Garry Laurence. Norton/Laverda Jota
Churchill meets Mussolini / British Bulldog tames the Italian stallion what ever way you look at it harnessing of one of the fastest Italian road going engines the Laverda Jota into the best handling Manx Norton style frame is going to be brutal.
There is no getting away from it ,its not been done before and therein lies the challenge to create “Spirit of the Sixties VII”.something completely different.
To start with, finding a genuine Jota engine was not going to be easy or cheap but looking to build Cafe Racers which, either challenges the standard set or sets new standards isn't easy anyway. Having searched for a long time I eventually found and purchaed an engine. Then it sat idle on the garage floor while I finished work in progress "THE VOODOO" and "METAMORPOSIS" but giving lots of thought to design, form and function. This combination has not been done before so it was all going to be ground breaking stuff and one off designs. At the end of the build it had to live upto it prdecessors, ie look the part as well as function as a true road burning Café Racer, the latter I had no doubts about.
So where do you start?, I knew what I wanted the finished bike to look like and had some definite ideas and designs I wanted to incorporate into this build along with some of my signature features if one can call them that. I considered for some time whether to buy a genuine Manx or featherbed frame and alter it to harness this brute of an engine. In the end I opted to have a replica frame made by Brad at Classic Race Bike Developments as I did not want to take a chance on metal fatigue or chopping about a historic Manx frame albeit I had a featherbed frame sitting in the garage. The frame and box section swing arm were made to order and I have to say, given my very high standards of build, that Brad has made an excellent job of the fabrication and I would strongly recommend him. Whilst the frame was being made I purchased a complete set of Norton road holder front forks which I overhauled. Milling off all excess brackets to make them look like Manx bottom ends. Fitting all new bushes, seals and stauntions with the additional modification of fitting 8 mm steel inserts into the ¼ mudguard stay bolt holes given I intended to fit a 4 leading front brake set up . Which brings me onto the brakes.
Well, what would you opt to stop a machine of this power and weight which will be very quick? There is only one option in my opinion, in keeping with Spirit of the Sixties Motorcycles it has to be drum brakes and those are Yamaha TZ racing items. Having bought a TZ Yamaha four leading front set up for the T150 Triton "METAMORPHOSIS" which unlike the ones on my Norvin was a new item but of exceptional quality I went back to Don Pender in the Philippines and ordered four leading front and twin leading rear brakes on 18" rims both on 280 mm drums. They do look the business. The problem with these hubs drums is that there is no provision for a speedo drive and given I wanted to use chronometric clocks in keeping with the sixties theme and given I had already bought them I set about designing and making a rear speedo drive to go on the drive side of the hub. The speedo drive uses the standard 2:1 Smiths gearbox drive coupled to a bolt on drive similar to the Triumph /Norton set up with the appropiate spacer. The result was the wheel was off centre and had to be adjusted by 5mm to centre it. It now looks purpose made, I did have the advantage of having made a similar set up for the Norvin so it was not entirely new.
While waiting for the wheels to arrive I took the frame to my tank maker and dicussed the design of a Manx 3 1/2 gallon tank, seat, side and closing panels to fit this individual frame.
I could not just order standard items because to fit the Jota engine into a Manx style frame it has to be about an inch and a half taller to accommodate the Jota engine, thus the top rail turns up 10 degrees at the head stock instead of turning down 10 degrees which to the untrained eye most would not notice but with the tank made to fit itis barely noticeable and sitting on 18” wheels it looks low and right.
Another problem I ran into was carburation. The Dellorto carburettors on the outer cylinders would without modification to the inlet stubs foul the top tubes. To resolve this problem I opted to modify the Dellorto's by removing the throttle mechanism and fitting standard tops and a three way cable pull. In addition I fitted bell mouths which are true Café Racer. This lowered the carburettors by 35 mm and clears the top rails on standard inlet stubs but in the end still not satisfied I opted for RS 36 flat side Mukunis which give improved performance.
With these obstacles overcome I installed the engine into the frame ensuring everything was aligned I made the engine plates to suit. First making cardboard templates before cutting them in dural aluminium.
The frame needed additional brackets for the oil cooler and side stand as well as an additional front frame brackets for the engine mounting plates instead of a single frame bracket fitted as standard. Other fabrications included the battery and electrical panel mounting etch.
Thy bike was now more or less a complete looking with forks and swing arm fitted, head light brackets modified to accept swan neck clip ons. Mud guards fitted and rear number plate holder made and fitted. The next step was the fitments of the side panels which in the end In opted for two rubber mounted top pegs and the bottom fitted with a thumb screw fastener for ease of removal.
I booked the bike in for the exhaust to be fabricated to my design a three into four similar to the MV fours in stainless steel. I entrusted the work to John at Campbell exhausts in Chelsfield Kent. As this was a month away I ordered all the electrical components I needed to design and make the loom and fitments of all components battery,rectifier and the Witt electronic ignition system which all had to be fitted and concealed. I made the loom and fitted all the electrical components. With this done it was time to disassemble the bike for paint and polishing etc..
I opted for traditional colours of black and silver with a tinge of Jota orange and polished all components myself.
This is the easy part of any build but caution and taking time to assemble is key to prevent damage to paintwork etc.
With everything fitted it was time to start it up and see if all the hard work was worth it. Initially it popped and banged but at least all the wiring was functional. I traced the issue to the crank sensor which was the wrong way around putting the timing out. With this rectified it fired up first touch of the button and ran very well settling down to a nice tick over.
Next was a road test to see if it went as well as it looked to say I was not disappointed would be an understatement. The machine fully fuelled weighs 210 kilos and absolutely fly s.
In conclusion you can judge yourself whether it all works and looks as it is factory made my view is a resounding yes but it will not be to everyone's taste. Meanwhile I am working on the next Café Racer a Norton .