Terry Wood bought this Laverda concoction, a Mirage 1200cc motor in a 3C frame, as a neglected non-runner and put it back on the road for a bargain price. Sounds good? Oh yes...
Take one 3C, stir-in a hefty portion of Mirage 1200, et voilà: a brilliant bargain-price big Lav
Blasting through the south Lincolnshire countryside on a pleasingly warm spring morning, I’m a happy man. The bellow of a big Laverda triple is the soundtrack to my delightfully aimless progress and it really doesn’t matter that, rather than a top-of-the-range Jota or a catalogue-correct Mirage, the bike is a special – a 1200cc Mirage engine in a 3C rolling chassis.
I’d say that owner Terry Wood has got himself a bit of a bargain here. With prices for Jotas regularly running over £15,000, Mirages making up to £10,000 and good 3Cs commanding upwards of £10,000, Terry’s valuation of the bike at “around £8000” seems like good value. I suspect he’s added a little value to his initial outlay during the course of his ownership, too.
Let’s face it, you don’t ride the logbook, and Terry’s Laverda is wonderful to ride regardless of its provenance. For a start, there’s that big, deceptively fast 1115cc three-cylinder lump. It’s a proper lump, too – tall, imposing and certainly no lightweight. Yet it pumps out bucketfuls of torque and has a midrange like a steam engine. Like the Jota, the Mirage was cooked up by British Laverda importers, the Slater Brothers, and was launched in 1978. Essentially, it was Laverda’s 1200 ‘touring’ model, enlivened by Jota cams and exhaust. The result was a strongrunning halfway house between the fast and frenetic Jota and the milder-mannered 1200 – a compromise that’s close to ideal.
On the road, this Mirage-engined special doesn’t feel that fast, at first. But a glance down at the speedometer soon has me recalibrating my brain. The exhaust note, deeper and softer than a Jota’s – a sound further calmed by the baffles for the (largely vacant) Jota ‘silencers’ that Terry has fabricated – fools me into thinking that the engine isn’t working that hard, while the 3C rolling chassis feels relaxed and compliant despite having firmer suspension than the later Mirage set-up. The gearchange is quick and positive – not
that I need to use it much once the bike is bowling along in top gear, and at anything over 3000rpm the acceleration is sensational when I snap the throttle open. It’s a deceptively quick bike.
It’s also a bike I feel I could happily cover some serious miles on. Laverda triples aren’t the daintiest of things – but then neither am I, and there’s bags of room for a substantial citizen like myself to spread out. The frame is as spacious as it is rigid, with a generous 57.5in wheelbase further aiding stability. Fast, sweeping and preferably well-surfaced bends are where the Laverda really excels. The Brembo front calipers and 280mm brake discs are (just) up to hauling the big Laverda up – as long as I remember that they need a hefty squeeze and plan ahead accordingly. But there’s no doubt it’s the super-torquey engine that’s the star of the show. Terry’s done all right with this one.
Terry agrees that his triple was a pretty decent bargain when he bought it three years ago. “I was looking for a project when this turned up,” explains the marine engineer. “I’d never owned a Laverda, but I remember they were the bike to have when I was running a Kawasaki Z1 back in the ’70s. I didn’t want a Japanese bike and this was at the right price. The owner had died and the bike hadn’t been fired up for years. When I got it home, I got it to run – just – with some fresh fuel and a new battery, but it sounded pretty rough and I couldn’t get fifth gear. Despite that, though, I think I got a pretty good deal.”
Terry dropped the engine out and stripped the rest of the bike completely. “When I looked at the engine more closely, it didn’t seem too bad – apart from the gear selection problem,” he recalls. “When I looked into that, it turned out to be the selector mechanism. It had been set up as shown in the workshop manual, but it just wasn’t selecting properly. I had to adjust it to the ‘wrong’ position to get it to work. I checked the top-end to ensure it had the correct 4C cams and gave it a good service, but that was about it apart from cleaning and polishing the cases.”
Terry got just as lucky with the frame. “It cleaned up really well,” he confirms. “What’s more, I discovered that it had a braced swingarm made by Laverda specialist and racer Roger Winterburn – a nice period upgrade. The exhaust was in good shape, too, and only needed a thorough clean and polish, apart from fabricating the removable baffles – Jota silencers are a bit on the loud side.”
It was a different story with the wheels, though. “The bike had a Laverda cast alloy front wheel and an alloy CMA at the rear,” he explains. “I wanted spoked
‘WHEN I LOOKED AT THE ENGINE, IT DIDN’T SEEM TOO BAD’
‘THE BRACED SWINGARM BY LAVERDA SPECIALIST AND RACER ROGER WINTERBURN IS A NICE PERIOD UPGRADE’
wheels anyway, so I tracked down a pair of original Laverda hubs in Germany, polished them up myself and got Central Wheel Components (central-wheel.co.uk) to lace them up into alloy rims. I had to machine a stainless-steel spacer to get the wheel alignment right in the standard forks. I think the wheels were the most expensive part of the refurbishment – they cost about £1200 to buy and build, but I think they really make the bike.”
Good, original 3C parts on the bike included the 35mm forks and the 200mm Bosch headlamp only used on early bikes before Laverda changed to a 180mm unit. But the paintwork was fairly tired looking when Terry picked up the bike, so he decided on a respray. “I took the tank to Barkston Coachworks in Grantham for the paintwork, but when I got the tank blasted, I found the recesses for the correct [for the 3C] round tank badges had been filled in and long Laverda badges fitted,” he says. “I wanted to go back to the smaller, round badges, but they were really hard to find, so I made a pair myself – but when these genuine ones turned up on ebay a few weeks back, I fitted them.”
The single seat came with the bike, but Terry has a self-made dual seat on standby. He’s also tidied up the electrics, fitted Dyna ignition coils and a pair of reproduction clock faces, and machined up various spacers and other bits and pieces. Overall, it’s been more of a tidy-up than a full-on resto, according to Terry.
There’s no doubting he has created a fabulous machine to ride. It looks the part, sounds a treat and goes like, well, a Mirage – and all for considerably less cash than the ‘real thing’. Who needs a Jota?
To the untrained eye, it looks like a regular old example of Breganze beefiness
Apart from a gear selection issue, the 1200cc triple was sound
Brembo front brakes need a firm hand
Original 3C Bosch headlamp came with the bike
It cost several grand less than you’d have to pay for a 3C or a Mirage, but provides fullprice Laverda triple entertainment
Terry’s added ear-friendly baffles to the Jota silencers Terry with the bike – the first Laverda he’s ever owned Reproduction clock faces were sourced on the internet This big bike is deceptively fast on the road, with a massive midrange