In 1978 a Laverda Formula 500 racer was imported by the UK Laverda concessionaire, Roger Slater, the man largely responsible for the Jota, who believed that a ‘civilised’ café racer had greater sales potential than the rather lacklustre and expensive Alpino from which the Formula 500 had been derived. Slater retained the stock Alpino fuel tank but equipped his new baby with a bikini fairing and solo racing seat manufactured in the UK by Screen & Plastics. Finished in ‘Jota Orange’, the new model was named ‘Montjuic’ in honour of Laverda’s race victories at the eponymous Spanish circuit, while a loud, matt black, megaphone exhaust system further enhanced the racing connection. Focused on performance to the exclusion of almost everything else, the Montjuic was defiantly ‘hard core’ at a time when motorcycles were becoming ever more refined. No wonder it was so popular.
The Latin way of doing things has been a constant thorn in the side of the Japanese manufacturers for over 30 years, more recently with Ducati’s successes in Moto GP, but it was just as bad in the 70s, if a little more modest.
Based heavily upon the 500 Alpino, strangely the Monty is a touring bike, converted into a pure race machine to help sales, and then back again to create a sort of hybrid café racer. During this process it lost its entire road going civility on route to becoming an anti social “track only” machine. Possessing a reputation far in excess of its capabilities, the Montjuic stands out as one of those instantly recognisable motorcycles amongst a sea of also rans, and yet the performance is no better than any of the 500cc four strokes of the period and far worse than some. The humble CX500 can show the Monty a thing or two on a straight road, as indeed could most other middle weight machines, it is only once the road begins to turn and tighten that the Italian monster stamps its authority on the biking fraternity, burbling its way along nicely well ahead of very thing else. Remove the top speed out of the equation and the Monty returns to the top of the middleweight pile, out accelerating everything with room to spare even giving a Kawasaki triple a run for its money, and making any sharp, bendy road the natural hunting ground of the Montjuic.
This is a machine for the purist only; no one else would enjoy or even fully appreciate what was going off beneath them. The Montjuic is a unique machine in the modern world built solely for that “race track” like experience without concern for ergonomic concessions. From the unfiltered carburetion, to the single seat, with little in the way of creature comforts the bike is only a stones throw away from being completely unsuitable for day-to-day road use for all but the most dedicated café racer.
Every part on the Laverda is there either to make it stop or go, nothing is present without a purpose, even then things do not always work as one would imagine them to. The Brembo brakes, super powerful and sexy looking, do not provide much feel through the lever in fact you could get more feedback squeezing a lump of wood but they do work, hauling the Monty up as well as it accelerates. Give the Monty a fist full below six thousand and nothing but contempt in the form of spitting bell mouths and little in the way of forward motion is returned. Keep the engine up into its almost two-stroke like power and the rewards are far greater, not great for riding around town, but then again why would you want to with a Montjuic.
With both the inlet, and the outlets, of the engine fully open to the elements, the riding experience is as if you are actually part of the engine workings. Every beat of the power plant is felt, heard and indeed smelt by all in close proximity. In the open country side the beautiful sound that this machine creates just dissipates into the scenery, while in the villages, and built up areas, it reverberates off walls and windows to hit you full blast, while turning heads all around.
The chassis, even with its few foibles, is generally superb with some very trick bouncy bits hanging off either end making twisty B roads and S bends a pure addictive pleasure, although some muscle power is required to get the orange machine from full lean one way to full lean the other, the laid back headstock not helping out at all in those circumstance. The ride is a stiff one especially the rear end that isn’t too impressed with the condition of the queen’s roads, the front is compliant enough but the back end is pure race track in its contempt for any unevenness, pot holes and the like. The swept styling enables the short and punchy exhausts to remain tucked well away under the engine enabling enough ground clearance for you to completely run off the tyres edge should your bottle not run out before that point. These all black twin pipes really do put the mega into megaphone, delightful and totally anti social.
The stylish handlebar fairing is reckoned to promote a high speed weave but it is difficult to see how when the speeds aren’t that high to begin with, it may have a little too much say over the handlebars movement but the results are no worse than the impact that the rubber swing arm bushes have upon the straight line stability. Once these are stressed up and turning the handling is as good and sure-footed as a bike can be. A low seat height of only 30 inches, and rear set configuration, combine to get your knees up around your ears, well not exactly that bad but you do clash elbows and knees at times, making the riding position perfect for track and fast road use, distributing the riders weight to all the right places to maintain high speed control.
