BULTACO – Spain

A dedication to Bultaco Trial Motorcycles:

This Trials Guru special section is dedicated to the Bultaco brand created by the founder of the limited company called: Compañia Española De Motores in the town of  Sant Adrià de Besòs, a municipality of the city of Barcelona, Spain. The founder being the forward thinking and passionate motorcycle competitor Francesco Xavier Bultó, from where the Bultaco name was coined. The trade mark CEMOTO was an acronym of the company name  Compañia Española de Motores.

IMG_4647

A sea of Bultacos – Photo courtesy: Merce Gou/Motocat, Barcelona


Sherpa N - brochure

Bultaco Sherpa N – The forerunner and baseline model from which the Sherpa T was developed – Image: Bultaco Motorcycles

The ‘Sherpa T’ is born:

‘Paco’ Bultó as he was known, had been in partnership with Pere Permanyer in the company Permanyer and Bultó which manufactured the rival Montesa brand. After a disagreement, which resulted in the withdrawal of Montesa from racing, and therefore change the direction of the business, Bultó dissolved the partnership with Permanyer and eventually set up his own company in 1958. This was staffed by ex-Montesa employees who had great respect for Bulto. He had been persuaded by the support of the Montesa racing department staff who helped set up the new enterprise.

Bulto’s son, Ignacio explained to Trials Guru’s John Moffat in June 2017 that it was a long story but it involved nephew’s of his mother who F.X. Bulto had secured employment for at the Montesa factory. It appeared that they had reported Bulto as wasting money with the company’s racing enterprises, this annoyed Bulto as the board had taken decisions behind his back when he had been on a business trip to the USA to secure supplies of piston rings. This wa sto signal Bulto’s departure from the boar of Permanyer and Bulto.

However this eventually led to a fierce rivalry between the two organisations as the years progressed. F.X. Bultó was a sporting motorcyclist, he was a former competitor and had ridden in events such as the International Six Days Trial, he attended the Isle of Man TT races, racing was in his blood.

The initial launch model 1, the Bultaco Tralla 101 was made in 1959 at the Bultó farm called San Antonio before moving to the factory at Sant Adrià de Besòs, sometime later.

Bultaco produced small capacity two-stroke machines for road use, but it’s heart lay in competition. Paco Bultó being a fan of the TT Races had always been keen to develop the TSS models for road racing.

1965 trial sandy miller

Grenoble, 1964 – Oriol Puig Bulto on a Bultaco Sherpa with ‘Bambi’ Valera watching. Oriol was a nephew of Snr. Bulto, the Bultaco company founder. Photo: Cristina Valera Fandos Archive.

The firm produced the Sherpa models for off-road use. The Sherpa N (model 4) was a dual purpose ‘trail’ machine powered by the firm’s 155cc then later their 196cc single cylinder two-stroke motor.

It was this model that became the basis for the Sherpa T, developed first by the founder’s nephew, Juan Soler Bultó and then taken to new heights by the engagement of Sammy Miller as a development rider. Miller was contracted to develop and ride for Bultaco, this was announced in the motorcycle press in the October of 1964, but secret testing and improvements made to the prototype Bultaco had taken place several months earlier, in company with his friend Roy Peplow, when Miller was still contracted to Ariels. The initial introduction of Sammy Miller to F.X. Bultó was made by Harry Lindsay, the Dublin motorcycle dealer and entrepreneur who imported the Bultaco brand to Ireland.

SHM - Bultaco Sherpa 1964 - Manel Soler photo

Sammy Miller captured during the secret test sessions in 1964 at San Antonio, the farm of F.X. Bulto. Here he is testing the modified Sherpa N Prototype which would evolve into the Sherpa T. At this point, the forks are devoid of the forward mounted spindle and Miller would request the capacity increased to 244 from 196cc – Photo copyright: Manuel Soler, Spain

Sammy Miller insisted that the motor used be enlarged to that of a two-fifty from 196cc for trials use and the original development Sherpa was close enough at 244cc using a 72 mm bore and 60 mm stroke with a wheelbase of 51.5 inches.

Sammy Miller - Sherpa T

Sammy Miller with one of the development Bultaco Sherpa T machines – Photo: Bultaco Motorcycles

The early Sherpa motor was a four-speeder with a distinctive ‘radial’ finned cylinder head. Miller’s first big win on his 1964 prototype/development Sherpa (registered as 669NHO in November 1964, in Hampshire) which would later be produced as the Sherpa T was unquestionably the 1965 Scottish Six Days Trial in the May that year. The SSDT was rated as the toughest test of a trials machine in the world and the win would generate volume sales for the Spanish concern. Miller’s victory, carrying number 156 on the development Sherpa finally signalled the end of the heavyweight four-stroke trials machine, consigning them to museums and raised the bar for all two-stroke trial machine manufacturers.

The 1965 production model 10 Sherpa T was undoubtedly a true Sammy Miller replica. In 1959, Royal Enfield in the UK produced their Bullet trials model ‘works replica’ and so Bultaco followed suit with their true ‘works replica’ in Miller’s name.

Reg May mod10 - Heath

One of the very first Bultaco Sherpa T model 10 to be imported to the UK in 1965 and registered in the April in Guildford, Surrey was this one, owned and ridden by the late Reg May of Comerfords, now owned by his son John – Photo copyright Heath Brindley, Bristol

Miller: “I don’t listen to stories, I’m only interested in facts”

In an interview at the Scottish Motorcycle Show in March 2001, Sammy Miller told Trials Guru representative, John Moffat: “John, I don’t listen to stories, I’m only interested in facts! The Pre’65 movement did not just happen, I know some people take the credit for coining the phrase, but it was really not pre’65 it was ‘post Sammy Miller goes to Bultaco’. When I moved from Ariels and all the secret testing that had gone before in a ‘hush-hush’ manner, this signalled a sea-change in motorcycle trials. When I moved to Bultaco the game changed completely and that allowed the birth of what we now know as pre’65 trials“.

bultaco 669NHO - Heath B

Sammy Miller’s Bultaco Sherpa T Model 10 (1964) in his New Milton Museum – Photo copyright: Heath Brindley

The first UK importer of the Bultaco Sherpa T was the Rickman Brothers, Don and Derek based in New Milton, Hampshire who were the makers of Metisse motocross frame kits and already had an association with the Spanish company through motocross. Rickmans developed the Bultaco engined Metisse adopted by Bultaco as their model 11 in 1964 before the production of Bultaco’s own motocross ‘Pursang’ first in prototype form as the model 25 then the Pursang Mk2 model 42 in 1967.

