MARCO ‘LUCKY’ LUCCHINELLI (AKA CRAZY HORSE) WAS 1981 WORLD 500CC CHAMPION. SERGIO GIORDANA WAS A KID THEN, BUT HIS ADMIRATION FOR THE CHAMP HAS JUST GROWN AND GROWN
Mention old Crazy Horse to Italian bike fans of a certain vintage and their eyes will light up with a sort of awe tinged with mild unease. Marco Lucchinelli, let’s not forget, was World 500cc Champion 1981.
He was one of the Italian Barry Sheenes of the day, the others being Ago and Franco Uncini. He was huge. He kept riding after his title success too, winning the Daytona Battle Of The Twins race in 1987 on one of the first Ducati 851s. He went on to manage the Ducati Superbike team. Then he was busted, convicted and did time for cocaine in 1991. He emerged from gaol free of his addiction, released a few pop singles and became a brand ambassador for Dainese. He is, by any measure, an Italian folk hero: small wonder there is still a groundswell of affection for Lucky.
Certainly a road-going RG500 would make an obvious choice as a tribute bike. Lucky rode the XR42H version of the race bike in 1980 and a MK6 RG in his title year. But RG prices are as mental in Italy as they are here, and it simply was not an option. “We abandoned the idea of a two-stroke – too obvious and not very useable,” says Lucky Legend builder Sergio Giordano. “The Bandit 12 is perfect. It’s so often snubbed as a motorcycle, but it’s a piece of Suzuki history and deserves recognition. And I wanted to make a bike that would look at home in any collection, but could also be used every day.”
This isn’t the first bike Sergio has put together. He runs Italian Dream Motorcycle, a high quality, low output shop that plans to make one tribute bike a year for every Italian premier class World Champion (six of them). The Lucky bike is the first of these. “We wanted to start with one that represents our idea of a dream motorcycle,” says Sergio. “And Lucchinelli as well as being a dreamer is certainly a free man.” Well, he is now.
So, the respect for good old Lucky is a given. What about the hardware? The Bandit 1200 engine went to one of Lucky’s ex-mechanics for an overhaul. Yes, you can tune the nuts off Suzuki’s big 1200, it’s got all the requirements for serious horsepower hikes, like straight-cut primaries, plenty of meat for big-bores and an extra gearbox bearing that the 1100 doesn’t have. Sensibly, and much more cheaply however, it went back together refreshed but stock – how much more go do you need over and above a Bandit 12’s 100bhp and 70lb.ft?
“When I started to throw down some rough designs from all the stuff I’d collected I became more obsessed with it being about the chassis and the mechanics. How many great-looking specials are there that really work? I mean can really reach their maximum potential? My background is in racing and I try to use the skills of people who’ve worked on the MotoGP or WSB circuit.”
Check out the machining on the yokes, the rearsets, in fact anywhere a one-off part is required, and the level of finish and detail is peerless. “Most of the numerous special parts are from solid,” says Sergio. “It takes precision, attention, and most of all time, but it’s not complicated. The most difficult bits were the bodywork, pipes and handguards in riveted ally – they were the most demanding.”
Look at Lucky’s 1980 RG and you can see just how faithful this Legend bike is. Yes, it’s plainly a Bandit, but of all the transmogrifications of that bike, this is the one least redolent of big-inch naked. The body parts mimic an RG so spookily because they’re from actual RG moulds.
“We found a Scandinavian collector who had the original Team Gallina moulds,” says Sergio. “So we used them to make our own in direct proportion to the originals.” You’ll also notice subtle touches like red pod filters to maintain the red line of the lower stripe. It’s execution like this that elevates any special, especially one so unselfconsciously trying to ape another bike, to the higher echelons of the bike builder’s art.
The pop-riveted cutaways and guards are what makes this bike what it is. The pip too, in that rough-finished, but super-tough and accurate racebike fashion – not high-end, but high quality. Sergio’s kept as much of the good bits of Bandit in it as he can too. The swingarm, always a muscular no-nonsense affair looks almost a genuine period race item flatted back to a matt finish. The nitrided stanchions instantly give the stock forks a new lease of life. The whole piece has such an authentic early-’80s vibe and much of that must be down to the exquisite paint job.
“We made a video with Dainese and Marco and he immediately noticed the paint,” says Sergio. “Those historic colours work so well and they’re helped to work by all the details and advanced technology where it counts; like the five-spoke Marvic Penta rims. I didn’t use the Nava logos, only the Suzuki ones. But after meeting Marco he dug through all the old stuff in his huge garage and what should he find but all the old stickers for the fairings of the original bike. If we did another one we could make it totally authentic down to the last sticker.”
1. Switchgear and clocks all from the Motogadget catalogue and none the worse for that. Never the cheapest, but among the very best
2. Standard engine breathes through K&Ns. 100bhp is more than enough for most people’s needs
3.Carbon fibre kickplate sets off extravagantly drilled and sculpted rearsets. Sergio describes machining work as “not complicated”
4. Pop-riveted reliefs for exhaust pipes were a time-consuming job. A task Sergio would describe as “the most demanding”
SPECIFICATION LUCKY LEGEND GSF1200
ENGINE: 1999 SUZUKI BANDIT GSF1200, 1157CC, DOHC, 16V, INLINE-FOUR, K&N POD FILTERS, IDM-FABRICATED FOUR-INTO-FOUR EXHAUST
CHASSIS: 1999 SUZUKI BANDIT GSF1200 FRAME AND SWINGARM, WP REAR SHOCK, NITRIDED BANDIT FORK STANCHIONS WITH WP CARTRIDGES, LASER-CUT FRONT DISCS, FRONT MUDGUARD FABRICATED FROM PERALUMIN, MARVIC PENTA MAGNESIUM WHEELS, CLIP-ONS FROM 6082 ALUMINIUM ALLOY, HANDMADE BODYWORK IN GLASS FIBRE AND ALUMINIUM, 100MM HEADLIGHT UNIT WITH E7 BULB
In many ways though, it works better in this guise because it employs the strongest elements of the original design and doesn’t fall into the trap of trying – and not quite making it – as a replica. It’s a legend bike, and legends are always allowed to veer quite widely from the actual truth.
This build shows up two things. One; a Bandit 12 is still a great start point for anything you care to imagine. Cheap, robust, and with a steel frame that doesn’t get in the way too much of whatever it is you want to achieve. Two; with the right bodywork and paint, almost any deception can be made to work. Think of Bandits converted to GS1200SS silhouette-spec.
So after a year and a half creating the Lucky bike Sergio’s now working on an Angel Nieto tribute Ducati, and the efforts put in on the Lucky bike had the not entirely unexpected result of him spending more time with the affable Lucchinelli than he could ever have imagined. “I knew in some way or another I’d end up showing the Champion the bike and maybe getting to talk to him a bit. But it all went better than I could ever imagined.
“I was doing some work with Lucio Pedercini (of WSB fame) who put me in touch with Marco. We were at the Motorcycle Expo in Verona doing a photo shoot and Marco was sitting on the bike for the first time. He said, ‘It’s a nice bike. You know what? You can feel the passion in it, you can feel it was made with love.’” It doesn’t get much better than that.