The Montjuic name ranks alongside other legendary bikes in the story of
Laverda twin and triples, such as 750SFC and Jota. With its Café racer looks and
bright orange paint job, the Montjuic looked like a scaled-down 750SFC, and an
enlarged version of the final Ducati Desmo single. Both were bikes with a
special place in the hearts and minds of sportsbike enthusiasts.
As with the Jota, it was Roger Slater who was instrumental in the creation of
the Montjuic. Heavily involved in production racing at the time, Slater had a
natural ability to sniff out a marketable product. He had imported a Formula 500
and, realizing that it would not be a viable competitive racer in British
events, he decided to use it as the basis for a middleweight Laverda twin that
he (correctly) believed British enthusiasts would want to own. He must also have
realized by then that the Alpino was never going to make the grade, hampered by
a combination of lacklustre styling and a high price tag.
The Montjuic was named after the famous parkland road circuit in the heart of
Barcelona, where Laverda had often enjoyed success. It was essentially a Formula
500 for the street, refined just enough to be legal under the British Road
Traffic Act. Its styling was gorgeous, as was the bark from its two-into-one
matt-black exhaust system — note that there is no mention of the word
'silencer'! The Montjuic looked as though it was speeding even when it was
standing still, and it was impossible to ignore. It grabbed sales in a way that
the less adventurous and far more sober Alpino had never been able.
Using the standard Alpino tank, Slater commissioned Birmingham-based Screen
and Plastics to manufacture a batch of suitable handlebar fairings and hump-back
single saddles, together with more sporting mudguards, Jota-type bars posed as
clip-ons and rear set foot controls; the latter were mounted on triangular alloy
One of the major problems that beset the first-series Montjuic machines was
that the fairing was fork-mounted and caused weaving at high speed. This was
largely rectified on later machines (series 2), which employed a frame-mounted
fairing designed by the Italian Motoplast concern, but manufactured in Britain.
Of course, a really critical rider could find much that was wrong with the
Montjuic in comparison with other five-hundred twins of the same era - Moto
Guzzi V50, Ducati Pantah, Yamaha XS500, Honda CX500 or even the Morini 500. All
of these were relatively civilized, quieter and, in most cases, faster too.
However none of them had the same sort of character, none were so compact and
none enjoyed quite the same sort of relationship with its rider. The Laverda was
far from ideal for any form of commuting or touring, but for pure enjoyment,
fast road work or even a touch of club racing, or 'track days', in 1980 no
half-litre machine could compare with the Montjuic. Its nearest rival was
probably the 350 LC Yamaha water-cooled two-stroke twin, which was very slightly
larger and heavier than the Montjuic. Both gave the feel of a 250cc, and, as I
found out one day at Snetterton in summer 1984, virtually identical on lap
times. The Yamaha twin was a shade quicker, but the Laverda made up lost ground
on the corners and braking areas.
The 'Monty', as it became known, soon had me hooked. By the time I got to
ride one, production had long since ceased; otherwise I might well have gone out
and bought one!
Source Mick Walker
Montjuics have a very polarising effect on Laverda enthusiasts, who seem to
either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Most people who have owned them become very
attached to them , a fact borne out by the unusually high number of one owner
machines still in existence, especially MK Is.
The Montjuic, or the Mk1 Montjuic as it later became known, was a concept
similar in many ways to the Jota. In common with the Jota it was a Slater
inspired model and, in the same way the Jota overshadowed the 3C , the
‘Montjuic’ overshadowed its Alpino sibling .
The Montjuic was not, as many claim, a road going Formula 500, but it’s easy to
see how the misunderstanding might arise. The engine spec was very similar but
it differed in certain details. There has been some debate over the years about
whether or not Montjuics have the Formula’s close ratio gearbox. To put an end
to the conjecture I decided to ask Piero Laverda whether he could clarify the
correct specification of a Montjuic, he was quite specific in his response;
“ the F500 close ratio gearbox was standard specification on the MK1 and MK2
Montjuic, however customers had the option of specifying normal wide ratios if
that was their preference, but the standard gearbox specification was definitely
the same as the F500”
Some early Montjuics also had the needle roller bearing in the outer cam caps,
but this was not specific to the model, it was simply the current specification
of the Alpino at the time.