Sherpa mod 10 data

The first series Sherpa T ‘Sammy Miller’ model 10 as it appeared in the Bultaco Sherpa T brochure in 1965 – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Miller’s 1965 SSDT victory was to be repeated again in 1967 and 1968, the 1966 trial was won by Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin the middle Lampkin brother on his factory BSA C15T (748MOE). However Lampkin himself would be Bultaco mounted some short years later and so would his younger brother H. Martin Lampkin, who would take Bultaco to a new height, that of the first World Trials Champions in 1975.

Mod 10 second series - DC

A second series, Sherpa T model 10 ‘Sammy Miller’ still in very original condition and still in regular use today – Photo copyright: David Coughlan, Waterford, Ireland

The introduction of the first four-speed, 244cc Sherpa T model was to revolutionise the trials world when sold to the public. Known in Spain as the ‘model 10 – Sammy Miller’. Modest riders found the machine nimble, controllable and tractable, with only minor adjustments, straight from the crate. Many riders of the day felt that riding the Sherpa in competition improved their results.

mickandrews

Mick Andrews rode for Rickman Brothers on a Sherpa T in 1966 before moving to Ossa

Miller was so confident in the Bultaco Sherpa T that he had a clause written into his factory contract that if he didn’t win fifty percent of the events entered, then Bultó did not have to pay him!

Straight from the Sherpa N model, the Sherpa T was produced with a forward mounted front wheel spindle, which was very helpful in eliminating ‘tuck-under’ on steep drops in sections. The front wheel spindle location was retained throughout the Sherpas entire production run. The front forks were made by the Spanish suspension manufacturer Betor to Bultacos specification. It is believed that the rival ‘Telesco’ concern made some 32mm front forks fitted to some Bultaco models. However, Bultaco maintained a strong connection with the Betor concern right up to their demise of Bultaco in 1985 with the final model 199B Sherpa T fitted with Betor units.

Development was at the forefront of Paco Bultó’s mind, he was never a man to rest on his laurels, so subtle changes were made to the Sherpa T and a second series production model 10 with a revised fuel tank for late 1965, early 1966. This was followed in 1967 by a new model with a five-speed gearbox to which the gear shaft position was moved more forward and protruded through the primary chaincase, whereas the model 10 had a separate small casing at the rear of the primary casing. It also had a more conventionally finned cylinder head and was referred to as the Sherpa T model.27, known in Spain as the ‘San Antonio’ as the motor was nick-named as such during development and after Bultó’s ranch.

Bultaco EAA60D poster

Sammy Miller shown here on his mod.27 Sherpa EAA60D in an official Bultaco poster and sales leaflet – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Miller had sold his original prototype (669NHO) and used his prototype model 27 (EAA60D) to win the 1967 & ’68 SSDT followed by his prototype model 49 (ROU5G).

50 years - Motocat

The 50th anniversary of the ‘Sherpa T’ model launch in 1965 was celebrated at the Circuit of Barcelona race circuit on 12 July 2015. This is the official poster showing Miller on his 1968 Sherpa (ROU5G) – Photo: Merce Gou/Motocat

 

50aniv-bultaco-logo

The logo of the celebrations of 50 years of the Bultaco brand in 2009.

 

Miller Scott trial - BH

The 1967 Scott Trial in Yorkshire, the section is ‘Bridge End’ with Sammy Miller (Bultaco 105, EAA60D) about to pass a slower competitor to take the win – Photo courtesy and copyright: Blackburn Holden III

Miller’s prototype, EAA60D is now owned and fully restored by Yrjo Vesterinen.

EAA60D - Vesty - NS photo

EAA60D, Sammy Miller’s 1966 Sherpa T, is now owned and been restored to its former glory by Yrjo Vesterinen, seen here at the 2014 Scott Trial in Yorkshire – Photo copyright: Neil Sturgeon, Darlington

Harvey Lloyd - EAA86D - Tb Ayre

Harvey Lloyd on his 1966 Bultaco Sherpa T M10 second Series 244cc, registered as EAA86D – Photo copyright: Torbjorn Eyre, Macclesfield

In preparation for the 1968 season, Bultaco released the Sherpa T model 49, which had three production series with detail changes. The preceding model, the type 27 – ‘San Antonio’ was the first production five-speed Sherpa T and is now a highly collectible variant, given its relatively short production run.

Mike Rapley - Bultaco mod 27

1967 Bultaco Sherpa T Model 27, seen here at the 1968 Beggar’s Roost Trial in the UK, the rider is Mike Rapley, speaking with his father. Mike went on to become an accomplished journalist with Trials & Motocross News. – Photo courtesy of M. Rapley, Carnforth

Sherpa mod.27

The rarest and most collectible Sherpa T of them all? The Sherpa T model 27 ‘San Antonio’ had a short production run and was the first 5-speed production Sherpa – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Sherpa mod.27.2

Detail showing the now highly sought after 1967 Model 27 Sherpa T – ‘San Antonio’ – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Miller’s win in 1965 was not the first outing for a Bultaco at the Scottish Six Days. Lancastrian Tommy Ollerton, in company with Oriol Puig Bultó had ridden Sherpa N models, heavily modified in the event.

Oriol Puig Bultó spoke with Trials Guru in 2013: “I drove a little 500cc Fiat car with a two moto trolley (twin bike trailer) all the way from the factory at San Adria de Besos to Edinburgh in 1963 for the Scottish. It was a long way to drive overland and a great adventure for me to promote the Bultaco. I had one moto for me and the other for Tommy Ollerton to ride in the six days”.

Tommy Ollerton was a Lancastrian trials rider who had an association with John Anelay Motorcycles of Blackburn. Ollerton had a 196cc Sherpa N at his disposal and much work was done to improve the machine prior to Sammy Miller’s arrival at Bultaco, Spain. His Sherpa N was registered PBV700 in Blackburn, Lancashire. It was with this machine that he rode the 1962 Scottish Six Days Trial, carrying number 8.

John Anelay was a former racer himself and built his own racing machines which were entered in the Isle of Man TT, ridden by supported riders. Anelay became friends with Paco Bultó and when Anelay ceased his involvement with racing, gave his own racing engine to Bultó which helped Bultaco develop their own two-stroke motor.

