1949 75cc Laverda Tourismo Prototype

This 1949 75cc Laverda Tourismo Prototype was the very first Laverda of them all.

| July/August 2014

When we think of motorcycle inventors who built bikes that bore their names, the likes of John Britten and Erik Buell spring readily to mind. In postwar Italy, Francesco Laverda achieved a similar status in motorcycle development.

With the help of a friend and fellow worker, Francesco designed and built Laverda’s first motorcycle at home in his spare time. Then, like Britten and Buell, he used racing success to establish the legend of Laverda.

Francesco Laverda was no ordinary man. He graduated from the University of Padova in 1937 with a degree in pure physics. Soon he joined the agricultural tool company founded by his grandfather Pietro Laverda in 1873, but it quickly became obvious his mind was thinking way beyond plows and tillers.

Italy emerged from World War II as a fragile democracy bolstered by massive U.S. aid, as much as $1.5 billion from 1948 to 1952. What followed was an economic miracle. From a largely rural-based economy, Italy was transformed into a manufacturing and design powerhouse. By the late 1950s, industrial output was increasing at 10 percent a year with almost full employment.

Francesco Laverda rode this tidal wave of opportunity and he brought his physics background to bear on the clever design of the first Laverda motorcycle. Although it was planned as a low-cost commuter, Francesco ensured it would also be a contender in the developing road racing scene.

Long-distance events saw small-capacity racers locked in a battle that swept through villages and cities. Chief among these events was the Moto Giro d’Italia, which by 1954 had 50 different manufacturers entered and was running more than 2,000 miles over eight stages. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

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