To most people who know a little bit about motorcycles, the name Laverda conjures up the fearsome 140-mph Jota, the bright orange, 1,000 cc triple that was the fastest production bike you could buy in the early 1980s.
If you look back to 1968, however, there was a 750 cc twin that was considerably more advanced and certainly less well-known. Most surprisingly, it owes a lot of its design to Honda’s CB77. It was one of the first times Japanese motorcycle design has directly influenced a European manufacturer.
Much like Lamborghini, Laverda began as a maker of farm equipment, and was based in a small Italian town called Breganze. The postwar demand for transportation in Italy led three brothers to build a small 75 cc motorcycle in 1948. They then raced it. Laverdas performed admirably in the Moto Giro d’Italia and the Milano-Tarente races, where they earned a reputation for reliability.
Laverda continued with smaller bikes under 200 cc until 1966, when Massimo Laverda returned from America and became convinced that Laverda needed to sell a larger motorcycle to the American market. This resulted in the 52 bhp 650 cc prototype of 1967, which grew to 750 cc in 1968.
The bike was quite similar to the Honda CB 77 that the Laverda brothers admired so much, and featured four main bearings, multiple chain drives for valve and primary gears, a horizontally split crankcase and sand cast finish to head and block for efficient cooling. The frame was a four-tube backbone with the engine utilized as a stressed member. Drum brakes were by Grimeca, output was 75 bhp and the bike weighed in at a total of 500 lbs.
The 750GT was followed in 1969 by the faster S, a bike that took victory in every endurance race it entered in 1970. The SF (Super Freni – super brakes) arrived in 1971 with Laverda’s own brakes, at the same time the limited production SFC (Super Freni Competizione) was introduced.
Only 549 half-faired SFCs would be built in three series between 1971 and 1976. In 1974, it was almost twice as expensive as the SF but significantly more sophisticated and very competitive, until the rise of the Japanese fours in the mid-1970s.
The considerable difference in value means a number of fakes exist, with SFC bodywork grafted on the basic SF frame. The SFC frame is different, however, as are most of the engine internals, carbs, wiring harness, wheels, tank and seat. Chances are a clone will be orange and wear a Laverda badge, but the similarities end there.
Among more available models, the earlier SF1 bikes with drum brakes are attractive roadsters with a cool single seat option and Veglia or Smiths gauges. The SF2 of 1974 gained single or twin discs upfront, better Japanese switchgear, Ceriani forks and Bosch electrics. The 1974 GTL is a soft tourer with pullback bars and the 1976 SF3 is the last model, with mag wheels and a clunky seat tail.
One interesting anomaly is the American Eagle, which was the name given to the first 750 bikes that came to the US in 1969. Laverda wished to compete for Harley-Davidson business and changed the tank, seat and bars to achieve a cruiser-like appearance. Two models were offered, the 60 bhp Road Sport and 68 bhp Super Sport. Evel Knievel actually used one for jumps. Unluckily, Honda’s 750 cc four arrived in the U.S. at the same time and American Eagle folded after two years with only 100 bikes sold.
Laverda 750s hold up well with just regular maintenance, and parts are reasonably available by Italian standards, as 19,000 750s were sold. They are therefore common enough to be livable, usable motorcycles, but are still rare enough that a sound example will stand out in a sea of Ducatis and MVs.
1971 Laverda SFC750 Racer Info
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