This Moto Guzzi May Be The Most Tasteful Truck
The slow thump-thump and the high level of decibels from the Moto Guzzi Ercole has been a “morning rooster” for all of my life.
Workers from all across the province used to stop at the “Officina Bianchi Guzzi,” located at the end of my street. A huge crowd of hefty and labor-worn Ercoles has always been part of the “folklore” of my town for years, and luckily, they still do. In fact, they have since turned into a rare collector’s gem and one of the most entertaining vehicles in the world.
The Ercole has been popular commercial vehicle for many years in Italy, and the capable three-wheeler has been a common sight for many years on roads all across Italy, often driven by tanned construction workers, craftsmen, and any sort of person with regular loads to carry from town to town.
It was the commercial vehicle for those who couldn’t afford a truck: it could easily considered a piece of true Italian culture.
The Ercole was a sturdy, reliable, capable delivery vehicle, and without a doubt one of the most important means of transportation to help Italy recover from the Second World War. Everyone knew it as the Motocarro, or “motor-truck”.
It can transport up to a 1 ton of anything, from logs to fuel to milk, to supplies and people. All thanks to Moto Guzzi’s 500-cc horizontal single cylinder engine, a trademark of Moto Guzzi before the legendary V7 transverse Twin of Eng. Carcano came to be.
It was fitted to a 5 speed transmission with an open gate selector nice enough to make any Ferrari green with envy. The best part of this vehicle? The steel passenger seat, which is bolted to the bed…with no foot rests.
Not all Ercoles were created equally, and the one we drove here day didn’t have one: this is a luxury feature better left for those not strong enough to lift things alone. Customers also could have it with a detachable cabin—which still didn’t provide a floor.
The effectiveness of the Ercole inspired Guzzi to propose a three-wheel-drive variant intended to replace the flesh-and-bones mules of the Alpini, the Italian Army’s Mountain Corps. This vehicle was a 3WD monster able to narrow or widen the width of the rear tires. This made the 3×3 able to climb steep and narrow mountain roads while carrying men, ammo or supplies. Its drive system had more than 30 bevels and two drive shafts: it was a complex and fascinating vehicle for the time.
It failed to become a standard vehicle for the army because it’d flip frequently over rough terrain…
The 3×3 was developed by Guzzi with a completely new, all alloy pushrod, 36 hp 754cc V-Twin engine. It may come as a surprise that this engine was also built to be tested by Fiat to be the engine of the 500 minicar. Although the Guzzi V-Twin proved superior performance over to Fiat L-2, it was discarded due to its high noise levels, and was then re-engineered to become the famous Guzzi transverse-mounted V-Twin we all know and love.
So, what is like to drive…er…ride a Guzzi Ercole?
Imagine never being happier to go to work. From the passenger seat, it feels like a carousel ride: your feet hang a few inches from the ground, a feeling almost like floating in the air. What’s strange is that there is no windscreen or dash: everything comes at you!
The noise level is quite high (and it’s worse with a cabin), and the damping is stiff to keep the load-carrying capacity high. There is no throttle handle: if you want to accelerate the Ercole, you need to operate the levers on the right hand side of the handlebars. They stay in place—and they can be used as a primitive cruise control.
Nothing would stop you from owning and operating an Ercole daily: give it clean oil and gasoline, and even the rustiest and most worn-out ones will fire up right away and ready for work.
Dress the part, and it’s the most tasteful substitute to a van you can imagine.