MOTO LAVERDA RESCUE
Following the doomed attempt to resurrect the Laverda name as a co-operative, rumours of another rescue attempt began to circulate in 1990. An investment company Gruppo Zanini had become the new owner of Moto Laverda and they started to make plans for the future. Zanini subsequently signed a deal with the Japanese Shinken corporation. Shinken’s plans were to not only market Laverdas in Japan, but also use the Laverda trademark on clothing and even sports cars.
First priority for Moto Laverda was to further develop the 8 valve twin motor which was the most modern engine that they had. Originating from the 500, Montjuic and Formula models, it had been developed in the 80s for the Atlas off road model. The capacity had been increased to 600cc and vibration reduced by a balancer shaft.
Engineer Angelo Ferrari took that engine a step further. Amongst other things, he increased bore and stroke to 668cc, re-designed the cylinder head and introduced Weber Marelli fuel injection. The new Laverda was named the ‘650 IE’, later to become the 650 Sport. The twin spar frame was designed by Dutch specialist Nico Bakker and other first class components were used such as WP suspension; Marchesini wheels; Brembo 4 pot brakes.
Laverda also had plans to build a small batch of replicas of the famous V6 1000, but the bike never materialised. Shortly after the factory delivered homologation 650s to various importers, the Zanini group itself went bankrupt and so once again uncertain times returned.
BREGANZE TO Zanè
In 1994 there was new hope when Francesco Tognon bought the company, rented a factory in Zanè and slowly started up production. The fuel injected 650 Sport was launched in mid 1994, followed by the 650 Formula in 1995 which came in black with fully floating brakes, radial master cylinder and some carbon fibre components. Even if the engine lacked grunt, it turned out to be a good competitor for Ducati’s 750 and 900 SS range and sales were promising.
For 1996 the 650 was restyled and named ‘668’. At the same time a naked streetfighter version – the Ghost – followed in an attempt to steal sales from Ducati’s Monster. This was unsuccessful and was replaced in 1997 by the Ghost Strike.
In 1997, a water cooled half-faired 750S model was introduced, followed by the fully faired 750 Formula and bikini faired Strike in 1998. These benefitted performance by not only increasing horsepower (up to 92bhp in the case of the Formula) but also torque, where the 650/668 engines had been found lacking in the lower half of their rev range. In many aspects, the 750 was redesigned in order to improve the machine and also reduce production costs. The aluminium tank of the 650/668 range was replaced by a plastic item, the dash board was made of plastic too.
Once again, financial developments came to bear down on the company. Tognon had to find more money and succeeded in doing so several times but in the end he sold out all but 10% of his shareholding and the Spezzapria family took control of the company.
Under the Spezzapria regime, the factory made big steps forward in quality, which particularly benefitted the very pretty final version of the Formula in Orange/Silver and Orange/Blue. But once again the business needed more capital to take the final step and become a serious contender in motorcycle production by launching a new 1000cc Super sports triple. They were very close to making a fantastic deal with George Soros’ Quantum Fund but one of Laverda’s bankers blocked it. This ended the Spezzapria family’s involvement with Moto Laverda and the company was sold to Aprilia, who attracted the world’s attention with another Bakker designed machine, the SFC 1000. This housed Aprilia’s own 60 degree V twin engine, but was no more than a prototype.