Few motorcycles exude the brutish rawness of Laverda’s Jota. In its day the loud and uncompromising Jota was amongst the fastest and most uncivilised motorcycles available. It vibrated excessively, was loud, large and physically demanding – it definitely wasn’t for whimps.
Laverda’s first foray into the big-bike market was the 650cc twin of 1966, followed two years later by the similar 750. As Laverda was convinced that the future lay in even larger-displacement machines it was no surprise when a one-litre prototype triple was announced at the end of 1969, although production didn’t start until 1973.
Dominated by the 981cc double-overhead-camshaft triple, in 1973 there were few motorcycles as large as Laverda’s 1000. Unfortunately for Laverda its release coincided with the Kawasaki Z1 that offered similar performance, albeit with slightly less solid handling, for much less money. But all this changed in 1976 when the British Laverda importers Slaters decided to market a high performance triple. It was titled the Jota, after a Spanish dance in three-four time, and through a few performance modifications it became the finest large-displacement sporting motorcycle available in 1976.
The power was up to 66.2kW (90hp) at 7600rpm, providing a top speed of 227km/h. Quality Ceriani suspension and Brembo brakes helped tame a 250kg (wet) motorcycle. The Laverda also offered quality ancillary equipment such as Nippon Denso instruments and switches.
By 1981 the Jota was becoming out-dated. The vibration from the 180-degree engine was unacceptable and Laverda offered the Jota with a smoother 120-degree crankshaft for 1982. Unfortunately it was too little, too late. The triples lasted a few more years but apart from the SFC 1000 they did little to uphold the Jota’s reputation.
Now the Jota is considered one of the seminal superbikes of the 1970s, a reminder of the days when motorcycles were visceral machines.
Pietro Laverda founded the company in 1873 in the northern Italian town of Breganze to manufacture agricultural machinery such as wine and olive presses.
By the 1970s Laverda was Italy’s leading manufacturer of agricultural machinery, specialising in combine harvesters and employing 1500 workers.
It was one of Pietro’s grandsons, Francesco, who decided to experiment with motorcycles. In 1948 he built a 74cc four-stroke engine and assembled a complete motorcycle at home in his spare time.
During the early 1950s the 75cc and 100cc Laverda singles dominated their classes in the Milano-Taranto and Moto Giro road races.
Laverda still exists as an agricultural company but is now owned by AGCO Harvesting systems. Massimo’s brother Piero continues to promote Laverda’s racing heritage, demonstrating the V6 racer and racing a spaceframe endurance triple in European classic race events.