Laverda Montjuic

The Laverda Montjuic was a street legal Formula 500.
By Robert Smith
March/April 2014
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The 1979-1981 Mk1 Montjuic was a raw-edged, minimalist, barely street-legal machine.
Photo by Gary Phelps

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In 1979, Laverda’s U.K. importers, the ever-enterprising Slater Bros., decided to create a road-going version of the Formula 500. Named Montjuic to invoke Laverda’s win aboard a Formula 500 at the famed Spanish circuit, the first Montjuics were essentially Alpino/Zetas tuned to around 50 horsepower with the S1 cams, high-compression pistons, Sito sports exhaust, Jota adjustable handlebars and cast aluminum rearsets. They were shipped to the U.K. naked, where Slater Bros. fitted bodywork and a handlebar fairing from Screen and Plastics.

As a street legal production racer, the Montjuic was both a bear to ride slowly and a raging bull when given its head. Charles Deane tested one for the U.K.’s Road and Track magazine, noting that the idle was unpredictable, the suspension brutally firm, the riding position uncompromising and riding in traffic miserable as, below 3,000rpm, the “Monty” was “hunting and struggling for breath.” The engine was harsh, mechanically noisy and vibrated badly enough to destroy its headlight bulb.

But on the open road and on the track, the Montjuic’s performance was, according to Deane, “electrifying.” Power came in with a rush above 6,000rpm, running all the way to 9,000rpm and beyond (peak power came at 8,500rpm). Handling was “very well balanced and is extremely responsive to steering … changes in line are instantaneous and very positive.” The brakes required a lot of lever pressure but showed no sign of fade. Deane, as had other riders, noted some weaving in long, fast bends. This was blamed on the handlebar fairing, though the evidence is inconclusive.

A second version of the Montjuic appeared about 1982, with new bodywork and a larger, now frame-mounted fairing. Most Mk2s were also fitted with strengthened camshaft bearing caps, as were the big triples. The Mk2 was offered until about 1984.

Perhaps the rawest “street” Laverda ever built, the Montjuic was never offered in the U.S., at least not officially. A few found their way Stateside thanks to enthusiastic owners bringing them with them from England and Europe, but even so their numbers here are very small, likely fewer than 10 or so out of total production of roughly 250.

Bob Andren found his Montjuic Mk1 (they weren’t called Mk1s until after the introduction of the Mk2) in, of all places, Waveland, Miss., in 2002. Since then it’s been stripped to the frame and fully restored by Eric Reeves at Moto Rivato in Simi Valley, Calif., with parts sourced from Canadian Laverda parts guru Wolfgang Haerter. “It now runs wonderfully and it’s terrifically noisy,” Andren says enthusiastically.

As well as his Formula 500, John England owns a Laverda Montjuic Mk2, also sourced from the U.K. “These are a handful. They sound good, but you really have to rev them. Montjuics are really just detuned race bikes. But when they’re going fast…” MC

To see more from Robert Smith read Small Package Big Punch: Laverda Formula 500.

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