It’s gone a bit nippy here in Shrosphire. For me the cold weather always means long nights in the workshop doing the stuff I wanted to get on with in summer but somehow never got around to because I was too busy riding bikes. This winter I’m finally going to get around to completing the restoration of of my Laverda 125 Regolarita Casa. Whaddy mean, you’ve never heard of one? Allow me to illuminate.
Laverda , who are perhaps best known for their big three cylinder roadsters, always built dirt bikes, in fact they were very good at it and by the seventies, the factory’s off-road race shop was one of the best in Europe, so much so that BMW asked them to build a prototype enduro bike based on their boxer engine. And we all know what that eventually led to.
Laverda prototype BMW Boxer enduro bike. Looks familiar? Thought so…
During the fifties Laverda started off making a regolarita model based on their very successful 100cc road bikes . By the mid sixties Massimo Laverda, son of the founder Francesco Laverda, was starting to make his presence felt within the company and designed a 125cc trail bike with the intention of capturing sales within the burgeoning US off road market. Massimo was the brother of my good friend Piero Laverda and for me the 125cc Trail marks the start of the golden age of Laverda when the two boys , Massimo and Piero, took over their father’s business and made it into one of the best-loved brands in motorcycling.
Massimo’s design, known as the 125cc Trail America, was also marketed under the Garelli Gladiator name in the US. Meanwhile , back in Europe Laverda offered a small quantity [about 50] of specially prepared versions of the 125cc Trail to customers wanting to compete in Regolarita events [ a kind of long distance regularity trial popular with Italian clubmen]. As well as these customer competition machines the company also built a handful of ‘Casa’ models to run in ISDT events and had some modest success with them. ‘Casa’ means ‘house’, or works bike. Only two , possibly three of these original works bikes survive and, as a lifelong Laverda enthusiast, I’ve always fancied building one.
Brochure shot of a Regolarita Casa, this shot is a bit misleading because the model was never offered to the public. I suspect this is a shot of a Casa which the factory intended to market as a Corsa [race] bike to replace the model pictured below. It was not to be and only 4 or 5 were ever produced
One of the 50 customer machines, a cobby little bike sporting what looks like a GRP Rickman tank [nobody I’ve spoken to in the Laverda world can quite remember where the tank came from] These customer bikes had a four speed ‘box, the works bikes had a five speeder.
And this is the cooking version offered to the American market
The Casa is loosely based on the Trail, very loosely in fact and I must confess the quest for special parts to complete the project has taken far longer than anticipated. Finally, with a good deal of help from Piero and his son Giovanni, I’ve now assembled all the parts and I’m ready to start putting the bike together. If you compare the pics you’ll see the frame on the works bike is very different to the production bike and features a brace running from the headstock to the swing arm. Having started off with a bog standard Trail I had to have the extra bracing fabricated by my chum Pete Priest [www.priestbikepaint.co.uk], other mods included having a toolbox fabricated into the top of the steel tank mimicking the work’s bike. The factory bikes also had 32mm Ceriani GP forks instead of the spindly 28mm units fitted to the production bikes. Special Q/R wheels off a Gilera ISDT were also fitted and these , along with the forks, proved very hard to track down. Giovanni Laverda found a pair or wheels for me at an Italian autojumble a few months ago and they arrived in the UK last week. Game on.
Pete’s jig, built to hold the frame true whist the bracing was added
Here’s the modified frame showing the extra bracing and the altered fuel tank. Prior to having the jig made I didn’t notice the original frame was twisted. What we now have here is a heavily braced, twisted frame! Hopefully this will be sorted in the next few weeks when we’ll un-brace the frame, correct the twist and weld it up again. Doh.
Once the frame is straight I’ll do a dry build and get all the fiddly bits done. My bike is a rare 150cc version so it should have a bit more poke than the standard. It’s got to lug my 90kg bulk around Shropshire so it’ll need all the help it can get, bearing in mind it’s a small capacity pushrod four stroke from the sixties.
Researching the background and technical specs to these rare little bikes has been tricky. Massimo has sadly passed away and Piero was ne’er but a teenager when this model was built. I asked him what became of the four works bikes and he smiled ruefully and told me he’d been given one of them when he was a student and he used to ride it in local regolaritas but sadly he can’t remember what became of it! Fortunately he has access to works rider Nino Caretta’s bike . Nino died some years ago but his old bike is now owned by his son Mirko who runs a restoration business. Mirko allowed Piero to take over sixty reference shots of the bike which have been invaluable for research.
I’m intending to display the bike at the Telford off road show in February, meanwhile I’ll post updates of progress from time to time.
Mirko Caretta proudly showing off his Dad’s bike.
A teenage Piero Laverda riding an ultra rare Laverda works ISDT bike in a club event in the 1960s. Where is it now I wonder?
And finally, a Laverda Trail America masquerading as a Garelli Gladiator