TRIPLE - ORIGINS
In most English-speaking markets the triple - and more especially the 'Jota' - is the Laverda that people recognise. At the time of its release the machine was a powerhouse, predating by a several years the arrival of the litre-bikes from Japan it captured the imagination of the world market at a time when too much was never enough.
The first Triple prototype was exhibited at the Milan show of 1969, this initial prototype was very much a three cylinder version of the 750 in that the cylinder head and general engine layout was virtually identical to the 750 aside of course from the extra cylinder. The bulk of the engine dictated a loop frame rather than the spine of the 750, but otherwise it was very similar. The bike's showing in Milan caused quite a stir, and the pressure was on for Laverda to get the bike into production.
After the sensation of the first showing, the triple project was started in earnest but it took quite some time before the second prototype emerged. Much had changed between the two prototypes, in fact the general features (aside from the camdrive) of the engine remained virtually unchanged through to the production version.
Difficulties in casting the hugely complex '750-style' head combined with performance and marketing considerations to dictate a change to twin overhead camshafts. The engine featured an almost 'flat' cylinder head with separate 'boxes' for both inlet and exhaust cams operating the two valves per cylinder via shim-and-bucket adjustment. Drive to the camshafts was via a rubber belt on the right-side of the engine, bore and stroke were 75x74mm, the same as the original 650. The trademark triplex primary chain drove a revised clutch and similar five-speed gearbox.
Along with concerns about the longevity of the belt drive - a technology in its infancy at that time - the aesthetics of the camdrive were not deemed suitable and it was subsequently changed to a single row chain between cylinders 2 and 3 for the final version which also reverted to a single piece head with each camshaft running in three separate bearing blocks all covered by a deep one-piece rocker cover.
Achieving a suitable balance for a three cylinder engine was at this time a bit of a conundrum, this being prior to the common use of balance shafts. The rocking couple involved in the normal 120 degree crank phasing was deemed unsuitable for such a large engine and thus the crankpins were spaced at 180 degrees meaning the outer two pistons rose and fell together and the middle piston was at the bottom of it's stroke when the others were at the top. This configuration does not have any nasty rocking couple, only a vertical imbalance similar to a single or 360-degree vertical twin and even this is partially removed by the middle cylinder 180 degrees apart.
Although sounding somewhat counter-intuitive, this produced an engine that was remarkably smooth at low to moderate revs and has the very positive by-product of having a completely unique off-beat lilting exhaust note. It would become a feature much-loved by it's owners and completely unique to the marque.