1986/1987: AF1 50 - Type AB
The AF1 50 of 1986, type AB characterized by the homologation code OM 52107, is the first real small road bike designed as a motorbike of larger displacement. Until then, the only serious proposal was the 1984 Malaguti RGT which, however, had an antiquated line with outdated equipment.
Of the Italian manufacturers of small displacement motorbikes, Aprilia has always been the most attentive to the fashions of the moment and the most active in presenting a young product that appeals to young people. The small AF1 is therefore an absolute milestone in this sense.
The AF1 50 '86 is also the first AF1 ever to be produced and in fact went on sale a year earlier than its big sister the AF1 125 of 1987.
The AF1 is a bike that wants to excite immediately and it starts to do so right from the name. In fact, AF1 means "Aprilia F1", where "F1" is a clear reference to the world of motor racing. An Aprilia marketing idea that links the term F1, which means engineering excellence, to the name of the house of Noale.
The styling of the little AF1 is really beautiful and the vibrant white/blue/red colour scheme really offers something new to the 14-year-olds of the time. During 1987, a second red/black colour scheme also arrived. The price in 1986 is 3,280,000 lira for the full optional version with rear disc brake and electric starter. (Lire 2,980,000 for the basic version with rear drum brake and kick starter).
The chassis of the AF1 50 is truly remarkable. Never before has a simple fifty been so daring.
The perimeter steel frame immediately suggests the performance it is capable of handling is well above code speed. The suspension makes use of an Aprilia 30 mm fork and a rear shock absorber combined with the APS suspension working on a steel swingarm. The braking system makes use of a 220 mm front disc and a 220 mm disc (or 118 mm drum) at the rear. The lenticular wheels are 16" at the front and 17" at the rear.
The engine is the familiar Minarelli RV4 four-speed liquid-cooled lamellar intake engine characterised by a thermal unit designed to Aprilia specifications. The same thermal unit that also equips the Etx and Tuareg enduros. A further distinguishing feature compared to the competition that uses the same engine, but with a "basic" thermal unit.
APRILIA AF1 50 PROJECT 108 '88
Two years after the presentation of the AF1 50, in 1988 Aprilia radically renewed its road-going 50, which now resembled its bigger sister, the Sintesi 125, in every way.
Curiously, the new AF1 50 '88 adopted the name of the AF1 125 '87, i.e. Project 108. A reason probably to be found in Aprilia marketing's desire to emphasise the adoption of the single-sided swingarm (called "Project 108"), which was adopted for the first time on a small fifty.
Only one colour is available and the price is Lire 3,350,000 with, unlike the previous version, electric starter and rear disc as standard.
There are many changes compared to the AF1 '86 and indeed the new AF1 50 comes out as a brand new model. Basically, only the Minarelli RV4 engine and the instrumentation remain unchanged. Let's see the changes adopted:
- New frame, also in steel, featuring a new seatpost frame, also welded to the frame.
- The suspension sees the adoption of a revised fork operation and new steering plates. At the rear, the familiar APS suspension is revised to work with the new single-sided steel swingarm.
- The braking system is new, with a new front master cylinder, caliper and disc. A new rear master cylinder, brake calliper and rear disc are also used. The diameter of both discs remains the same as the previous version, namely 220 mm.
- The spoked wheels are new in design and maintain the diameter of their predecessors, namely 16" at the front and 17" at the rear.
- The rider footrest brackets are still made of steel and welded to the frame, but now the rider footrests are smaller and sportier aluminium.
- The bridge has new handlebars and a new clutch control.
- The muffler has a new expansion and a new end cap.
APRILIA AF1 50 '89
The AF1 50 '89 once again takes up the lines of its bigger 125cc sister and for the first time is also offered in a Replica version, dedicated to the Belgian De Radigues who replaces Loris Reggiani for the '89 season.
The replica colour was not the only one on offer, however, and in fact a white/red colour was introduced that echoed that seen on the previous version. The price in 1989 is 3,640,000 liras with electric starter included.
Compared to the previous model, the changes are concentrated in a new and sportier Veglia Borletti instrumentation that is practically identical to that mounted on the 125 and a new large diameter front brake disc.
The engine is adapted to the new Code regulations that now limit the number of gear ratios to three and a new power unit is adopted. The Minarelli engine is updated and renamed RV3.
Let's take a look at the changes made:
- The nose has smaller, rounded headlights instead of the flat ones on the previous Project 108 and has a central air intake that adds to the appearance. The fuel tank is made of plastic with a plastic tank cover with a lockable cap cover flap.
- New Veglia Borletti instrumentation with large diameter rev counter and separate km counter on the left.
- The frame is completely smooth, rather than having corrugated downbeams, and it also has welded pilot pedal guards (absent on Project 108).
- The fork is revised and a new steering plate with printed "AF1" logo is adopted. The "B" version, a production upgrade, has a second type fork with raised dust cover. The shock absorber and swingarm remain unchanged, but adopt a different shade of grey in the paintwork.
- The braking system remains largely unchanged, although the front end gets a new 290 mm disc with a new caliper and a different mount.
- The Minarelli RV3 engine adopts a new gearbox limited to just three gears. As a consequence Aprilia redesigns the thermal unit which is improved to favour more torque and therefore trying to limit the discomfort given by only three gears. This is a modification studied by Aprilia and adopted on the entire 50 '89 range. In addition, the AF1 50 also adopts a new expansion with a different final drive. The final drive ratios vary.
Probably to dispose of the RV4 engine banks, on several RV3s, the fourth gear is simply locked. On newer RV3s, it is removed completely. Therefore, to find out if the gear exists or not, simply shift the transmission into third gear and 'search' for the top gear by trying to move the gear lever. If the lever moves up, without obviously engaging the gear, it means that the fourth gear cog is present and locked. If, on the other hand, the lever does not move, then the gear has been removed.