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.