Friday, June 10, 2011

Flashback

Back in the days of my, some would say misspent, youth when I was riding Hondas, Yamahas and Kawasakis (never a Suzuki although I did once contemplate the acquisition of an ‘83 Katana) I was forever lusting after something more exotic than the ubiquitous Japanese iron.
Munch MammothFor a pure head-turning, WTF factor there wasn’t much that would exceed the Munsch Mammut (Mammoth) with its transverse 4 cylinder 1200cc NSU engine. This brute, at 550 pounds, was considered massive for the day. But compared to my Dyna at 675 pounds it’s a relative lightweight by today’s standards.
Benelli SeiIf riding an engineering marvel was more your forte, the Benneli Sei would scratch your itch. The 750cc engine was basically a Honda CB500 with 2 cylinders added. With a rated top speed of 120 mph this machine was a goer, and six separate mufflers were sure to capture any passer-by's attention.
Laverda750But up there among the illustrious Moto-Guzzis and German-engineered BMWs (this was before there was a BMW parked outside every Starbucks between here and Portland) one bike really stood out for me, the Laverda 750. In it’s finest orange livery it was hard to miss, but if you happened to be visually impaired, or busy staring at one of the “nicest people” you just met on a Honda, the sound was a dead giveaway. You have to hand it to the Italians, they do sound very well, and the Laverda was no exception, you could hear it coming a long way and there was no mistaking that twin-cylinder rumble when under full throttle. 
And what brought on this trip down memory lane?
Well today I was in the city running some errands (on two wheels, of course) and I pulled up beside a 1975 Laverda 750 at a traffic light. It has probably been 5 years since I last saw one on the road so I engaged the rider in conversation and found out that the bike was still all original. Of course after 36 years it is showing its age, but it is still a daily rider. The paint has lost some luster and he’s thought about repainting but would like to stay with the original orange. His wife hates the orange and wants to change it, so he avoids the conflict by leaving it just as it is. And when the light changed I held back just that extra few seconds to listen to the bark as he pulled away smartly knowing, I’m sure, just why I paused. Nice.

12 comments:

  1. Canajun,
    I had a ride of a mammoth when they first came out in Australia about 40 years ago. By chance the Australian Sales rep attended a party next to my house. I had just finished rebuilding my '42WLA as what is now called a 'Bobber' and it was parked out the front. I starte talking to him about the Munch and he offered me to take it for a ride. It was a hot balmy night and who would refuse such an offer? Not me. I rode it for about fifteen minutes and I could not get over how big it was, how heavy , how powerful and smooth it was for a bike that had a car motor stuffed into it, I think it was a Nissa prince engine.
    Anyway, it was an experience, something I will not forget.

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  2. Canajun,

    Thanks for the memories! I haven't seen a Laverda for maybe a couple of decades - wonderful brutes.

    Funnily enough, I came across both a Benelli Sei and a Munch Mammoth at the Auckland classic race meeting in January. If you're interested, lots of pics on my Picasa Web page:https://picasaweb.google.com/geoff.james74/Pukekohe2011?authkey=Gv1sRgCKa1pajvk_CkDA

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  3. @Anonymous - I'm envious. That would be an experience to remember for sure.

    @Goeff - Some great pics of some real classics. Thanks for the link.

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  4. Dear Canajun:

    A extremely gifted mechanic I know fitted the front brake from a Munch Mammoth onto a BMW R100. The effect was electrifying. The brake drum is huge and the spkes ended up being aout 4" long.

    Not three weeks ago, I was driving through a neighborhood when I saw a bright orange motorcycle in an adjacent parking lot. It was a 1975 Laverda. (I had never heard of one.) The bike was beautiful and had real class. I spoke to the owner, and was delighted to learn we knew some riders in common.

    This was a great post, as I knew a little something about all the players.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep
    Twisted Roads

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  5. Thanks Jack. It was, and still is, a gorgeous machine.

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  6. The Benelli Six. What a bike that was. It looked absolutely fantastic with three exhaust pipes on each side. Rarely seen on the road, I would loved to have ridden one. The Laverda was very popular in the UK back then and seeing a good one now just makes me smile.

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  7. Gary, I agree the pipes were the defining characteristic of that bike - beautiful. As for the Laverdas, not too many were sold on this side of the pond I don't think, so seeing one in the flesh, even back then, was quite uncommon. Even more so now.

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  8. I was just a lad in the seventies but I remember getting very excited about the Benelli Sei! It later got a big brother 900 version as well. The laverda I liked best back the was the three cylinder Jota and I have to admit to a passing infatuation with the Ducati 900 Darmah. I then saw a Honda CB1100R in the flesh and read about the antics of Rocket Ron Haslem winning the F1 title. I'm afraid I am one of those nice people on a Honda now!

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  9. On this side of the pond we're fortunate to see many of these machines on our roads. Over in France last year we were at a service area and watched 3 Sei's set off together. And yes, Ian always wanted one. Must be the six exhaust pipes that get everyone's attebtion.

    At one time I never thought that I would ever see a Henderson, but now have seen three. What a great machine and well worth the wait.

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  10. I may lust after exotics just like you, but my budget is pretty much limited to the UJM. (Universal Japanese Motorcycle.) Maybe some day - after the lottery or an illustrious career - I'll pick up something really cool, or even just an old Sandcast... But, dreaming is what makes life worth living.

    Brady
    Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life
    http://www.behindbarsmotorcycle.com/

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  11. Amazing how these things take us back. I've actually tried buying and riding some of the bikes I thought were so romantic from my early days only to find the romance missing.

    I guess we get spoiled by modern smoothness and performance. Don't have the patience these days for flaws disguised as "character".

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  12. irondad - That's so true - and applicable to so much more than just motorcycle reminiscences.

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