn’t do it with the goal of weight loss, however. “It’s just a design feature on this build,” he says.
The motor is operational, as previously noted, and the straight pipe is loud, Buffon allows. The Gilera is neither a pure a showpiece nor a daily rider. “[It’s] not really build to ride. It’s okay up and down a lane, but it’s part of a five-bike build project o showcase my ability and grow the business.”
With builds such as the 1957 Gilera Extra Rossa 175 by Machine 1867, one expects Buffon to have the phone ringing and his email box reaching maximum capacity.
Photography by Ana-Maria Dumitrescu/Ana Martini Photography
1957 Gilera Extra Rossa 175 by Machine 1867 Photo Gallery