As bikes go, the Montjuic is an impractical and difficult machine to get the best out of, it isn’t as fast as the legend has it and the ride is not one for long journeys or even a lengthy commute. The controls are heavy and riding one for any duration will impact your forearms and every other muscle used for riding, however, like every one else that gets the all too frequent opportunity to ride one you will love it.
Laverda Montjuic Mk1 Model history
In September 1975, Laverda allowed the world to view their new prototype of a 500 twin, the reception was good and the eager motorcycle press dreamed of a baby Jota. They didn’t have to wait too long to discover if this was the case or not as, in 1977, the factory put this new motorcycle into production. Capturing a little of the glory days of the mystical 750 SFC, the new engine was a large step towards the modernity seen amongst the Japanese manufacturers with a sharply styled engine featuring 4 valves per cylinder, double over head cams, 180° timing, electronic ignition and a slick 6 speed gearbox, making this new machine look like viable proposition, on paper at least. The twin cylinder engine was a completely new design with a mix of roller and ball bearings helping the crank spin while eight valves allowed the pistons breathe more easily.
Named the Alpina the model, was not an instant hit with the journos of the period who, while praising the fine handling and road manners, criticised the performance and vibration characteristics, this prompted the redesign of the engine allowing a balance shaft to be fitted to dampen these out slightly.
In Italy the Laverda factory created a one make race series named the “Coppa Laverda” (The Laverda cup) based upon a stripped down and tuned version of the renamed, Alpino fitted with a more race like gearbox. 75 machines were created, each one having been fettled by hand in the race shop. The factory provided full support at each round and the series was deemed a great success running for two seasons and also catching on in other European countries.
Poor sales and a general lack of interest in the Alpino model led to the men responsible for the stunning Jota, the Slater brothers, having a rethink on exactly what the UK market wanted from a middleweight Laverda. They put their thoughts to the factory who combined some of the best elements from the Formula race machine with the road going ability of the Alpino and sent it over to the UK, unfortunately this didn’t include the full power engine or the close ratio gear box making the new machine a watered down version of the Formula 500. Once in England the Slater brothers fitted the UK made seat and fairing and the result was a stylish, hot cam café racer with little in the way of silencing, the Montjuic.
The EEC rule makers saw off the Montjuic within a couple of years, mainly thanks to its 105 decibel exhaust system, and the few remaining in the dealers showrooms where given a make over being repainted in more modern colours in an attempt to rid them. this created another new model the Montjuic Speciale, nothing more than a MK II with a lick of paint, applied directly over the orange.
Some twelve years after the death of the Monty the engine saw action again forming the basis of the phoenix like Laverda brands 650 Formula range, the bottom end of the engine being virtually identical to the original Alpino model from 1977.
Laverda Montjuic Mk1 Specifications
- Engine – air-cooled 4-stroke parallel-twin DOHC
- Capacity – 496.7cc
- Bore/stroke – 72 x 61mm
- Power – 50bhp @ 9000rpm
- Torque – 38ft-lb @ 5800rpm
- Carburetion – 2 x 32mm Dell’Orto
- Transmission – 6-speed wet clutch chain final drive
- Frame – Steel loop
- Suspension – 35mm Marzocchi telescopic forks. Twin Marzocchi shocks rear
- Brakes – 2 x 254mm discs 2-piston Brembo calipers. Single 254mm disc 2-piston Brembo caliper
- Wheels – 100/90 x 18, 110/90 x 18
- Weight – 179kgs
- Top speed – 114mph
- Wheelbase – 1422mm
- Fuel capacity – 14ltrs
Laverda Montjuic Timeline
the prototype 500 twin was revealed
The Alpina finally made it into production, it was generally well received but there were flaws. BMW add to the woes and take legal action as they have already registered the name.
The renamed Alpino model is joined by the Formula 500, a full blown race version. This year also sees the UK importers, the Slater brothers, import a Formula for assessment; they come up with the Montjuic concept.
The first Mk1 Montjuic made it into production and the cult was born.
The Mk2 Montjuic with its ¾ fairing appeared.
Ever tightening EEC noise regulations finally saw off the Montjuic
Laverda Montjuic Mk1 Gallery
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