Saturday, January 15, 2011

Vintage Motorcycle Show - Motocross a Go Go

My mental vacation interest in vintage motocross cranked up a few notches today with a visit to a nearby vintage show. The show featured many old school motocross and other dirt bikes that remind me of my era of involvement "back in the day" of riding every weekend with like minded friends.

The show was held at a large motorcycle dealership in Renton (that be Washington) - Harley, Japanese brands, indoor track, pub - big complex. I learned of the show after poking around a vintage motocross site I frequent occasionally. There appears to be quite the vintage motocross scene here in the Pacific Northwest.

No one else in the family was interested in looking at "old motorcycles" and elected to stay home. My neighbor who also is interested in two wheeled moto devices was out. Another old two wheeled pal, pedal and moto powered, already hit the show earlier in the day. So I visited the show solo, which turned out to be kind of cool and I enjoyed some rare time to myself.

Some pictures and notes from the day.....

1974 Yamaha YZ250 that appears to be set up for current day vintage racing, though from super clean appearance - not sure if actually ridden. This thing is impressively clean and well done. Modern aluminum swingarm and Work Performance shocks in the rear. Newer, undamaged expansion chamber, perfect tank - very nice.

1968 ('69?) Suzuki Twin Pipe 250. If my history is correct, the first production motocross bike for Suzuki and pretty rare to find one today. This one completely restored. Some old school history in the flesh, uh - metal.

Hodaka Road Toad 100 - either completely restored, just unsealed from secret basement, or arrived via time machine from the '70s for the show. Looks brand new. Hodaka started many on their dirt bike adventures starting in the late '60s and up 'til 1980 or so, when they folded up shop. The company was based out of Oregon and is still fondly remembered to this day. I've never owned a Hodaka, but knew people that did back in the heyday. I always thought they were a cool, underdog, fun company - with model names like Super Rat, Combat Wombat, Thunder Dog and yes, Road Toad.

1976 Bultaco Sherpa T 125 looking as it did in '76, not restored, but ready to ride. During the '70s dirt bike boom, the sport of observed trials was reported to be the "next big thing". That never happened, but for awhile it was growing in the U.S. with many bikes available, the best from Spain - Bultaco, Montesa and Ossa. I dabbled a bit with trials at the time, so I'm pretty familiar with the old iron. Been decades since I've seen any of these bikes up close however.

Mid '70s Bultaco 250 Pursang. The blue paint, the down pipe, the old school stance - yes please. During my riding days, a local rider named Greg owned a '75 Pursang just like this. Very fast smooth rider, I can still picture him battling my old pal Todd on his '76 Suzuki RM125A at our local practice track. This is probably the first time I've stood next to a Pursang since those days.

Very clean, nicely restored - and currently raced - Ossa 250. I spoke to the owner for a bit and he gave me the lowdown on vintage motocross racing. It all sounds very tempting to old school me. However, time and money won't allow such festivities for the foreseeable future. He mentioned a three moto race day is possible with a single bike - by displacement size, age of rider, etc. He also mentioned riders 70 and older race for free. That gives me something to look forward to...

Early '70s Husqvarna CR400 in perfectly restored state. It probably didn't look this good off the showroom floor when new. Insanely clean, right down to the custom stand cover. My old riding pal Don rode a '75 Husky CR250, similar looking to this one, years ago.

Honda 50 memory flashback machine. A few of these buzzed around my neighborhood during my childhood. Bumming the occasional ride was always a thrill.

Frankenstein BSA with Harley-Davidson motor. You gotta wonder what this thing sounds like. The cool thing is the recent dirt and vintage racing plate - meaning it's ridden and raced.

Another Harley-Davidson dirt bike, though this one a bit more capable. During the '70s, the Harley AMF years, they put out various dirt bikes, including this full motocross model in '78. The dirt bikes were actually manufactured in Italy by Aermacchi, that Harley-Davidson owned at the time. This one appears to be the super sano museum piece, first time I've seen one for real, though I remember reading about them during that era. The '77 model (if I'm not mistaken) used front forks for the rear suspension.