Mechanically, a Montjuic is basically an Alpino S with S1 cams, high compression
pistons and a Sito sports exhaust. Yet despite these relatively unsophisticated
underpinnings, the simple mechanical alterations create a character change out
of all proportion to the scale of the work carried out . Forget the Yamaha RDs
or the Suzuki GTs or even the Kawasaki triples; the Montjuic MK1 defines the
hooligan cafe racer of the late 70s, although it’s highly unlikely that hooligan
types could actually afford one.
In addition to the simple mechanical alterations, the Montjuic’s cafe racer
credentials were complimented with attractive seat and fairings manufactured out
of GRP, a set of ‘Jota’ bars and some elegant cast aluminium rearsets. The
bodywork was manufactured in the UK by ‘Screen and Plastics’ . Bikes were
shipped from Italy sans seat unit and fairing and these items were retro-fitted
by Slaters. Unusually, the fairings and seats were finished in self colour gel
coat rather than painted, something I found quite surprising when I acquired my
un-restored l MK II. Such is the quality of the Screen and Plastics bodywork
that I always assumed all Montjuics had a painted finish.
The MK I was undeniably prettier than the MKII which followed. The plexiglass
headlamp cover and the hand extensions on the fairing had a very purposeful,
racy look to them. The race-track refugee appearance was finished off by the SFC
style seat with its integral number boards moulded into the side. The downside
to the MK1 Monty is rooted in the pretty bikini fairing. This was a handlebar
mounted item and could, according to some road testers, promote a weave at high
speed. I`ve canvassed a number of MK1 owners for their opinions on this and none
of them have actually experienced the weave. Perhaps this was a situation that
afflicted a press bike and the tale passed into motorcycling folklore as so many
of these sorts of rumours do. Many owners at the time simply discarded them
anyway and ran the bike unfaired.
I think a more likely cause of the weave can be traced to the yokes. A number of
racers found the high speed handling on the 500s slightly suspect and fitted
reduced offset yokes, which increased trail and improved the handling, Chott
yokes were found to be ideally suited to the purpose.
The Monty Mk1, like the early Jotas, represents the purest of the breed, but not
necessarily the best. Neither machine will disappoint the enthusiastic rider .
Z500 BENELU504SPORT LAVERDA 500MONTJUIC
HALF-LITRE HEAVEN by Witch Bike magazine
No longer are the middleweight bikes the low-life alternatives
to the last decade's expansion into the litre-plus arena of high-performance
machinery. John Nutting tests three five-hundreds which for reasons of price,
performance or appearance (or all three together) offer the discerning
motorcyclist everything that could possibly be wanted in a machine. Photography
by John Perkins and Ian Dobbie.
It's not so long ago that Kawasaki owners were the constant butt
of every joke under the sun about poor handling. But that's all changed with the
introduction of the company's smallest multi-cylinder four-stroke, the Z500.
If the Z650 four was a hint that Kawasaki were really capable, given the
opportunity, of offering finely-honed road bikes instead of wobbly straight-line
hot rods, then the Z500 is the final confirmation.
But if you think that the littlest four is just the six-fifty
with all the major dimensions reduced then take a closer look. And find out the
subtle details in the development of a sporting roadster for the eighties.
True, the concept of the Z500 follows the theme found in most of
the top-selling Japanese motorcycles of the last few years — an across-the-frame
in-line four-cylinder engine mounted in a duplex-cradle chassis. In fact, on
paper you'd be hard pushed to detect the major differences between the 497cc
Kawasaki and the first of the smaller fours, Honda's CB500, introduced in late
1971. Both have similar power outputs, compression ratios, carburettor sizes,
overall dimensions and dry weights.
But the closer look reveals the ways in which the motorcycle
buyer has become more demanding in the intervening eight years. And a brisk ride
down a twisty lane is even more eye-opening.
The Z500 is an extremely compact machine with a wheelbase of
just under 55 inches and a dry weight of 4231b. It feels small, thanks mainly to
a narrow 3.3 gallon fuel tank and tidy proportions around the side panels and
footrests that allow the rider to place both feet flat on the ground at traffic
The frame itself appears conventional in that it has a large
diameter backbone supporting the steering head. But it is substantially
supported above the engine with massive gusset plates which effectively stiffen
the front end of the structure. The front fork, a smaller version of the unit
found on the shaft drive Z1000, appears also to be overly strong with
leading-axle sliders with big clamps for the front-wheel spindle. At the rear,
the swinging arm pivots on four needle roller bearings.