Prior to Ollerton’s Sherpa N, road racer Dan Shorey had been riding a Bultaco Sherpa N in trials as early as 1961. Many road racers made use of a trials machine over the winter months to keep fit and using the section line, many claimed it kept their ‘eye in’. Shorey’s machine was registered UBW677 and was supplied from the Bultaco factory for his use. It was modified at his father Bert Shorey’s North Bar Garage in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Dan Shorey raced Bultaco Trallas for the factory at that time, hence the connection.

Much rhetoric over the years surrounding the Bultaco Sherpa suggests that Sammy Miller did not develop the Sherpa, that is only correct to a point in time. It is correct that the original ‘Sherpa N’ which started out life as the company’s dual purpose off-road model, developed from the road-going Tralla model was developed in Spain by Bultaco employees, engineers and Bultaco family members, with testing carried out by Oriol Puig Bultó and Juan Soler Bultó. The Sherpa N was released to the public for sale in 1960. Paco Bultó was keen to build a purpose built trials machine and Sammy Miller was approached. However, it was without doubt, that it was Sammy Miller who took the Sherpa development project so much further and transformed the Sherpa N into the Sherpa T and subsequently changed the face of motorcycle trials forever.

Sammy Miller was by 1964 a national trial winner and had won the Scottish Six Days twice on his Ariel. It needed a rider of Miller’s ability and stature to take the Bultaco Sherpa to a new level, that of national and international victory. This ensured the success and ultimate demand for the Barcelona company’s product.

Bultaco didn’t have it all their own way of course, their rivals, Montesa had returned to competition, particularly motocross with Pere Pi and had developed their 247cc Cota trials model from 1967. Their main riders were England’s Don Smith who became European Trials champion and Frenchman Christian Rayer who gave Miller a run for his money on the European scene. The British Greeves factory also campaigned it’s Anglian model with the ageing Villiers powerplant in the capable hands of Gordon Farley, Gordon Adsett, Bill Wilkinson and a young Yorkshireman called Malcolm Rathmell. However most of these riders were to defect to Spanish marques eventually.

 


 

Bultaco Sherpa T – The Riders and Achievements:

 

JY - ML

Martin Lampkin (Bultaco 325) was Bultaco’s and the sports’ first trials World Champion in 1975, seen here at the Scottish Clubman Trial at Newcastleton in 1978. Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Malcolm Charles Rathmell was both a scrambles and trials rider and was signed in 1970 to ride Bultacos in motocross, switching fully to trials later that season. Rathmell was to debut a new prototype with the development of the ‘Kit Campeon’ or slimline Sherpa in 1970. He also debuted the 1974 ‘whispering wonder’ 325cc Sherpa which would enter production in 1975. Much of the testing carried out by Manuel Soler. Malcolm won the 1973 Scottish Six Days which the factory used in their promotional material.

1973 - timperley cup trial - F. Munoz - HM Lmpkin - MC Rathmell

1973 Bultaco line up at the Timperley Cup Trial. Spaniard, Fernando ‘Randy’ Munoz; Martin Lampkin & Malcolm Rathmell – Photo copyright and courtesy of Barry Robinson, Ilkley

1973 Bultaco Malcolm Rathmell

Malcolm C. Rathmell on his 325cc Bultaco Sherpa in a publicity poster using the 1973 Scottish Six Days victory to full effect – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

On the home front, Bultaco Spain had their own factory riders in the shape of Bultó’s son, Ignacio and his grand-nephew, Manuel Soler, both of whom became Spanish National Champions. Manuel’s nick-name was ‘El Monstruito’ which means ‘The Monster’. Soler won a round of the World Trials Championship in Vesterinen’s native Finland in 1979 at Espoo, near Helsinki riding a factory 199A Sherpa T.

Manuel Soler - Publicity - Bultaco

Bultaco publicity from 1975 showing Manuel Soler and advertising that Bultaco Motorcycles and Soler were Spanish Trials Champions – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Soler was the son of Juan Soler Bultó and had a special 100cc machine built for him called the ‘Mymsa’ and was a minaturised Sherpa on which he cut his trials teeth.

Manel Soler 1981 - JY

Manuel Soler on Pipeline in the 1981 Scottish Six Days on his factory 325cc Bultaco Sherpa – Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Manuel Soler told Trials Guru in 2013 when on a visit to Scotland: “The Bultaco factory was our garage, all our motorcycles were stored and worked on there by the firm’s mechanics. Even my little bike was there for a long time. When the factory closed, all my bikes and those of my cousin Ignacio were sold by the liquidators. I was a development rider and every day I tested Sherpas, made a written report and made suggestions on how to improve them, it was my job”.

Manuel Soler - 2013 HC2DT - DY

Manuel Soler on a 325cc Bultaco Sherpa at the Highland Classic 2 Day Trial in 2013 in Scotland – Photo copyright: Donald Young, Stonehaven.

The European Trials Championship which had been organised since 1964 and until 1968 it was called the Challenge Henry Groutards was the fore-runner to the World Trials Championship which commenced in 1975.

Dave Thorpe 2 World 1975

Dave Thorpe on his 325 Bultaco, was the first rider to win a World Championship round, the Hurst Cup Trial held on the Clandeboye Estate in Ireland, seen here competing in the World Championship round at Bristol the same year, 1975 – Photo courtesy and copyright: Mike Rapley

The winner of the very first world round in Ireland was Comerford Bultaco rider Dave Thorpe from Sheffield, England, but the series winner and first ever world champion was Bultaco factory rider, Martin Lampkin on his UK registered Sherpa GWX78N.

Vesty - DT - NS photo

Dave Thorpe (left) was the first rider to win a world championship round in 1975 seen here with three time World Trials Champion (1976-78), Yrjo Vesterinen in 2014 – Photo copyright: Neil Sturgeon, Darlington

Germany 1975 - RE

1975 in Germany – Dave Thorpe; Alan Lampkin & Martin Lampkin – Photo copyright: Rob Edwards

The North American market was important to Spain for exports and their balance of trade. Bultaco realised there was demand in the USA for trials machines, the sport was growing. Importers were appointed in the east and west coast and sales grew steadily.

San antonio pic

The Bultaco company put on an annual trial at Snr. Bulto’s ranch, San Antonio when machines were made available for invited guest riders – Photo credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Three times AMA Trials Champion Lane Leavitt, the tall Californian’s name became synonymous with the brand. Starting on a private machine to full works support. His machines were always interesting with many innovative ideas being tried and tested.