The CZ days were basically over during my involvement with motocross. You'd occasionally see one at the track, usually super modified with laid down shocks, longer travel fork, snail pipe and other mods. I've never ridden one, but they always fascinated me with their cobbled together look, aluminum coffin tank and MX history. I always wanted a CZ - and when I visit Fantasy Island, where time and money allow such tomfoolery as vintage motocross racing - that would be one of my main choices of machine to hurt myself on. A boy can dream can't he?

I didn't catch the year, displacement, or why a rubber weapon is affixed to the front fender of this fine example of CZ.

One area, of a few, from the show. Many examples of old school iron to gawk at. Impressive number of bikes and people showed up.

There were a few nice Elsinores on display, including this very clean 250. Yes please, I'll take it.

More vintage trials bikes to observe, including this Montesa Cota 172. During the '70s, a friend of mine and his family were very into observed trials. In their garage was a Montesa Cota 123, very similar to this one, that they loaned me at times. It was cool to see this one today.

1981 Maico 490 looking capable as ever. Air cooled two-stroke, drum brakes, yet serious suspension. Call me crazy, but with a talented rider - I think something like this would still be competitive today. And if not competitive against modern motocross technology - still damn cooler looking.

Nicely set up 1978 Suzuki RM250 - sweet. I'd dig riding one of these today, no question. Reminds me of my '79 Suzuki RM125N that I rode and raced years ago.

1978 CZ 125 - a rare bird indeed. By '78, CZ was totally out of the picture, for production bikes anyway, especially for smaller displacement models. That be a really interesting bike to own today.

1978 Bultaco Pursang 250 in the familiar blue color. By '78, Bultaco motocross bikes were no longer as competitive as previous years, but I've always dug 'em. Their observed trials bikes were still world leaders during that era however.

1977 Can-am 250 MX in orange and black. Back in the day, Can-ams were known for serious power, but sub-par handling. I still wanted one. During high school, my school bus would pass a small boat dealer that carried Can-am for a short while. They'd have 'em lined up outside in front of the shop. Every trip home I'd have my face glued to the bus window checking 'em out.

Fantastic looking '75 Kawasaki KX250 with aluminum swingarm, Works Performance shocks, black rims - wow.

1974 Yamaha YZ 125 twin - yes, twin cylinders. I've read a few million magazines back in the day, but have no memory of anything like this. I'm not sure what the history of this bike is. Something I've forgotten about? Some home brew special? Whatever the story, probably the most interesting bike of the show.

See? Would I lie? Two, count 'em - two. It almost looks like a mini RD motor. Amazing. So, depending on actual displacement - two 60cc cylinders. What does this thing rev to?

Dual expansion chamber set up. Wild stuff. I'd love to hear this thing run.

1974 Yamaha TY80 looking new. Mini observed trials bike for kids, very cool at the time. My friend Todd owned one during that era. I still remember riding it to this day.

My personal favorite bike of the show - super clean '74 Suzuki TM100. I am biased though, since I owned a '74 Suzuki TM125 back in '76. Just seeing that yellow tank and green graphics clinches it for me.

Another Hodaka, this time a 125 Combat. Once into the mid '70s, no longer competitive racing wise, though that didn't stop some people from modifying 'em and giving it a go. I'd like to own one of these now, just to keep saying "Combat Wombat" over and over.

The kids may not know that during the '70s, KTMs were imported under the Penton label - as in the famous Penton family - that contains much dirt bike history, especially in the enduro and ISDT arena. This 250 a great example of '70s euro motocross goodness.

1974 Maico 400 looking vintage race ready. Also really similar to a '75 Maico 400 my old pal Kevin rode back in the day. Maico, similar to CZ, at least the older ones, always looked a bit crude to me - but they worked well.

1972 Maico 400 ready for old school action. Man, look at the pipe and silencer. This was a just a few years before my era, but I remember reading about 'em in magazines, from a pile given to me from a riding pal's dad. I wish I had that pile of mags now, would be cool to thumb through 'em again.

Museum quality restoration of a side pipe CZ. I'd bet it didn't look this shiny when first shipped from Czechoslovakia in 1970. Still fun to look at today however.