The torsional stiffness of the front fork is a real necessity
when over seven inches of travel have been opted for along with a steep steering
head angle of 64 degrees.
Were it otherwise, the fork would flop around uncontrollably when at full
travel. As it is, it imparts a perceptably high degree of stability in the Z500
that puts it on a par with the best bikes on the road.
Some riders might argue that the suspension is harsh, and that's
certainly true although it's not because of the spring rates. Kawasaki have
opted for an average 50 lb/in fork spring rate with minimal preload along with
ideal 901b/in rear springs.
Given a lack of stiction in the suspension plus a lighter front rate with more
preload this set-up would work very well, offering a good ride with steadiness
in bends. But the ride feels stiff and is none too mitigated by the hard seat.
Fortunately, nothing is lost in the overall handling. The
steering is excellent, being neutral and light to control whether the bike is
being weaved through dense traffic or carved through tight bends. The tyres used
impart confidence, being a ribbed Dunlop Gold Seal front matched with a
Japanese-made TT100 at the rear, though we'd doubt if these would be much good
when raced, in which role the Kawasaki most certainly will find itself.
Moreover, the Z500 feels much more stable when cranked over than
the CB500 ever did. And when matched to the sintered-pad disc brakes now found
on all the top Kawasakis, you have a chassis package that marks a new high for
Two thin 10.8 inch diameter discs are used at the front with
floating calipers while the rear unit uses the same disc but with a double
piston caliper. Only criticism is of the excessive reach to the front brake
In performance, the Z500's engine matches the chassis perfectly.
Peaking at a claimed 52bhp at 9,000 rpm with the red line marked at 9,500 rpm,
it easily urges the bike to almost 1 lOmph flat out and puts indicated cruising
speeds of around 90mph comfortably in the grasp of the rider even when there's
only small sections of open road to play with.
Much of the engine's excellent power is derived from the use of
double overhead camshafts and the four free-breathing 22mm-choke Tekei
carburettors. Like the Z650 and the old CB500, the four-throw crank runs in
plain bearings and drive is through a Morse-type chain and gears to the wet
clutch. Bore and stroke are the same as the Z250; 55 x 52.4 mm. But new is the
use of another Morse-type chain with an automatic adjuster for driving the
Some of the surprising snap throttle response and startling
acceleration is derived from the six-speed gearbox and wide ratios. Gear change
action is slick and noiseless and the 'box retains the useful neutral-finding
dodge that stops you selecting second from bottom at a standstill.
Kawasaki appear to have selected the gear ratios with drag
racing in mind for the reve drops between gears are as similar all the way
through the range instead of having a large gap between bottom and second and
closing up the other ratios. In normal use though the engine is so flexible,
pulling cleanly and usefully from as low as 1,000 rpm in top, that the lower
ratios hardly ever get used.
At the test strip though the effect is obvious. The Z500 fires
like a cannon from the gate to be easily the quickest-accelerating 500cc machine
on the market getting to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds.
The tractability has advantages in fuel consumption too. The Z500 returned just
over 52 mpg despite being thrashed giving at worst 175 miles on a tankful.
With no kickstart lever, it's just as well the self starter was
reliable. The engine fires up cleanly and is helped on cold mornings by the
throttle-valve lifter incorporated into the choke mechanism. The clutch was
annoying though. Like an old Triumph, it would stick after being left overnight.
Unfortunately, and to our surprise, the worst feature of the Z500 is vibration.
When used as a sports bike in the twisties it's doubtful if you'd notice it, but
on motorways the vibes above 5,000 rpm are enough to render the rear-view
Otherwise, the Z500 is a great little bike, particularly since it's the only Jap
four of its size, both in capacity and bulk.
BENELLI 504 SPORT
One thing is sure with the Benelli 504 Sport; you could never
mistake its intentions. It looks a sporting machine and in every facet of its
character it acts like one. Which is a blessing for Benelli.
For there's not much you could comfortably recommend in the standard version of
their 500cc four. Since it is so very nearly a Honda four in the engine
compartment, the machine suffers all the ubiquity of a Japanese four with the
quirkiness of an Italian machine.
But the 504 Sport displays style and flashiness rarely, if ever,
found in Jap bikes. Finish is in a metallic black paint set off by striking gold
cast-alloy wheels and a small Guzzi Le Mans.
