The Norton Ala'Verda: Norton and Laverda Hybrid
Daniel Delfour's Anglo-Italian custom motorcycle
Daniel Delfour's Norton Ala'Verda - a Norton Commando 850 engine in a Laverda 650 frame.
Photo by Pierre Leguevaques
“I built this for myself. I've been a Norton enthusiast for years, and I discovered track racing about 10 years ago. So I started racing with my road-going Commando, and every quickly I found faults: With its limited suspension and brakes, it's dangerous. So I thought, “well, I must build my own.”
Frenchman Daniel Delfour is hardly the first person to have had these sorts of thoughts: I’d wager many of us daydream about building a special custom motorcycle of some kind, combining bits and pieces of favorite bikes into something uniquely our own. Something like Delfour’s combination of a Norton and a Laverda that he calls a "Norton Ala’Verda."
But instead of daydreaming, Delfour committed his ideas to reality, creating a machine that came perilously close to stealing the thunder of some 30-odd vintage Norton Manx and Commando racers at this year’s Legend of the Motorcycle in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where Norton shared featured marque honors with MV Agusta. Talk about a tough crowd. Yet there were moments when the preserved and restored racers seemed almost painfully ignored, as attendees literally turned their backs on them to pore over Delfour’s unique Anglo/Italian hybrid. Delfour looked almost confused by the attention as he tried to answer questions as best he could, his halting English layered with a thick French accent. To hear Delfour tell the story, he didn’t really do anything special, he simply built the bike he wanted.
A violin maker for 35 years, Delfour has been a lover of motorcycles since childhood. “The two topics I was interested in when I was a kid were violins and motorcycles. So it seems that nothing has changed for me,” Delfour says of his dual interests. Over the years, he’s restored a few Nortons and Triumphs, and then there’s his attraction to the track, which goes a long way toward explaining this build. Displaying a modesty that betrays the stereotype of Frenchmen as extravagant and boisterous, it takes some prodding to discover that Delfour is at the core of a loose-knit group of racers called Coyote Racing, and that for 11 years now he and his posse have organized a classic racing festival at Circuit Paul Armagnac near Nogaro in the south of France. Motorcycles, it becomes clear, run deep in his blood.
With a preference for British twins, his motorcycles of choice are Nortons, more specifically Commando twins from the 1970s. Thanks to previous build experience, Delfour knows how to make the Commando engine stronger and more powerful, so it was a forgone conclusion the classic Norton Commando twin would power any special he built. He started thinking about the idea seriously three years ago, but couldn’t decide on a direction. “I thought, well, I could build a Seeley, a Rickman, but there are so many,” Delfour recalls. But then, as often seems the case in such matters, the unexpected occurred. “One day I visited a friend, and I saw this Laverda 650 frame,” he says. “It was one of the very early ones [following the relaunch of Laverda in Zane, Italy, in 1993], the first issue of the 650, and only a few were made with this frame.”