1966 Matchless - now we're really talking old school. This was the tail end of the four stroke era, before the lighter and faster two-strokes took over the world of motocross. Of course, now that four strokes once again rule the world of motocross, things have come full circle. However, as us old school dudes know - the modern game is rigged for various reasons, all but eliminating two-strokes from the scene. That debate for a different time and place.

This now concludes yet another trip down motocross memory lane. The show was not a bad way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon. There were many bikes on display, more then I pictured and described. I haven't ridden dirt bikes since 1981, but still get a kick out of seeing and talking about this old era of motocross and other dirt bike action. It truly was the golden age of the sport, even if we (or I) sounds like old dude saying so. It really was a great era with many good memories.

Thanks for reading and checking out the pictures. Smell the Bel-Ray. Let the two-stroke sound ring in your head forever.

P.S.  Update - attended 2012 version of this show.  If interested, click here.  And also 2014 event here.


  1. WoW, I am so salivating over the 'eye candy' back when I was riding dirt with bikes with motors my bro was riding a HoDaKa

  2. I had a friend in the '70s who rode a Hodaka modified into a observed trials bike - complete with homemade frame - designed and manufactured by another riders dad. Another friend had the Hodaka Super Rat motocross bike.

    I also remember visiting a Hodaka shop that was located in a backyard - separate outbuilding with a nice retail shop. The guy ran it on nights and weekends, think it was "Walt's Hodaka". This was around 1975 or so, quite awhile ago.

    My interest in all this has been part of a winter mental vacation. Yeah, if the money truck crashed into the house, I'd probably get involved. Otherwise, bicycles are still #1 to me. I do have a bit of a dirt motorcycle background however - pretty easy to catch me interest once again.

  3. Some great looking bikes here. Thanks for sharing the photos of them with us.

  4. Hello. Iam Sascha from germany and looking for Parts of a CZ 125-511. Fenders, Alloy Tanker and Sidecovers.

    Thank you

  5. @Sascha. Thanks for checking out my blog. Besides occasionally revisiting my old dirt bike days via the Internet and the recent show - I have no access to CZ or other parts.

    Check out eBay, an incredible resource for that sort of thing. A few Google searches should find you some CZ specialists as well. Good luck!

  6. Why is it the 60's-70's or so mx:ers look more interesting and BEAUTIFUL than today's machines. Is it because this was when I raced them? Would I race mx today: not on the crap 4-strokes available, I'd sooner race a Hedlund or Lito X-cam special, a REAL 4-stroke.

    By the way, Swedish 'expert' as I am, the '73ish Husky 5-speed looks to be one of the specials the factory made for the Trans-Am. The swing-arm looks to be the titanium version, the cases sandcast magnesium, it has a reed-valve and radial-head, plus the 'works' Lyta tank, and the fork-clamps are alloy. All these items were being tested in late '73.

    Neither Mikkola, Aberg or Kring were interested in riding the still non-competitive 400 'Iron Horse', 'Flying Brick', 'Concrete Chicane' - use which name you prefer, that was what we Swedes called the damn things inbetween swear-words! Beware the cases cracking around the kickstart area, welding doesn't help, only new cases. 2-3 new cases per year was the norm here in Sweden. The fabulous 6-speed 360 Mikkola won the '74 championship on was a last second development (fired by a stinging tongue-in-cheek comment from Mikkola) and initially done during the winter '73-'74 at the Gothenburg University workshops by a Volvo engineer known to the HVA guys. Once he proved it was viable (I have a couple of photos) they worked a 24/7 8 week non-stop blinder to make a more reliable unit.

    But I'd love to have that 400 Trans-Am special!

  7. @Anonymous. Thanks for all the Husky history and info. I dig the older Husqvarna models as well.

    Yeah - the older bikes just look better to me also. Everyone has their era of what "looked right". For me, it would be the late '70s: Air cooled two-strokes, drum brakes, but long travel suspension.

