One of the great tragedies of modern motorcycling is the death of the Laverda name. The brand was bought by Aprilia at the turn of the century—along with Moto Guzzi—but the familiar ‘SFC Orange’ has yet to reappear in showrooms. To my eyes, that lovely color has always looked best on a Jota, and this is one of the most immaculate Jotas I’ve ever seen. It’s another bike from the remarkable garage of English enthusiast Peter Bullard, a Laverda fan for over thirty years.
‘As a 17-year-old in the summer of ’77, I worked part time at Hyde Motorcycles in West Sussex,’ he recalls. ‘Much of my taste in motorcycles was shaped that summer, and I got to ride my first Jota—along with a Jarama, Mirage, Le Mans and bevel Ducatis.’
‘I also learned the true meaning of fear when a Jota went into a tank slapper at 100mph on the Horsham by-pass. The accepted “cure” at the time was to fit the front Dunlop TT100 the wrong way round, ignoring the directional arrows on the sidewall.’ Despite this incident, Bullard was besotted with Laverda triples. ‘The sound, the feel, the look, the quality, the detailing, everything really. Mad as I may sound, I think the 180 triple is vastly underrated. It’s one of, if not the, finest road going sporting motorcycles ever made.’
Years went by, but Bullard never found “his” bike. ‘So many tatty and badly modified Jotas were out there, and still are.’ (The Jota was a UK-only bike: the Jota America is a different beast.) Then a dealer friend of Bullard’s bought this bike, intending to keep it for himself. ‘He didn’t have space for it, so it came to live with me twenty years ago. I think he rode it twice in all. Inevitably money changed hands and she was mine—with just 5,000 miles from new.’
This Jota is a Series 2, an upgrade with a hydraulic clutch and more powerful alternator. The bikini fairing is stored away, but the bike remains almost 100% original. Even the factory-fitted collector box for the exhaust is still in place. Bullard has added another 5,000 miles to the clock over the years, including the odd track day. ‘Some years ago a few of us chipped in and hired Goodwood, long before its restoration. I took the Jota, and set about getting to know the bike better.’ A hotshot friend led Bullard around the track on a 750 Elefant. ‘Obviously the Jota was quicker down the straight, but my rule is that if you can’t take someone in the twisties, you’ve no business using brute power to pass them on the straights.’
‘After a few dozen laps, with my confidence brimming and the Laverda responding to my bulk, I overtook my friend on the outside at Lavant Corner, and then gave the Jota her head down the straight. It was a few moments made in heaven, and although I’m no great rider, that was when my love for the Jota was cemented for ever.’
As regular readers will know, Bullard has a few exotics in his garage. Does he have a favorite? ‘Not really, although I sometimes wish I did—so I could save myself a lot of money, time and grief. But I will admit this: If it all went pear shaped, and if I found bailiffs at my door, the bike I’d be chained to would be the Jota.’