El Trial De Espana 2

Lane Leavitt (USA) winning ‘El Trial De Espana’ in 1974. his factory 325 Sherpa modified with the rear shocks moved 4 inches forward at the base to gain extra rear wheel travel, note also the ‘trick’ sliding bar type kick-start lever – Photo courtesy of Debbie Evans-Leavitt

Dual Tank 2-1

Dual fuel tank system used on Lane Leavitt’s factory Sherpa. He used this tank in the 1975 season and the Scottish Six Days Trial. This special tank will be restored. Photo copyright: Lane Leavitt, California, USA

Lane Leavitt told Trials Guru in 2015: “The seat height on the ‘duel tank’ bike was about an inch lower than the ‘kit campeon’ Sherpa. This bike had the rear shocks moved forward about 1 and 1/2 inches, which worked very well. But the 4 inch further forward on my 1974 bike worked even better. It’s just the shocks of the day could not really handle the extreme forward location for very long“.

1975 - Rhode island - dual tank

Lane Leavitt on his 325 Sherpa ‘Dual Tank’ in the 1975  USA GP Rhode Island event. Photo supplied by Lane Leavitt from his personal collection.

15

Bultaco publicity photo of Martin Lampkin on his factory Sherpa T model 92 – Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

IMG_0044a

Austrian Bultaco rider, Joe Wallman in the world championships at Gefrees, Germany in 1976. Wallman rode for German & Austrian Bultaco importer, Horst Leitner – Photo: Rainer Heise, Germany

For the 1976 Wagner Cup world round in the USA, the Bultaco factory made their four top riders machines available for sale after the event. A unique opportunity to own a factory specification machine for the price of a production Sherpa.

Bultaco offer - 1976 Wagner Cup

1976 – Wagner Cup, USA Bultaco offer the works 350 Sherpa Ts of Lampkin, Vesterinen, Coutard and Soler for sale at $1,498 each after the event.

In France the name Charles Coutard, son of Claude Coutard was making a name for himself in the French National championship and was also to become factory supported on the Sherpa.

Coutard SSDT

Multiple French Trials Champion, Charles Coutard in the 1976 Scottish on the first day hazard, Edramucky – Photo: Iain C Clark, Fort William

Bultaco were always experimenting and their competition department was a busy place when developing the Sherpa and Pursang motocross models. One such Sherpa, the 1975 model 133 is a very rare beast. It did go into a limited production run of 13 machines, but it was used almost exclusively by the factory riders and regarded by the factory as a prototype model.

16

Manuel Soler seen here testing a very early prototype Sherpa model 133, perhaps the  first of its type, which the factory used as a publicity shot for brochures, posters and advertising cards. Note the long saddle, aluminium side panels, Telesco rear shocks and small bespoke fiberglass resin fuel tank which was used only on the model 133 – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

There are a few still in circulation, one of which is owned by Yrjo Vesterinen.

Bultaco mod.133 - YV

Photo from the experimental and competition department at the Bultaco factory taken in 1975, with Vesterinen’s Bultaco Sherpa model 133, a very rare machine, very few produced. The person nearest the camera is Francisco Valera, known as ‘Bambi’, a very fine factory mechanic/technician who prepared the factory machines – Photo courtesy of Yrjo Vesterinen, photographer unknown.

 

Charles Coutard mod.133

The factory prototype Sherpa T model 133 of French Champion, Charles Coutard taken in 1975, which shows the long deep saddle and aluminium side panels and small glassfibre resin fuel tank which was specifically made for this model – Image Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

In Finland, a young rider called Yrjo Vesterinen was about to burst onto the world-wide trials scene Bultaco mounted. His first Scottish Six Days was to be in 1974 on a borrowed 325cc Sherpa from UK importer Comerfords top technician, Reg May, himself regarded as a Bultaco tuning ‘wizard’ (see section further down).

Vesty'81 Cnoc a linnhe

Yrjo Vesterinen (340 Bultaco) on Cnoc A Linnhe in the 1981 Scottish Six Days – © – Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven.

Vesterinen was destined to become three times World Trials champion 1976-78 for Bultaco.

19

Bultaco used Yrjo Vesterinen’s World Championship win in 1976 to publicise their product – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

The following year, 1979 American number 1, Bernie Schreiber was to become the first American to win the title again for Bultaco who had dominated the World series since it’s inception in the 1975 season with Martin Lampkin taking the first title.

Bernie Schreiber - Achlain SSDT 1980 - JH

1979 World Champion, Bernie Schreiber with his 325cc Bultaco Sherpa, waits his turn at Achlain during the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1980 – Photo: John Honeyman, Markinch, Fife

Schreiber had attended a Mick Andrews trials school in the early 1970s and was supported for a time by ‘Bay Area Bultaco’ based in Los Angeles, California. His riding style became more radical and he was the rider who developed what he called his ‘basic dab-less 180’ which was also known as the flick-turn. A new breed of rider was spawned due to Schreiber’s approach.

Schreiber 1979 SSDT - BH

Bernie Schreiber at the 1979 Scottish on his Comerfords Bultaco Sherpa T 199A, this machine is now owned by Yrjo Vesterinen – Photo courtesy: Blackburn Holden III

1977 Schreiber SSDT

Bernie Schreiber, USA (325 Bultaco) in his first Scottish Six Days in 1977 on Kilmonivaig section near Spean Bridge on the second day’s run. Schreiber finished in 11th position losing 98 marks. Schreiber became World champion in 1979. Photo: Iain C. Clark, Fort William.

JOM - BS2

Trials Guru, John Moffat (left) with 1979 World Trials Champion on Bultaco, Bernie Schreiber in 2008 at the Robregordo Classic 2 Day Trial, Madrid, Spain – Photo: Trials Guru/Jean Moffat

In Italy, Ettore Baldini was picking up Italian National Championships on his Sherpa.

Ettore Baldini 1979 - Bultaco

Ettore Baldini (Italy) on his factory 199a Sherpa in 1979. The factory supported riders favoured the earlier airbox assembly which helped the 325cc motor breathe. – Photo credit: Stefano Bianchi – supplied by Ettore Baldini, North Italy

Baldini rode Bultaco 1977-1980 winning the Italian Trials title in 1977 and 1979 and was a top 15 World Championship runner at that time.

Baldini - 1979

Former Italian Trials Champion, Ettore Baldini (199A Sherpa T) demonstrates the ‘flick-turn’ technique, pioneered by Bernie Schreiber – Photo credit: E. Bologna

Former ten times British Trials Champion, world round winner and four times Scottish Six Days winner and UK importer of TRS Motorcycles, Steve Saunders told Trials Guru in 2016:
“I have ridden a wide range of trials machines for the major factories in my career, but I have to say that my Bultaco days were absolutely fantastic. I have great memories of them. I won the ACU British Youth A class championships in 1980 and 1981 for Bultaco UK and the opportunity to work beside some heroes, such as Bernie Schreiber whom I learnt a lot from during practise sessions with him. Schreiber was based in Surrey at that period in time when he rode in Europe under Comerfords.”

