2005 Laverda Owners’ Club Rally

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Everyone wanted to take home Bob Andren’s 1963 60cc Laverda scooter.
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Laverdas line up at the inaugural Laverda Owners' Club meet
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Steve Gurry checks tire pressures before heading out on the track on his 1981 Jota at Willow Springs.
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Laverdisti gather in Alan Chalk’s garage.
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Peter Davis (above center) makes a point to Richard (left) and Roger Slater. The trio — with the Slaters tending to tuning and Davis to racing — directly influenced Laverda’s introduction of the Jota in 1976.
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Ed Lutz’s Lance Weill-built Spondon-framed Laverda special, perhaps the only 120-degree 1200.
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Chris Brown and his 1974 Laverda 3C.
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Laverda parts-meister Wolfgang Haerter shows off his recently restored 750SF.

My wife has a jaundiced view of old bike rallies. She says they’re just a bunch of guys standing around saying “nice bike” to each other. And I?guess much of the time she’s right.

But the inaugural North American Laverda Owners’ Club meet in April at Ojai, Calif., was different. Sure, there was the “nice bike” stuff, but the four-day 2005 Laverda Rally encompassed visits to four world-class motorcycle collections, two days at Willow Springs Raceway (including participatory “parade laps”) and attendance by leading luminaries from the Laverda story — such as Dr. Ing. Piero Antonio Laverda, great-grandson of the company’s founder, Pietro Laverda.

The Laverda story

Pietro Laverda founded the Breganze, Italy, company in 1873 to manufacture farm machinery. But it was his grandson Francesco who built a 75cc four-stroke motorcycle for his own use in 1948. Devastated by war but fired with renewed vitality, Italy was undergoing its recostruzione, and demanded cheap, economical transportation. Soon, Francesco’s neighbors wanted one of his sturdy little bikes. Including motorcycles into the company’s output wasn’t a great stretch, and an initial batch of 500 bikes was produced in 1951.

With a commitment to motorcycles Laverda needed sales, and selling motorcycles in Italy means going racing. So Laverda entered a 75 in the 1951 Milano-Taranto race, and although carburetion problems forced early retirement, the bike proved competitive. In the same race in 1953, Laverdas filled the first 14 places in their class! Success followed in the 100cc class until 1956, from which time OHC Ceccatos and Ducati Mariannas (both designed by Fabio Taglioni) dominated the class.

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