  8. Anon again: add the 'square', braced cylinder. The forks are the later '75 ribbed mag ones, slightly deeper ribs in '76 (I raced a '76 CR250 for 3 years) this because the brakeplate was still secured in a slot on the lower leg which caused it to snap after a season. But the fork-legs could have been retro-fitted for this very reason. It's very possible this bike was to be tested at the Trans-Am and then used in the World Championships. First time I've ever seen a 400 like that, they never raced one over here.
    Mikkola was over the moon when he was told his 'Put a bl##dy 400 cylinder on the lightweight mag-250, for chrissakes!' had stung the guys into asking if they could actually do that (Bultaco had a very short stroke 360). The Volvo-Special used an old turned-down '68 360 crank and 'shaved' conrod (VERY tight squeeze!) making it a 380, but HVA went for the shorter stroke and thus slightly stronger cases. Urban Larsson, the ex-Jönsered chainsaw engineer who asked to swap over to the bikes when HVA bought the company bristled when it was suggested his mag cases were too 'delicate' for mx, even on a mere 250. "No. For a 360, yes, a production bike, but not for a GP-bike where you swap engines every 3-4 GP's. Not much is needed to strengthen them for a production 360 you could race for several seasons. Give me the money and I'll have the new production cases ready in a month."
    Larsson was a genius regarding high-pressure thin-wall die-castings in magnesium. His HVA's were 6-speed chainsaws on wheels. I have NEVER heard of anyone having a problem with them. During the 3 years and 25,000kms I practiced and raced my 250 I only changed pistons and rings. Never touched the rest, not a screw in the engine was ever unscrewed. But magnesium can age if not looked after properly. Warm and dry, away from chemicals, even oil and petrol. Anything steel touching the magnesium has probably corroded it by now, I would be slightly nervous of a mag-engine today.
    The 360 was an instant success, fully up to beating De Coster and his Suzuki (The Rog went wide-eyed, I'm told, Suzuki's spies hadn't told him of THIS new bike). Mikkola knew he could win, as long as HVA didn't overdo the development as they always had before, insisting this Volvo guy approve all the changes. He did, even attending some GP's. Several versions were tested during the GP's, rear suspensions too, but during the second half of the season Mikkola used only the one bike, now a genuine pre-production prototype. "It's good now, leave it alone and just let me ride it." The only failure was the air-filter race, when the filter clogged on the last lap, but that was an exceptionally dusty race, ALL the others barely made it too, even DeCoster.
    If you want the photos I have of the Volvo-Special email Have them on a CD somewhere.

  9. hey Dan

    I just found your story about the Vintage Bike Show.
    Looking good - may I link to it?

    - SIEGE

  10. @Siege - sure, link away. That would be cool.

  11. Wow, what a great website...had a proper trip down memory lane.
    Absolutely love the Maicos and Bultacos; nice one!

  12. welcome to world of vintage racing, get back out there, I'm 61 and still racing with AHRMA I have a 71 and 63 Maico and a Tribsa 500 twin

  13. I'd dig it for sure. I'm currently 50 years old and still fairly fit from plenty of mountain biking.

    With any luck, money and time will allow something to race the occasional AHRMA event. That may be awhile however.

    Until then, will get a kick out of dabbling with vintage MX scene as a spectator.

  14. Thank you for the pictures. Just came in from the shop where i am restoring my 1970 orange tank CZ 360. i last rode it in 1980. now at age 72 i decided to get it running and looking good again

  15. @Anonymous - cool, sounds like a fun project.

  16. Thanks for taking me back to a great time in my life of riding. So many of these bikes were around our local track. Wow, great to see. - Dan V

  17. Regarding the "Frankenstein BSA with a Harley-Davidson engine, that chassis may have held a BSA engine at one time but the chassis is Rickman. They built these chassis and put others engines in them ala Champion.
    I seem to recall in the early 70's that they may not have been selling the thumper anymore but offered a 125 Zundapp engine or a 250 Montesa which a cousin of mine bought used just beyond its prime. Just happy that I got to ride a fine classic once.
    I couldn't say for sure what the V-twin pictured came out of.

  18. Regarding the "Frankenstein BSA with a Harley-Davidson engine, that chassis may have held a BSA engine at one time but the chassis is Rickman. They built these chassis and put others engines in them ala Champion.
    I seem to recall in the early 70's that they may not have been selling the thumper anymore but offered a 125 Zundapp engine or a 250 Montesa which a cousin of mine bought used just beyond its prime. Just happy that I got to ride a fine classic once.
    I couldn't say for sure what the V-twin pictured came out of.