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Bike Profile - Posted 30th September 2011

1971 Laverda 750 SFC
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The racing Laverda 750 twins of the 1970s may be the most sought-after machines of the marque. The first SFC to be imported into the UK is going under the hammer this autumn...

'It went like hell' recalls Roger Slater 'but it had some handling problems that we worked on for some time…' He's talking about the very first 750 SFC Laverda production racer to arrive in the UK in the early 1970s. Roger and his brother Richard were the UK's Laverda importer back then, and they soon took to the track on the 70bhp beast.

'It was the first SFC that we imported to UK. We proceeded to Snetterton to see how it went. We raced it for a while; Pete Davies, Peter Bates and myself had seat time on it. It was then tested by Ray Knight at Silverstone after we got the handling sorted. Pete Davies remembers the bike as a no messing, pure-bred racer with lights that needed a special approach to get the best out of it.'

Leaping Lena herself... 1971 Laverda 750 SFC

Indeed, this SFC earned itself the nickname 'Leaping Lena' for its entertaining attributes in the handling department. Once fettled, however, the 130mph 750 parallel twin was a winner.

The SFC stole the world endurance racing season in 1971, taking six prestigious wins and missing the top slot at Le Mans by a sniff, and dominated circuits on the Continent for the rest of the decade. Even when it didn't win races, the SFC proved itself to be durable and reliable at sustained high speeds - extremely impressive given that Laverda had only introduced their large capacity twin a few years before.

Laverda 750 SFC This 750SFC sold for £27,000 in April

During the mid-1960s, Massimo Laverda observed how popular big Brit parallel twins were, and how well Honda's CB77 was selling. So Laverda built a 654cc twin for the 1966 show season which in theory combined the best of the CB77, the Norton 650SS and BMW's R69S. A year later, the 650 became a 750, with the 'Super Freni' ('biggest brakes') model designation blowing Laverda's trumpet about their monster front stopper.

The 743.9cc Super Freni Competizione was introduced for 1971 with a half-fairing, orange bodywork and silver frame. It was a stunner, and proved to be highly competitive over longer distance races. Maximum power was produced at 7200rpm. Two Amal 36mm fed fuel to the engine running 7.7:1 pistons. It weighed less than 210kg. The famous front drum brake was replaced by triple discs for 1974, with the final models being kitted out with cast wheels as well.

Period advert and owners' club mag

Around 550 SFCs were built altogether until production stopped in 1976; the later 130 or so were equipped with electronic ignition. All of them were intended for racing rather than road use and shared very few components with the standard 750 SF. The roadgoing 750s were production bikes: the SFC's were hand-assembled with larger valves, polished inlet tracts, special crank bearings, forged three-ring pistons, heavy duty clutch and a close ratio, five-speed gearbox.

'Leaping Lena was an early model with the Bosch twin breaker points,' says Roger Slater. 'The headlamp rim protruded from the frame-mounted bikini fairing. The ignition was switched by plugging in a connector on the left side. The right-side gearbox cover had holes cut in it to be able to change a clutch cable or check the ignition timing within seconds -- as on the all-conquering, factory, long distance racers. The engine oil filler was not the usual screw-on cap, it had some arrangement of spring-loaded ball so that engine oil could be topped up from a hand pressure pump. The tank may have had a transparent strip down the side to check the fuel level at a glance.'

Leaping Lena in race trim...

Roger Slater also remembers trying to get the best out of 'Leaping Lena'. 'We were at Silverstone doing some testing on the GP course. Pete was on our first Egli Vincent, I was on the SFC. I simply could not master the ultra-fast and blind Woodcote corner. Pete had a go and shot through the corner flat kippered with his chin on the tank. He said it was simply a state of mind: you have to make up your mind that you're going through the corner flat out, and that you have control, not the bike. He reckoned I was easing off a touch and this indecision is picked up by the cycle which objects accordingly.

'On the third go round I built up enough confidence to do as I was told. I sailed through there 10mph faster with my chin on tank and throttle wire tight…'

According to author Ian Falloon, the SFC was 'built to the highest standards… it has all the attributes for classic status: limited production, high standard of manufacture, exceptional performance and outstanding looks.' L J K Setright also applauded the performance of Laverda's 750: 'Designed as a highway express, and proven in the most punishing of long-distance races, it was fast, tireless and very well behaved, a machine of connoisseur quality.'

Laverda 750 SFC... This 750SFC sold for £27,000 in 2010
Endurance stuff on Right Now......

Such is the nature of racing beasts that many SFCs which still survive have been crashed, bashed, modified and upgraded so that little of the original machine remains. Standard and undamaged examples go for big money as a result -- genuine 750 SFCs sell consistently for £27,000.

'When production ended' says Ian Falloon, 'so did one of the greatest motorcycles ever created. If any one model of Laverda typifies the marque it is the 750 SFC, a motorcycle built for a purpose and not to a price.'

'Leaping Lena' has been owned by one family since 1975 and is expected to sell for £35,000 or more at the Bonhams auction at the Stafford Classic Show in October 2011.

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Thanks to Roger Slater for wracking his brains to contribute to this article.

Further info about the Bonhams Auction on Sunday October 16th, 2011 is at: www.bonhams.com

Further info about the 2011 Stafford Classic Mechanics Show is at: www.classicbikeshows.com

Text: Rowena Hoseason
Illustrations: Bonhams / archive

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