Investigating a Laverda I only glimpsed in a single photo from the Deus parking lot has led me to a garage in Hawthorne, CA. The bike was a 1975 Laverda endurance race replica built to the nines. My intention was to shoot it for BikeExif and get to know both owner and builder. Four hours later I walked out of the same garage absolutely dumbfounded. "Who the hell is this guy?"
His name is Takashi Iwamoto and he builds motorcycles. Born is Tokuhsima, Japan, Takashi has been around motorcycles since he was 15 years old. He was 16 when he first rebuilt an engine, working as a part-time mechanic. He said his brother was his biggest influence as a kid. "He taught me how to ride on his Yamaha RZ250."
In 1992, he moved to Los Angeles to work for the now defunct J-Classic. He was hired solely to build Eddie Lawson Kawasaki S1 replicas using race parts. He built them so well that Eddie's manager, while he was with Cagiva, called to ask if Eddie could test ride the S1 replica. They delivered the bike and Eddie rode up and down the twisty canyons in full factory regalia. Eddie said he was very impressed with the bike. Cycle World printed an article about that day.
Takashi is a man of many talents. He taught himself how to play the violin and the piano. A corner in his shop is dedicated to his love of both instruments. He is also self taught in the art of metal working. His aluminum gas tanks are beautifully formed works of art.
Of all the things in his shop he holds one above all others. "This is what I value the most," he says as he shows me a red folder. In it are pages of detailed notes and prints. Collected through countless years, his most precious possession is a folder full of literature, diagrams, handwritten and drawn details of factory race bikes. There are no blueprints of old factory bikes available to the public so when he gets the opportunity to see or work on one he records the data. He flips to a page and shows me a drawing of a hand. The rough dimensions of an MV Agusta factory triple clamp measure from the tip of his thumb to the tip of his pinky.
A wall of out of print literature is also his pride possession. Everything is in those books. "I can build many factory race replicas from these pages." It is obvious that his knowledge far exceeds the practical and extends fully into the academic.
His passion is fed by '50's and early '80's race bikes. The top of the heap would be the 1966 Honda RC149. The 125cc engine is a marvel in racing history. The world's first inline 5 engine blew away its competitors and won the Manufacturers' and Riders' Championships in 1966.
Takashi shows me pictures of what the internals of the RC149 look like. The pistons were the size of a 35mm film case and each valve is 11.5mm in size. It has the precision of a swiss timepiece. The motor's maximum output is an altitudinous 20,500 rpm. You can why this is all the big fuss. It would be an engineering challenge to do this even today.
These days Takashi is concentrating his efforts on building race replicas for the street. That is the concept of his shop. He wants to build detailed race replicas but they must all be street legal so that you can enjoy riding them everyday. Looking around his shop and seeing what he is capable of achieving, I am putting myself on that list.
Thanks for sharing your story, Takashi. Also big thanks to Hiro for helping with the translations. Hope to see you again soon to talk more on maybe a bevel twin endurance racer build. A guy can dream...
Gallery: Laverda SF2
BikeExif story on the Laverda: SF2 resto-mod
Takashi Iwamoto | Cascade Cafe Racer Product | email@example.com