And it's a small bike that begs to be ridden fast. The power
band is sharp and needs to be nursed along on the five-speed gearbox. And it's
not until you're cruising above an indicated 80mph that the riding position
feels at all comfortable.
Otherwise the 504 Sport can be very awkWard if you're not prepared to suffer the
disadvantages of a super sporting motorcycle. At town speeds, the raised clip-on
handlebar makes the wrists ache and the shortness of the riding position tends
to be very cramped. Furthermore, the top lip of the screen obscures most of the
instrumentation. Not that it matters much; it's pretty inaccurate.
On top of that the bike feels sluggish unless you wring its
neck, compared to the other two machines featured here. In fact, the Benelli is
barely slower than the Kawasaki in a flat-out dash, mainly because of the
wind-cheating riding position, with a top speed of around 108 mph. (We saw 115
mph once on a long downhill section of road.)
Most of the problem is in the heaviness of the throttle return springs and the
inflexibility of the engine. Both of these conspire to give the rider the
impression that the bike is dragging a dead weight behind it.
Once into its best area, that is, when the rev meter is hovering
in the 6,000 to 9,000 region, the 504 perks up appreciably and the real meaning
of Italian motorcycling rings true.
Like the Honda engine that the Benelli was copied from, the 504 Sport's motor is
an overhead camshaft four-cylinder unit with the crankshaft running in plain
bearings. Like the Kawasaki too, it has a Morse-type primary drive to a
countershaft in the bottom crank-case-half with a set of drive gears to the
clutch. Gearbox is a five speeder, the change being effected via a linkage, and
the final drive is by a conventional Regina chain, unlike the Kawasaki's sealed
There are few changes to the 504 to bring its power from the
47bhp of the 500LS to a sportier 49bhp at 8,900 rpm. Bore and stroke remain the
same at 56 x 50.6mm, though the pistons pump the compression up to 10.2 to 1 and
the camshaft has more lift and overlap. Gearing is the same as the LS giving
5,900 rpm at 70mph.
Apart from the use of alloy wheels and the interesting adoption
of the Moto Guzzi linked braking system, there are few changes to the chassis
either. At speed the bike feels taut and stable thanks to a shallow steering
head angle and a low centre of gravity. But the suspension is mismatched and
that same front end geometry leads to a measure of resistance when you're
hauling the bike from lock to lock at speed through the twisty bits.
The front fork is under-damped, leading to some choppiness over
bumps, a feature that is in conflict with the rear suspension which is
undeniably hard. It could well do without this as the seat is similarly
Not that this necessarily detracts from the enjoyment of the
Benelli. The four-into-two exhaust emits a jubilant growl and the hand controls
are slick and easy to use.
But there are enough annoying aspects of the Benelli to make the £1,742 list
price only appealing to the true devotee. The connected braking system, in which
the right-hand Brembo disc brake and the rear disc are operated by the foot
pedal, isn't as powerful as we'd like. With so much braking area on tap and
pleasant experiences of the system on bigger Guzzis we'd be inclined to think
there was something wrong on the Benelli's.
Also there was much too much engine vibration getting through to
the rider's feet. And neither was the bike very economical with only 46.3 mpg
Detailing is poor. The switchgear could have been much easier to use and the
energy expended in designing the ignition cut-out switch operated by the prop
stand (a real necessity since you can't see the stand from the seat) could have
been directed in this area.
Let's say the Benelli is a bike for the Boulevard nights.
How do you transform an ordinary motorcycle into a popular
classic? Perhaps you refine it over a number of years to make it appeal to the
widest possible number of potential buyers.
If your name is Laverda you do the complete opposite. You convert your road bike
into a successful production racer and offer replicas for sale.
The proof? The Laverda Montjuic has been outselling the standard
500cc Alpino by three to one. And this is despite the race-replica being the
most expensive 500 on the market at a shocking £2,095.
But such is the appeal of a super-sporting machine with a proven
record in competition. And Laverda were always aware of it since the lamented
demise of the SFC, the production racer based on the factory's now obsolete
750cc SF twin.
Trouble was Laverda couldn't offer a production racer legally in most countries
because invariably, the extra performance came at the expense of a prohibitively
loud exhaust. In Italy they got round this by offering 500cc racing twins
specifically for a novice racing series.
