Custom Moto Guzzi Airtail Was Previously a Stock Le Mans II, Keeps Things Looking Classy

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka Airtail 8 photos
Photo: Death Machines of London
Custom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka AirtailCustom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka Airtail
We love to see builders experimenting with unconventional approaches and wild ideas, so this restyled Le Mans was a genuine treat for our souls.
At the tender age of twelve, James Hilton rode pillion on a motorcycle for the very first time with his uncle, who’d advised him against mentioning it to his father. Curious as to what Hilton Senior’s reaction might be, young James decided not to heed this advice and broke the news without hesitation. To his dismay, things went south pretty quickly.

Motorcycles are death machines, son.” Those were the words that ominously concluded what his dad had to say about the whole ordeal, but they didn’t deter James from embracing the rider life later on – quite the opposite! Although the Brit does a great job at showing the concept of reverse psychology in action, this isn’t the only thing he’d gotten down to an art.

Around three decades after his father’s warnings had been thrown to the wind, James Hilton teamed up with Max Vanoni and Ray Petty to establish Death Machines of London (DMOL). The English bike-modding outfit is best known for Kenzo, a startling Honda GL1000 Gold Wing with design influences coming from the armors once worn by samurais.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka Airtail
Photo: Death Machines of London
This beauty definitely takes the cake for being DMOL’s raddest build, but the project with which they appeared on the scene is also rather astounding in its own right. Nicknamed Airtail for obvious reasons, the said entity traces its roots back to a 1981 Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II that was completely stock upon arrival at their workshop.

To kick things off, the lads took the Guzzi apart for a closer inspection, ditching every last piece of OEM bodywork in the process. The following step involved a revitalizing session of vapor blasting for the frame and powertrain components, though you’d be wrong to assume that Death Machine’s experts were going to leave the donor’s longitudinal V-twin as it came from the factory.

Not only did the squad rebuild the motor using fresh valves, a lightened crank, and 40 mm (1.6-inch) Dell’Orto carbs with accelerator pumps, but they also increased its displacement to 950cc. In addition, one may find a lightweight flywheel and an aftermarket clutch mechanism from RAM, as well as a custom-made exhaust system terminating in reverse megaphone mufflers.

We’re not sure whether DMOL left those worn-out brake rotors in place for cosmetic effect or due to budget constraints, but they certainly spared no expense when it came to the suspension. The bike’s telescopic forks were upgraded with high-grade air cartridges and modern internals, while its standard shocks have been deleted in favor of progressive substitutes from Hagon’s catalog.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans II aka Airtail
Photo: Death Machines of London
Deciding to retain and overhaul the original wheels, the guys had their rims enveloped in a grippy pair of Pirelli Sport Demon tires. Then, it was time for them to get started on fabricating a new outfit, with the chosen material for the front fairing and fender being fiberglass. On the other hand, the fuel tank got fashioned out of aluminum and shaped to fit over the framework like a glove.

Behind it sits a tailor-made solo saddle, yet none of the goodies mentioned thus far are as outlandishly impressive as that skeletal tail unit. The tubular structure was seamlessly welded to the motorcycle’s revised subframe, and it features a bespoke LED taillight at the rearmost tip. Underneath the seat, we see a handmade box hosting most of the relocated electrics.

Front-end lighting comes from a dual-headlamp arrangement, and the cockpit area flaunts Tommaselli clip-ons clad with Domino grips. There’s also a unique dash surrounding the reconditioned Veglia Borletti instrumentation, while the snazzy ignition switch and warning lights hail from a Supermarine Spitfire aircraft, of all things. Lastly, the Airtail received a mixture of red and white paint, complemented by a brushed metal finish on the tank.
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About the author: Silvian Secara
Silvian Secara profile photo

A bit of an artist himself, Silvian sees two- and four-wheeled machines as a form of art, especially restomods and custom rides. Oh, and if you come across a cafe racer article on our website, it’s most likely his doing.
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