Unfinished business - Laverda SFC

Conceived in boom-time and canned when Laverda owners Aprilia felt the pinch from falling scooter sales, the SFC (Super Freni Competizione – as in super brakes competition) was an interpretation of Laverda’s iconic early seventies endurance racer

Posted: 27 August 2010
by Visordown
Laverda SFC
Laverda SFC exhausts
1975 Laverda SFC
The inspiration, the original Laverda SFC

Like Gilera, Laverda is a name that’s been missing from ‘proper’ bikes for years but it came close to a comeback in 2003 with the Aprilia-backed SFC.

Having struggled from one owner to another for years, churning out variations on its ancient parallel twin sports bikes, Laverda was bought by Aprilia in 2000, with hopes that it could become a rival to Ducati – with products positioned slightly above Aprilia’s mainstream machines. However, having bought Moto Guzzi at the same time, Aprilia put its Laverda plans on hold for a few years until it finally revealed the SFC prototype in 2002.

Originally shown as a concept bike, with slick tyres and no lights, the SFC quickly moved towards limited production. Based around the 141bhp Aprilia RSV-R engine, it was a relatively simple job to knock-up a new, tubular steel chassis and some odd-looking bodywork, and by mid-2003 road-going prototypes were out testing in preparation for the ‘production’ version’s launch at the end of the year.

While the bike was shown as planned, everything else had gone pear-shaped. In record time, Aprilia had gone from being the fastest-growing bike firm in the world to a company on its knees, kicked by a seemingly innocuous change in Italian law that, sensibly, decreed that riders should wear helmets. The law came into force just as Aprilia blew its savings on buying Laverda and Guzzi. 

At the same time, scooter insurance in the country went through the roof and plans were made to end regulations that had allowed 14-year-olds to ride 50cc bikes with no licence or lessons. Scooter sales – Aprilia’s mainstay – fell off a cliff, so by the time the Laverda SFC was actually shown in 2003, its masters at Aprilia were desperately seeking financial help to keep the company afloat.

Piaggio, which had weathered the scooter storm rather better, stepped in, buying Aprilia and all its subsidiaries, including Guzzi and Laverda. All projects were stopped immediately while the new management assessed the business, and some projects once stopped – including the Laverda SFC – were never re-started. After the last flourish of the SFC’s 2003 unveiling, Laverda itself had effectively been put on ice.

Would it have worked?

The SFC faced the problem of using the running gear from a cheaper machine and it might not have been appreciably better than the Aprilia RSV that donated its engine.

On top of that, rabid Laverda fans were up in arms over the fact it didn’t have a ‘proper’ Laverda engine – they had been hoping for a 900cc triple, which had been under development before Aprilia bought the firm. If the keenest Laverda nuts were going to look down their noses at it, and casual buyers would be just as happy on an Aprilia, it probably wasn’t set to be a success even if it did turn out to be a decent ride.

Where is it now?

Several were built, including two show bikes – one in race spec, the other in road-going trim – and some running prototypes. Whether any survive is not known, but it’s likely that they’re still tucked in a Piaggio warehouse somewhere.

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laverda, concept bike, sfc, aprilia, piaggio, 1000, super freni competizione, v-twin, sfc

Discuss this story

I personally would love to see Laverda revived as a marque. However it has to be a true Laverda no v twin poser bike. I still own a RGS and I have been in love with laverdas for years. 1090 cc triple big torque and top of the line  equipment and solid build quality. Laverda never followed the trends of others and in a modern market that would be their strength.

Posted: 27/08/2010 at 23:45

what  about a new Jota, now THAT was a real bike.

Posted: 31/08/2010 at 14:18

The Jota was OK if you happened to be over 13 stone. Any lighter and it handled like a hinged camel unless two-up. Raw brute power used to cost me a chain and rear tyre once a month!

Posted: 31/08/2010 at 15:22

Ray your a lucky man. I was too young to have one (like not even born yet) my dad had one and he  used to sweat and swear at it almost daily. But the noise, the looks, just blew me away. His taste in pig handling ugly bikes rubbed off. Got an X11. Go figure!

Posted: 01/09/2010 at 14:07

One of my Dad's bikes is a Jota. He's bought it new in 1984 and still has it, and it's done less than 10k - it's a proper perfect-weather-only toy. I'm always struck my how huge it is and how lovely the engine sounds. Rumpety rump rump...  I'd like to see an SFC in the flesh, it looks pretty.

Posted: 28/10/2010 at 12:11

nice bike but doesnt make business sense really. Shame, the RSV is a hoot though!!!

Posted: 23/11/2010 at 23:49

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