Back Catalogue Trials 515

Steve Saunders on the Comerford Bultaco Sherpa on which he became a force to be reckoned with. Also in the photo are Yrjo Vesterinen (50) and Colin Boniface (29) – Photo copyright: Colin Bullock/CJB Photographic

“I also learnt a lot about the mechanics of the trials machine as the great Reg May, the Bultaco tuning wizard, was preparing my bikes at Comerfords.
At this time of course I was competing on the 250 Bultaco Sherpa, as youths could ride 250cc machines, unlike now where they are limited to 125cc.

James Saunders

James Saunders with his grandfather Dennis’s 250 Bultaco Sherpa T with Sammy Miller Hi-Boy frame – Photo copyright: Steve Saunders, Gloucester, UK

Steve Saunders: “We still have my father Dennis’s Bultaco Sherpa from when he rode in the early 1970s and my son James has ridden in some classic trials with it, it’s not for sale”.

Saunders group

Saunders Trial family – (Left to right) – James Saunders, Steve Saunders, Dennis Saunders and Izzy Saunders with the Bultaco Sherpa of Dennis Saunders – Photo copyright: Steve Saunders/SXS, Gloucester, UK

 

 


The Sherpa T development:

Continuous model development was an ongoing process at Bultaco and the Sherpa model changed greatly over the years. From the time Sammy Miller was employed as their development engineer/rider there was no committees to answer to. The main person was Paco Bulto and if he said a modification was to proceed, then it did.

In 1971, the factory had retooled the production line and began to produce the Sherpa T ‘model 80’ with the new slimline one-piece tank/seat unit manufactured in fiberglass resin and a new style exhaust system that enabled the machine to be very narrow where the rider naturally stood on the foot-pegs. The factory name was the ‘Kit Campeon’ or championship kit. This kit was marketed to existing owners of Sherpa T model 49, which was produced in three series production runs, to upgrade their machines to the same specification of the new model 80 which replaced it.

DSC01420

The Bultaco Sherpa T model 49, ‘second series’ from 1968 – Photo copyright – Trials Guru/John Moffat

Sammy Miller in the UK was by now well established as an after market supplier of trials equipment with his ‘Sammy Miller Equipe’, later called Sammy Miller Products. He had introduced a frame kit called the SM ‘Hi-Boy’ which dispensed with the cradle under the motor, using the motor as a stressed member of the frame. As well as retailing alloy exhaust centre boxes, Miller also marketed his own British made version of the ‘Kit Campeon’ produced in fiberglass resin, but was available in red/ivory; blue/ivory and green/ivory colour combinations. The Miller tank/seat unit also came with a bayonet type petrol cap thus distinguished from Bultacos own item. Sammy Miller’s after-market products offered the Bultaco owner a choice, thus assisting in ‘personalising’ the owners’ Sherpa T.

Alan Hunt

Alan Hunt on his Sammy Miller ‘Hi-Boy’ framed Bultaco Sherpa 250, which is also fitted with the after-market SM tank seat unit finished in green/ivory colour combination in 1973. Note also the small kickstart with sliding lever, of the type used on the Bultaco Tiron – Photo copyright: Mike Rapley

 

Dennis Sanders - Bultaco

Dennis Saunders, father of multiple British Champion, Steve Saunders has had this Bultaco Sherpa T in Sammy Miller frame since new. The rear hub is Rickman as supplied by Sammy Miller as part of his ‘Hi-Boy’ frame kit conversion. Rear shocks are Girling, popular in the period in the UK – Photo copyright: Steve Saunders, Gloucester

In 1972, the motor was subjected to some upgrading, not just the 244cc motor but the development of the 326cc motor both for trials and motocross.

13

The official ‘Kit Campeon’ leaflet showing how private owners of the Sherpa T model 49 could upgrade to a model 80 specification – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Bultaco mod-80 - 1971

The Bultaco Sherpa T mod.80 250cc – introduced for the 1971 season. It was the first production Sherpa to have the ‘Kit Campeon’ bodywork and exhaust fitted as standard equipment – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Many riders were asking for more power so it was a natural development to produce a larger capacity engine for the Sherpa model 91 which ran from 1972 to early 1974.

IMG_1765

The 1973 Sherpa T – model 91 (250cc) showing the slimline aspect allowing the rider to move the motorcycle easily over obstacles – Photo: Trials Guru/John Moffat

Riders were by now feeding back information through importers and the factory riders direct.

The model 124 (250cc)/125 (325cc) introduced for the 1974 season which not only used the Pursang rear wheel hub made in two halves, but had the drive side of the swinging arm doubling as a lubrication oil reservoir for the final drive chain. Sammy Miller having manufactured and retailed a separate small aluminium chain oiler reservoir around the time of the Sherpa model 27 which utilised the top rear engine mount points. Many owners had purchased the Miller’s after-market chain oiler unit which was useful for long distance events to reduce chain wear.

Lampkin 1975 SSDT - Poster Photo

1975 poster featuring Martin Lampkin as the first FIM World Trials Champion, the photo taken at the 1974 Scottish Six Days – Image Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Much of the testing was carried out by Bulto’s son Ignacio and grand-nephew Manuel Soler. In fact the models 158 (250cc)  and 159 (325cc) Sherpa introduced in 1975 is known in Spain as the ‘Manuel Soler’ because of the input Soler had to this model and also the following Sherpa models 182/183 and 190/191.

BultacoOwM 159

The Bultaco Sherpa T model 159 ‘Manuel Soler’ from middle of 1975, shown here on the cover of the Bultaco owners manual as supplied with a new machine. Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

The 158/159 models reverted to the separate tank and seat whereas models 80, 90/91; 124/125 and 150/151 all had combined tank/seat units in fiberglass resin for the home and USA markets. Aluminium versions were fitted by the United Kingdom importer, Comerfords due to the UK traffic laws at that time, which banned the use of non-metal fuel tanks.

