Laverda 500 Formula


Make Model

Laverda 500 Formula




Four stroke, parallel twin cylinders, DOHC, 4 valve per cylinder


497 cc / 30.2 cu-in
Bore x Stroke 72 x 61 mm
Cooling System Air cooled
Compression Ratio 10.2:1


2x 32mm Dell'Orto PHF  carburetors


Electric CDI 
Starting Electric

Max Power

52 hp / 38.7 kW @ 9500rpm


6 Speed
Final Drive Chain

Front Suspension

Marzocchi forks

Rear Suspension

Swinging arm fork, adjustable Marzocchi shock absorbers.

Front Brakes

2x 260mm discs 2 piston calipers

Rear Brakes

Single 260mm disc 1 piston caliper

Front Tyre

90/90 S18

Rear Tyre

110/90 H18

Dry Weight

154 kg / 339.5 lbs

Fuel Capacity

13.5 Litres / 3.5 US gal

Formula 500

With a production run of just 210 units the Formula 500 is one of the rarest of all Laverdas. Just three production batches were built with the first batch being released in March 1978 and the final batch in spring 1980. Conceived as a budget clubman’s bike and launched with its own one make race series the Formula was a very shrewd marketing strategy by Moto Laverda. The ‘Coppa Laverda’ ran in Italy for four years [78 to 81] with a sister Championship being run in Germany in ’79. A one-make race series was a bold move by Laverda and succeeded in promoting the 500 twins as serious sporting motorcycle. The one make race series concept was subsequently copied by various major manufacturers including Yamaha, Kawasaki and BMW.

The Formula 500 is simple concept, beautifully executed. The chassis is a standard Alpino unit, in fact the Formula is basically an Alpino ‘S’ with an upgraded engine fitted with a race fairing and fuel tank kit. A Formula engine has the S1 cam developed for the factory’s endurance racers, a set of 10.5 to 1 pistons, larger oil pump and, most significantly, a close ratio box. Series 1 F500s were fitted with long tapering megaphones with no cross over pipes. A set of attractive, sandcast rearsets were fitted along with Menani clip-ons with forward extensions. Standard clip-ons would have rendered the already cramped riding position unbearable for all but the smallest riders. The weight reduction created by the removal of the road equipment was offset slightly by the addition of the bodywork, but even so the Formula 500s stated weight was a useful 16kg less than the road bike. At 154KG the Formula could make good use of the 52bhp on offer from the uprated engine .

An attractive, white-faced Veglia tacho was the sole instrumentation with the redline commencing at 8500 rpm and each machine was equipped with a key operated ignition, a rather unusual feature on a race bike! A selling point of the Formula was that it came supplied with all the equipment necessary to register it for the road and so the ignition key was probably a concession to potential future road use. The Formulas were clothed in an attractive full fairing and initially were equipped with a one piece tank and seat unit, replaced on the series 2 version with the nicely sculpted Alpino S steel tank. A neat evolution of the Series 1 seat unit, now devoid of its somewhat boxy fuel tank, completed the ensemble making the 79/80 version the prettiest incarnation of the F500.

A third body work style was also released which incorporated an abbreviated ‘Kamm’ tail on the seat unit. This was a version created for the German race series. Series 2 Formulas also benefitted from the Sito exhaust system with its short stubby megaphones and collector box. This system later gained notoriety when fitted to the road going Montjuic as one of the loudest exhaust systems fitted to a production bike at that time. Power output was stated to be 52bhp @ 9500rpm.

One of the enduring myths that surround the Formula is that all the engines were blue printed and bench tested. It’s a nice thought but common sense suggests that it’s unlikely the factory could have afforded to lavish this level of care and attention on a budget club racer’s machine. To get the definitive answer on this I decided to ask Piero Laverda whether each engine was bench tested and this was his reply,

“some engines of the early production 500 Formula batch were bench tested, but not all F500 engines were tested in this way. At the new factory we had a small test track and also a fan-cooled rolling road installed next to the quality control department. All production machines were tested for a few laps of the track prior to dispatch or, if it was raining, we would test them on the rolling road. For the Formula 500 s we had a more rigorous final quality control and we also ran them in on the rolling road for 20 to 30 minutes to run the engines in”

Riding impressions

I`ve been fortunate enough to campaign a Formula 500 in UK hill climbs and sprints and therefore feel qualified to offer an informed riding impression. The first thing a rider notices is how compact and diminutive the bike feels, the size is more in keeping with a 250 than a 500. The tall first gear [a feature of the close ratio box] means that a degree of clutch slip is required if the machine is on long circuit gearing. Once away the Formula doesn’t feel dramatically fast but so long as the revs are kept above 6000rpm the acceleration steadily surges right up to 6 thgear.

The main impression of the Formula is that it’s working with the rider rather than fighting against him; it changes direction effortlessly and the standard Alpino chassis always feels nicely composed and up the job. This comes as no surprise given the relatively modest power increase. The engine is very smooth at high revs and will rev happily to 10,000 and beyond. There is little point revving beyond the 9500rpm where it reaches peak power; experienced Formula 500 and Montjuic racers will testify that if the engine is operated with strict adherence to the 9500rpm limit the engine is a tough reliable unit. If 10,000rpm is exceeded on a regular basis the life of the motor can be drastically shortened!

The efficient, Borghesan designed fairing is an excellent shape with a surprisingly tall screen. The profile is perfect for the rider to get in a racing tuck and still have a clear view through the screen.

A 150kg machine with a modest power output is always going to be user friendly but the Formula’s impeccable track behaviour can really flatter a rider’s ability. The handling is excellent and very forgiving. It’s so easy to wind the throttle on early in a corner that you soon learn that a smoothly ridden Formula will carry lots of corner speed compensating for its modest power output. It’s an ideal clubman’s machine.