Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Classic: The 1970s Laverda 750SF


The 1970s Laverda 750SF. Looks remarkably cool even today...


Laverda have made some pretty remarkable bikes over the years, our favourites being the V6 Bol d'Or racer, the Jota 1000 and the rather more recent 750 Formula S. Another Laverda that we think is pretty cool is the 750SF, which the company made from 1970-1976.

In the mid-1960s, on the recommendation of his son, Francesco Laverda (the company’s founder) decided to build a bigger, more powerful motorcyclew, which would be capable of touring longer distances than was the norm in Europe. Yes, the new bike would be designed primarily for the American market…

By the end of 1966, Laverda were ready with a prototype machine that was fitted with a 650cc parallel-twin. However, the bike took two more years of development time before it could be put into production. And by the time it did go into production, the engine had been enlarged to 744cc (though a very few 650s were also built…), and thus the Laverda 750 was born.

Initially, the Laverda 750 was sold in the US under the ‘American Eagle’ brand, which was promoted by one Jack McCormack – the man responsible for the ‘You meet the nicest people on a Honda’ ad campaign of the early 1960s. However, American Eagle went bust by around 1970, and the 750 then went on sale in the US under Laverda’s own brand name.


Between 1970-76, around 16,000 units of the 750SF were built

In 1970, the 750 also became the Laverda 750SF (Super Freni, or ‘Super Brakes’), with bigger, better brakes, redesigned chassis and a five-speed gearbox. The 750SF weighed around 230 kilos, and with its 744cc, SOHC, air-cooled parallel-twin producing 60 horsepower at 6,600rpm, the bike was capable of hitting a top speed of 165km/h.

Over the next few years, the 750SF got improved instrumentation (with Nippon Denso bits replacing the earlier Smiths units), a redesigned exhaust system and disc brakes instead of the earlier drums. By the 1975, the big Laverda’s gear shift pedal had been moved to the left, and the rear brake pedal to the right, but only for the US models.

The bike’s final iteration – the SF3, which came out in 1976 – got a few styling tweaks, cast alloy wheels, disc brakes at the rear and a new seat with a fibreglass cowl. Although the bike was available brand new in 1977, actual production stopped in 1976, with Laverda having produced around 16,000 units of the bike from 1970-76.

According to some road tests of the 1970s, the Laverda 750SF was reliable and well built, but the suspension was excessively stiff, the clutch was weak, gears were hard to shift, and thanks to its exhaust system, the bike was a bit too loud. Hmmm… who cares, really? We think the 750SF was totally cool back in the 1970s, and it’s just as cool today…


A restored Laverda 750SF in action...!

Also see:
Ducati Berliner Apollo: The 1960s V-Max!
Memorable: The mid-1980s Honda VF1000R...
Gilera SP01 and SP02: Good things come in small packages...
Icy cool: The 1970s/80s Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans...
The late-1970s Peugeot-powered DJ 1200 Bol d’Or racer...
The amazing Münch Mammut TTS-E...
Memorable: The Bimota DB2...

Elsewhere today:
Memorable: The rotary-engined Hercules W2000...


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