The British Laverda importers have always adopted a more
cavalier approach. And no sooner did they prove the reliability of the basic
eight-valve double overhead camshaft Alpino unit by pulling off an impressive
one-two in the 500cc class in the 1978 Barcelona 24-hour race at Montjuic Park
than they realised that they were onto a winner in the home market.
Furthermore they also realised that if they could offer a high
performance 500cc machine in road trim, it would qualify for the tight
production racing regulations currently enforced in UK meetings and beat the
Yamahas previously dominating the class. They were right and the Montjuic sales
Competition record apart though it's not difficult once you've
ridden a Montjuic, to realise why the bike's so appealing. It's got the
purposefulness of a BSA Gold Star and the style of the old SFC, which
incidentally it can outperform comfortably.
Yet apart from the obvious differences with the glass-fibre handlebar fairing
and seat (both of which are added to the bike after it arrives in Britain from
the factory as a naked, tuned Alpino), there are few changes.
The frame is stock and retains the same Marzocchi suspension
front and rear. The basic engine and six-speed transmission are unaltered too.
However, the pistons give a compression ratio of 10.2 to 1 and the camshafts
have revised timing with the effect that the compression pressure is upped to
150 psi from 115 psi.
To cope with this the 32 mm choke downdraft Dellorto
carburettors are recalibrated and the air cleaner is dispensed with while a
megaphone-type extractor exhaust system to suit the cams also gives extra
The extra cranking pressure has had its effect and though the
electric starter motor is retained and normally copes with its job well, the
battery is soon to be uprated to make it foolproof.
The overall result of the tuning changes is to up the power considerably and
raise the maximum power revs to between 9,200 and 9,500 rpm. Importer Roger
Slater has yet to put one of the engines on a dynomometer and will no doubt say
that the engines make enough power to win the races they're after for publicity,
but we'd confidently predict that it must be in the 55bhp region at the back
Few would argue with that since owners have been complaining
that they are running over the factory-stipulated rev limit of 9,500 rpm in top
gear with the stock gearing of a 42 tooth rear sprocket - which gives 116 mph.
Given the use of a 40-tooth sprocket the 125 mph that Slater claims for his
bikes should easily be in reach. After all, with a 38 tooth sprocket in the
Island this year their own bike was clocked at 129 mph through the Highlander
and the 9,600 rpm that Peter Davies saw on the rev counter compares with the
computed figures. What's more the bike went to 10,300 rpm on the drop to
Brandish. That's 139 mph. . .
In day-to-day use such heady performance figures are neither
here nor there. And anyway there's little chance of proving them since Slater
invariably uses the demo Montjuic as a spare for racing.
So we tried a bike belonging to John Owen, one of Hexagon of Highgate's happy
customers. A far too brief ride was enough to confirm that the Montjuic is
indeed bound for a pla e in the motorcycling histoiy books.
Laverdas have always been favoured for their good handling but
raises the standard to new heights. It feels low and small, not surprising since
the racing-style seat measures barely 30 inches from the ground. The handlebar
is the same adjustable unit found on the Jota and along with the beautifully
engineered and equally adjustable rear-set footrest controls, the riding
position is perfect for fast and relaxed riding.
But the bike is loud. In town you have to take real care to keep the noise down
if you've any sort of conscience.
Though we weren't able to test the decibel level it must break
the limit quite easily.
Fortunately the engine doesn't baulk at poodling around town should you be in a
sensitive state of mind. The engine is very flexible, 2,000 rpm.
It's very smooth too. Like the Alpino, the Montjuic's power unit has 180-degree
throws and is strongly supported in four ball bearings. And to tame any
vibration that might exist, a small counterbalancer geared to the crankshaft in
the primary drive case offsets the rocking couple inherent with this sort of
engine. Result is that the motor spins happily through the gears up to well over
the 8,000 rev counter red line with no more fuss than a slight rattling of your
Complementing the performance the handling and suspension are
tight and taut as you might expect of a machine that has been trimmed down to
about 350 lb dry without changing the spring rates. And for the same reason the
three Brembo disc brakes have no trouble in hauling up the lightweight bike from
Neither is the machine finicky. John Owen Reckons he has been
getting 55 mpg in the 2,000 enjoyable miles he's run the machine.
If you can live with such single-minded exotica, the Montjuic is an obviously
rewarding machine to own.