Feature written by Steve Morgan
Some of the Life and Times of my Laverda Motodd by Steve Morgan
(Article derived from one written for the International Laverda Owners’ Club magazine in summer 2006)
I bought my Motodd in 1986 from Phil Todd at his Croydon premises. I had originally taken my Mirage to be set up on his dyno but the alternator bearing started making a nasty noise on the way there and Phil rightly wouldn’t test it in that condition. I’d seen the Motodd lurking in his “showroom” and it was the first bike I’d seen for a long time that made me think “I could change the Mirage for that….”. On the way back round the M25 the noise became worse and since I didn’t have garage facilities I determined to sell the Mirage “as was” and see about the Motodd.
Anyway, money changed hands and I was the proud owner of an unusual motorcycle. My Motodd is based on a 1981 Mirage and has a 180 engine fitted with (as far as I can remember) 10.5:1 pistons, Jota cams and a close-ration gearbox. It had a 1980 Jota ½ fairing, Motodd Mk3 frame (with vertical shock), Jota rearsets, Tommaselli q/a throttle, and Dream Machine special Motodd orange paintwork. Regarding gearbox ratios, as most of you will know, town work is not for the weak of wrist even on a standard 3 but with a tall first gear it gets worse - I spent most of the time in 3rd and 4th in 30 and 40 limits.
I took it to the Isle of Man in 1987 (Boy that was a rough crossing back) and also to the Bol d’Or at Paul Ricard the same year. Only “breakdown” was the earth lead to the starter relay failing so no electric start but as the same thing had happened on the Mirage there was no problem diagnosing the fault and devising the solution.
A few weeks before the 1988 Isle of Man trip I was forced to share the same piece of road with a girl in a VW Polo, apparently Give Way lines and signs don’t mean much at 11:15 on a Sunday night to some people, and, as they say in a Monty Python sketch, “never a chance to move, no chance to protect myself”. So it’s off the Ashford Hospital in the big white van, nice rest for a few weeks. Unfortunately, I was left with a damaged right hip and right knee. The bike had a damaged fairing, bent rear foot rest hanger and, disaster, smashed crankcases and much reduced capacity funny shaped fuel tank.
I had an interim payment in 1990 so I bought an FJ1200 and a bit later (91/92) managed to get all the replacement bits, including replacement second hand crankcases, mostly from Malcolm Cox.
I also got the tank repaired (or so I thought) by the two antipodean guys who were running or had taken over at Motodd in Croydon. Turns out this tank was actually a brand new one, which I didn’t discover until I tried to screw the petrol taps in – I had to drill out the boss to accept the integral filter on the taps. (I had noticed that the fuel filler cap mountings needed re-drilling but assumed they’d been filled in for repair and painting purposes.)
I’d already straightened footrest hanger by applying a bit of heat and an above average sized hammer – you can hit more carefully with a bigger hammer!
I then dismantled the old engine and rebuilt it into the replacement crankcases – aargh all the threads were full of grit blasting particle – idiot who had them blasted hadn’t masked threads!!!! As this stuff tore the threads off any bolts/studs inserted that was not good enough and the project came to a stuttering h-h-h-alt.
I started my own business in 1992 (Snap-On Tools franchise) so ran out of time and money. In 1994 I gave that business up and after a bit of phoning around, wow – what a result! I got hold of a brand new pair cases from Steve Winterton at Calere Laverda, located just past the back of beyond in middle of nowhere in Oxfordshire/Worcs area.
Several years pass, and forays into the classic lorry and bike worlds with a 1943 Scammell Pioneer, a 1973 T150 and a 1957 Scammell Highwayman made further inroads on my time (My journey to work takes about 3 hours daily so not much evening time is available for fiddling with bikes)
Not much progress until about 1999/2000 when I got the engine rebuilt into the new cases (I had some money but still no time!).
A couple of years later, I finally got round to paying someone to replace the engine in the frame and put all the bits back together except I had to solve all the little issues, like new hoses for the oil cooler and new brake hoses – I did begin to wonder what I was paying the rebuilder for!
Final finishing off done by the lads at MPH in Shoreham who are old enough to remember Laverdas but young enough to be running an independent business fixing and tuning modern machines. They were able to sort out some pipe work for the exhaust system as the original collector box for the Motodd 3-1 was badly rusted and the system was toooo loud for the heavily policed part of west London I live in. They have a dyno so initial “shakedown” runs could be off the road, they also sorted out the MOT so my first ride could be a bit less stressful. The privilege of the first start in about 18 years was mine and that did make it all seem worthwhile – a touch of the “Dunkirk/nil illegitemi carborundum” spirit! (Roughly translated “Do not let the bast**ds grind you down”.)
I have to share my riding time with my other bike, a Suzuki Bandit 12 that has had its breathing difficulties cured and suits my crocked bones better than most bikes. It also has that Japanese “kick the tyres, light the fires and go” ability, oh dear, now I’ve tempted fate…. Still mobile phones and AA membership give some peace of mind!
One of the plus points about a non-standard bike is that I don’t need to always replace like-for-like so, for instance, the front brake master cylinder is a Suzuki item that has an adjustable span lever and plentiful supply of spare lever blades and fluid seals. Given the price and rarity of bits nowadays this is a consideration.
Earlier this year I put a pair of Bridgestone BT45’s on, they feel alright but I’ve not broken them in fully. The tyres I took off were Pirelli Phantoms, c.1987, so I wasn’t too keen on full power and/or wet roads on those but the Suzuki goes well on Bridgestones, admittedly a BT010 front / 014 rear combination, but time will tell.
On the Motodd, all the electrics, except for the handlebar switchgear & indicators, are standard and I have determined that the reason such a large headlight was used is not for light output purposes but to suit the wiring component space requirements!
I have since modified footrests and engineered (crudely) a side stand – a necessity due to the hip and knee joint damage mentioned above.
The carburetion needed sorting as it was running plug-foulingly rich when first put back on the road. I since taken off the K&N air filters and normal breathing has been restored.
I might even venture down to Devon on it one year…………