Bultaco factory 1976

The Bultaco factory was a vibrant place in 1976 with much of the production geared to overseas markets. Here two Pursang and a Sherpa are being loaded onto a factory truck – Photo: Bultaco Motorcycles

Bultaco151

The early 1975 Sherpa T model 151 (350cc) with the home market red/silver glassfibre resin fuel tank and grey plastic mudguards. This was the first model to be fitted with the new-style primary drive casing, much slimmer and requiring 50cc less lubricant and the ‘club-foot’ type final exhaust chamber – Photo Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

 

IMG_1745

1974 – Bultaco Sherpa T Model 124 (250cc) fitted with the UK made alloy tank/seat unit branded ‘Homerlite’ painted in the blue/silver colour combination for the UK market only. It also has the 1974 only ‘banana’ style final exhaust chamber, the fore-runner to the ‘club-foot’ style introduced a year later. – Photo copyright: Trials Guru/John Moffat

These aluminium tanks were made in Birmingham, England by a company who used the brand name ‘Homerlite’.

17

1975 – Bultaco Sherpa T model 159 ‘Manuel Soler’ – a factory photograph showing the ignition side – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

A reduced capacity 238cc variant of the 244cc motor was used in 1976 in model 158, particularly for the French market due to their insurance and traffic legislation. This was referred to as the ‘238’ Sherpa.

Front forks were also changed over the years and in particular the steering yokes or ‘triple trees’ as they are known in the USA. In 1973 the lower yoke made out of aluminium became more curved and gripped the stantions lower down thus helping to stabilise the front forks and eliminate twisting and deflection of the front wheel during use.

Bultaco199

A factory publicity photo of the Bultaco Sherpa T model 199 (325cc) – Spanish market specification – which was introduced in September 1977 and was the first to feature a motor and front fork sliders finished in black – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

199 Production - Trial Vintage

Production of the Sherpa T model 199 at the Bultaco factory at Sant Adria De Besos in company with the Pursang motocross model in 1977 – Photo Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

In late 1979 the Sherpa model 199A had the swinging arm made with strengthening ‘gusset plates’ to eliminate bending, which the previous model 199 (1977-early 80) was susceptible to.

Bultaco199 -198

A factory publicity photo of the Bultaco Sherpa T model 199A (325cc) in home market/Spanish specification, showing the gusseted swinging arm and the new blue frame now devoid of the engine cradle and fitted with a dural sump-shield, blue polypropylene fuel tank, fiberglass side panels and plastic mudguards in 1979 – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

 

199A - UK spec - 23

UK Specification 1979 Sherpa T model 199A – showing the alloy fuel tank with slightly different seat and the small cover over the output sprocket, no lights and rubber rear number plate – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

It was not well known at the time, but factory rider Martin Lampkin used a larger than standard motor in his Sherpa, in effect a long stroke which was similar to and used the Alpina 348 long-stroke dimensions, but a larger piston. His factory machines were looked after by the UK importer, Comerfords technician, Reg May. It was said that May could set up a Bultaco motor equal to or even better than, the Bultaco factory. Reg May also did much of the development work on Yrjo Vesterinen’s Bultacos when he moved from Finland to live in the UK.

Bultaco poster

Bultaco publicity poster from 1980 shows the factory top riders and proclaiming that Bultaco were Champions of the World – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

It was believed that Martin Lampkin had a range of Sherpa motors at his disposal, all in different states of tuning and all fettled by Reg May at Comerfords, throughout the season, these were set up to accommodate particular events.

Hot Metal 2 044

One of Martin Lampkin’s development Bultaco Sherpa T machines from 1980. Note the modified rear section of frame and earlier mod 159 airbox – Photo copyright: Blackburn Holden V

 

Martin Lampkin 2

Martin Lampkin in 1978 on his 348 Bultaco – Photo copyright: Mike Rapley

Finland’s Yrjo Vesterinen’s input to the Sherpa became more noticeable in the production model 199B, with the frame altered and now devoid of the rear mudguard loop, a new style swinging arm with tubing of a rectangular profile and painted white with sky blue fork sliders, fuel tank and side panels, which mirrored the colours in the Finnish national flag. It also had a much larger volume air-box than its predecessor.

199B Sales brochure front

Publicity photo of the last Bultaco Sherpa T – model 199B 340cc 6-speed (1981-1985) the influence of Yrjo Vesterinen is very noticable with this model – Image credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

By this time the factory finances were under severe pressure, but they produced a rare model with the ‘198B’ Sherpa, a five-speed 250cc model which utilised a frame similar to the larger six-speed 340cc 199B model for the French and UK markets only, none were originally sold in Spain and only 230 of these were manufactured for sale.

Bultaco 198B -BH

A very rare machine – The Bultaco Sherpa T, model 198B (250cc) which was made exclusively for the UK and French markets – Photo: Trials Guru/John Moffat

AGB - 198B - 1982 - AGB

Andrew Brown from Richmond, North Yorkshire on his brand new 198B in 1982 – Photo: AGBikes

 

Bultaco Team - 2014

Bultaco riders re-unite in 2014! – From the left: Jaime Puig, Javier Cucurella, Manuel Soler, Oriol Puig Bultó, Yrjö Vesterinen, Joaquín Folch, Ignacio Bultó – Photo courtesy: Marta Prats Fabregas

Various Bultaco Sherpa technical information:

Carburation: On the early model 10 Sherpa T, this was handled by IRZ, spigot mounted and clamped. The IRZ was a Spanish made carburettor which can trace back to fitment on pre-war Hispano-Suiza automobiles. Spain also made the AMAL (Amalgamated Carburettors fromed from Amac, Brown & Barlow and Binks companies) monobloc and concentric under licence, so eventually the Sherpa T used the 26mm AMAL instrument. It was later discovered by experimentation that the 325cc motor which was produced first in 1973 with the AMAL, that it ran well with a German made Bing, model 84 with 28mm venturi and this was adopted in 1975 on the production model 159.

A popular after-market fitment in the early 1970s was the Japanese Mikuni VM type, originally sourced from road machines, but these were found to give good results when fited to a Sherpa. Sammy Miller’s company introduced a Mikuni upgrade kit for the Sherpa to compliment his Hi-Boy frame kits and other after market products aimed at Bultaco owners who wanted to personalise their machines.

Kick-start levers: Hardly a major or even an exciting component, but there were different types used over the years on Bultaco Sherpas. The model 10 had a kick lever of which the splined crank part was slightly ‘S’ shaped in profile and this was used up until the model 49. For the 1971 Model 80, a straight profile lever was employed right up until the model 199A in 1979, which used a drop forged lever which was wasted.

photo0615_001

The Sherpa 199A kick-start showing the wasted area and offset bolt arrangement. This machine, a ‘Vazquez Racing’ special preparation, is fitted with a Dellorto PHBH28BS carburettor, still period, but not a brand used by the factory in production and popular now – Photo: Trials Guru/John Moffat

All Sherpa kick-starts had a folding kicker bar for the foot, which employed a small ball bearing and spring enabling them to sit folded in when the machine was in use. There was a rubber sleeve with the companys thumbs-up logo fitted on the kicker bar.

