Laverda entered the 1980s with an unfortunate legacy of financial problems created by a combination of high R&D costs and a disastrous attempt at diversification into the four wheel drive market. These problems were to prove terminal, but for the first few years of the 1980s the company continued to produce interesting and desirable motorcycles for discerning purchasers.
New lease of life
The most significant development was a 120 degree crankshaft configuration in a rubber mounted engine for the venerable triple. The quirky off beat 180 degree crank, beloved by Laverda enthusiasts the world over, had finally proved too noisy for the new noise and pollution legislation which was forcing the industry to move away from large capacity air cooled engines.
For the time being, the 120 configuration gave the triple a newly civilised lease of life and in 1982 formed the heart of an exciting new model, the RGS. This was a very cleverly designed motorcycle resulting in a bike which was definitely more than the sum of its parts. The model range emphasis had now shifted to sports tourer from uncompromising sports bike and the RGS excelled in this role.
The Jota, now long in the tooth, still formed part of the company’s model range, initially in 180 degree form and latterly in 120 degree configuration just prior to the introduction of the RGS. Phased out in 1982, the name reappeared as the RGA Jota in 1984/5. Although resplendent in evocative orange paintwork, this was no sports machine. Instead, the Jota’s flagship role as the ultimate performance Laverda was taken over by the RGS Corsa, a high performance version of the RGS featuring uprated brakes, black bodywork and a high compression blue-printed engine. This was superseded by the SFC 1000 in 1985 which was the final incarnation of the big triple.
Some other interesting models graced the Laverda sales catalogue in the mid to late 80s; the 600cc Atlas was perhaps a machine ahead of its time. Interestingly, Laverda had been heavily involved with early development of the BMW G/S range of big trail machines and the Atlas was a variation on this concept. Using a 600cc variant of the old Alpino 500cc unit, this rare model was an instant hit with those lucky enough to ride one. Launched in 1985 it came too late to reverse the fortunes of the beleaguered company and only 400 units were produced.
Alongside the middleweight and large capacity Laverdas of this period was a baffling array of water cooled 125cc two stroke machines aimed at the learner market. Most desirable of these was the 125cc sports variant called the Lesmo which had evolved from the LB uno. The uno had marked the factory’s departure from using a bought-in Zündapp powerplant for their range of learner machines in order to concentrate on producing their own two stroke single.
The rather confused model range perhaps reflected the increasing problems at the factory. Increasing pressure from creditors finally forced the cash strapped company into administration and despite a brave attempt by factory workers to form a co-operative the factory doors finally closed. The famous name made a short-lived comeback in the 1990s in a new factory located a short distance away in the town of