The first California was designed in consulation with the Los Angeles Police Department Traffic Division to be the department's new V7 of choice. Original features included a left-foot gearshift, a bulletproof Lexan windshield and a sprung sidestand, along with the requisite siren, radio, extra police lights, and ability to complete a standing quarter mile in 16 seconds or less. The success of the model led to other police departments ordering their own, including the California Highway Patrol.
Moto Guzzi have produced a version of the California almost continuously from 1971 to the present day, and the current iteration is a 1400 cc model. In 2002, Moto Guzzi celebrated its 80th anniversary with a special edition California model designed by Italian furniture-make Poltrona Frau, featuring blood red leather saddle and panniers.