The factory riders used a ‘sliding’ lever kicker bar of the type used on the small capacity Bultaco Tiron model. These are quite hard to find now, but give a Sherpa a ‘works’ look. The Sherpa up until 1977 always was produced with a gear-change on the right and rear brake pedal on the left. US traffic laws insisted that this was reversed.

However, Paco Bulto had his own theory as to why the left foot braking was more natural.

Yrjo Vesterinen: “Senor Bulto explained it to me, he said that there is a nerve connection between the left arm and the right leg, and vice versa. In other words, the left arm knows what the right leg is doing. Clutch to gear change, brake to brake. He said that this is the natural way for humans and the Japanese got it wrong! He demonstrated this by walking along and swinging his arms back and forth. I immediately tried it myself and I agree!“.

vestyscott

Former World Trials Champion, Yrjo Vesterinen on his 272cc Bultaco Sherpa ‘X’Lite’ which he has developed more recently. seen here at the 2014 Highland Classic 2 Day Trial near Aviemore, Scotland – Photo: John Hulme/trial Magazine UK

 

Comerfords’ Bultaco Wizard – Reg May

Reg May - Alan Lampkin - 1977 SSDT

Reg May (left) watches over Bultaco teamster Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin as he fixes a puncture in the 1977 Scottish Six Days, in the background is the Comerford Ford Transit van. Alan Lampkin came home in 20th position on 122 marks on his 325 Bultaco – Photo: Norman Hawkins

Reg J. May was a long serving member of the Comerfords’ staff at their busy Thames Ditton workshops in Surrey. May was himself a very handy trials and scrambles rider in his day and it was believed that he could set-up a Bultaco Sherpa T better than the factory.

Image-0208

Reg May, crouching on second right and Toshi Nishiyama on right, supervise Spanish Bultaco factory rider, Javier Cucurella making running repairs on his 325cc Bultaco at the Scottish Six Days Trial in May 1977 – Photo copyright: John Hulme/Trials Media

He had a knack of getting the timing and carburation just spot on. A ‘Reg May prepared’ Bultaco was most definitely a machine to have.

Bult1

Bultaco Sherpa 250 modified by Reg May for his son, John May – Photo copyright: Trials Guru/John Moffat

Reg May did not have the benefit of CNC type machinery available to him, but he was very adept at fashioning sheet metal and altering frames, being a first class welder.

photo

‘Reg May Special’ – built specially for Weardale’s Walter Dalton to ride in the SSDT. Made from a Bultaco frame and forks, 340 tank, Alpina front brake and 1974 Sherpa/Pursang rear hub with a BSA motor – Photo: Colin Goode, Bedlington

Reg was ‘spannerman’ for all the top Bultaco riders from, or based in, the UK. His reputation was second to none.

Mart 2 Reg

During a testing session in 1975, Reg May (left) checks the jetting on Martin Lampkin’s Bultaco with Martin himself doing some work to his machine – Photo by special permission and copyright: Barry Robinson, Ilkley (All rights reserved)

Factory rider and first world champion, Martin Lampkin put his 100% trust in Reg May’s judgement and Reg was a formidable force behind the riders, given that his preparation techniques were proven and backed up by years of ‘hands on’ experience. Nothing satisfied Reg May more was to see one of his well-prepared Bultacos take the win.

Mart 1 Reg

World Champion, Martin Lampkin testing his 325 Bultaco in 1975 – Photo by kind permission and world-wide copyright of Barry Robinson, Ilkley (All-rights reserved)

Reg May had a particular way of doing things. Before his death in 2015, Albert John ‘Buttons’ Button told Trials Guru’s John Moffat: “At the Scottish Six Days, when all the crowds were milling around watching the fettling sessions, Reg would hold us young lads back and say, hold on, wait until everyone has left the area … now go back to the bike and do the job properly”.

1979 - Martin Lampkin - Reg May - EK Photo

Scottish Six Days Trial 1979 – Martin Lampkin inspects the rear tyre of his Bultaco, with Reg May offering advice. John Metcalfe is watching closely. Martin was narrowly beaten into second place to Malcolm Rathmell (Montesa) – Photo world-wide copyright: Eric Kitchen – all rights reserved.

In 1981, Comerfords decided to make 40 special Sherpas using production model 199B with frames, modified by May, similar to that used by Yrjo Vesterinen.

Comerford 340

A Bultaco 199B 340 six-speed Sherpa T as modified by Comerfords to their ‘Vesterinen’ specification. There were 40 such machines modified by the Thames Ditton company – Photo: Trials Guru/John Moffat

These have become known as the Comerford 340. The rear swinging arm pivot was moved much closer to the motor and had a longer swinging arm assembly fitted to match.

John Reynolds rode a special Comerfords Bultaco 340 in 1983 which had been built by Reg May on a freelance basis. It had some innovative features. Reg had managed to move the swinging arm pivot very close to the final drive sprocket. This was achieved by mounting the winging arm pivots on two independent mounting ‘bobbins’ mounted on the frame. The swinging arm spindle was effectively dispensed with as was the rear engine mount assembly.

A special snakey exhaust system was used with the back box lowered to the footrest area on the off-side of the machine using modified Bultaco components. The swinging arm was a modified Bultaco Pursang item on the final version. The much modified machine was debuted at the Manchester 17 club ‘Dave Rowland Trial’ where Reynolds came home in a creditable third position.

john-reynolds-bultaco-600dpi-paul-garrett-photo

John Reynolds’ special Comerfords Bultaco 340 as built by Reg May, taken in 1983. Photo: Paul Garrett

Yrjo Vesterinen on his final Bultaco Sherpa in 1984: “It had taken about six months to get from what started as a standard 199B model to the last Bultaco I rode. It was always very much a ‘work in progress’ machine. It was never fully finished to the level that Reg May and I had hoped for. In order to achieve that, we would have needed to fabricate a brand new frame, using the measurements of the prototype bike. I never liked the look of it, as it was untidy. It was also much heavier than it could have been, as some of the components were made out of steel and could have been plastic or aluminium if we had the time and the resources available to us. As far as I am concerned it could have been an important stepping stone towards a much improved Bultaco Sherpa for the future. We were prepared to let the factory have it to produce a new model. It didn’t happen as the factory closed and it never was a finished article“.

Bultaco Sherpa Restorations and machines still in use:

Firstly, from Gilles Escuyer from near Reims, France. Here is some photos of his Bultaco collection.
His father Pierre and Gilles have restored all the machines and they go riding with them as soon as possible, every weekend a different bike!
They have a website at www.trial-classic-bultaco.fr for the Club Bultaco Trial Classic France.
Here is his most historic bike :  Bultaco 250 Sherpa T model 10 – 1965 number 451 (first series).
It was the machine of the French Trials Champion, Jean Bohec.
It was restored after it was burned ! What a transformation …

Before:

BultacoT10ExJeanBohecCollectionEscuyerAvantRestauration

The Ex-Jean Bohec Bultaco when found! An impossible task? – Photo: Collection Escuyer

BultacoT10ExJeanBohecCollectionEscuyerAvantRestauration (4)

The Ex-Jean Bohec 1965 Sherpa – A sorry sight! – Photo: Collection Escuyer

BultacoT10ExJeanBohecCollectionEscuyerAvantRestauration (12)

Primary side of the 1965 first series Bultaco Sherpa model 10 – Ex-Jean Bohec – Photo: Collection Escuyer

After restoration work:

BultacoT10ExJeanBohecCollectionEscuyerApresRestauration (24)

After a complete restoration the Bultaco Sherpa T model 10 Ex-Jean Bohec Photo: Collection Escuyer

Gilles Escuyer Bultaco T10 Ex Jean Bohec

Bultaco Sherpa T model 10 (first series) Ex- Jean Bohec – Photo: Escuyer Collection, Riems

BultacoT10ExJeanBohecCollectionEscuyerApresRestauration (18)

Bultaco Sherpa T model,10 Ex-Jean Bohec – Photo: Collection Escuyer

From Southern Ireland, a Bultaco Sherpa T model 10 (second series) in action and in regular use. The rider is David Coughlan from Waterford, Munster, he is a regular trials rider and former Irish road racer of note.
Bultaco mod 10 series 2 - Chris Sharp

David Coughlan from Waterford on his 1966 Bultaco Sherpa T model 10 (second series), Coughlan was also an accomplished road racer – Photo copyright: Chris Sharp, Belfast

More Sherpas in private collections:

Bultaco 250 Sherpa T Type 198B Syndicalista de 1981

Bultaco Sherpa T model 198B ‘Sindicalista’ (which translated means sindicalist or worker owned) was a 250cc, five-speed motor in a 340 199B chassis. Only around 230 made for the French and UK markets only – Escuyer Collection – Photo: Gilles Escuyer, France

DSCN5542.JPG

Factory style: The Ex-Bernard Cordonnier (Belgium) Sherpa T model 199A – Escuyer Collection – Photo: Gilles Escuyer, France

DSCN6055

1968 Sherpa T model.49 – Escuyer Collection – Photo: Gilles Escuyer, France

Beyond Bultaco:

The Bultaco factory finally closed it’s doors in 1984 after a co-operative venture failed, as had the original company, Compañia Española De Motores which went into liquidation and closed in 1979.
The Sant Adrià de Besòs factory production was resurrected by government finance in 1980 and had failed once more in 1983.
No longer operated by the Bultó family, the company effectively was sole-less with new models under development, the last such experiment was with the MK15 Pursang motocross machine which resembled a Suzuki more than a Bultaco.

‘Sindicatos’

Paco Bultó’s brother was killed in Barcelona on May 9th, 1977, Jose Maria Bultó Marques was a Catalan entrepreneur and industrialist, head of Cros SA. A terrorist bomb had been strapped to his chest to extort a large sum of money. The bomb exploded when he tried to remove it in a wash-room. It was believed to be the work of a terrorist movement, known as Popular Catalan Exercit or the Popular Catalan Army. This would have had a profound effect on Paco Bultó and his family.

The company that manufactured Bultaco motorcycles started to have increased financial problems in the petroleum crisis between 1978 when the Shah of Iran was deported from Iran and 1980 when the Iran-Iraq war broke out. Spain then started down the democracy route once more and in many companies the workers ‘sindicatos’ started to gain a lot of strength and power.

Petroleum became very expensive and labour in Spain experienced a period of unrest, giving constant problems due to the new rights with many strikes.

Bultaco ran out of money and Paco Bultó subjected to the new labour laws had to compensate the workers which cost a considerable sum in money. Eventually, he decided to give the workers the company and retired. Bultaco was effectively converted into a workers’ cooperative.

All was not well however, the workers fought amongst themselves, they shorten their working day, and increased their salaries. They were their own boss so the factory went down quickly.

In 1980, Bultaco had accumulated debts of around 5,000,000€ (800 million pesetas). Honda, Suzuki and Puch Austria were interested in buying Bultaco, but the workers resisted and wanted to convert into a cooperative, managed by the socialist and communist syndicates.

 

Bultaco – The Finale?

The death throes of Bultaco CEMOTO as a motorcycle manufacturer occurred in 1984. When compiling this tribute to the brand, we were curious as to exactly what went wrong? We knew about the now legendary ‘Sindicalista’ (workers union) model, a description coined by the Bultaco employees, which was the last of the Sherpa T – model 199B line.

We accept that nothing lasts forever, whether that is a motorcycle manufacturing company or any other entity for that matter.

There are many theories in books, articles, journals and the internet as to why companies and corporations fail or are taken over. It is always difficult, some say impossible, to find the truth, there are always two sides to a story in most, if not all cases. The facts are hard to assimilate and where is the ultimate proof? The Bultaco failure is no different. Nothing is that simple and is usually highly politically charged, regardless of nationality involved. Blame is usually universal.

Those that are passionate about the Bultaco brand some 30 years or more since it’s disappearance from the competition scene perhaps don’t want to know more about the demise of the once proud company that made Bultaco Motorcycles for the world’s marketplace, but the story of Bultaco would be incomplete without some sort of mention.

So with the help of Spanish enthusiasts of the marque, we will attempt in as pragmatic and factual manner as is possible, present another side of the Bultaco story which some may take to task; argue; discuss and perhaps either accept; reject or even completely disagree with.

But the name Bultaco and its trading marks have miraculously lived on in different forms, but it is so much different from the halcyon days when Paco Bultó’s dream became a reality in 1958 with the first Bultaco Tralla 101 rolled off the small production line and the company won world championships.

Here we present a recount of the timeline of the demise of Bultaco.

The working life inside Bultaco in three decades:

1959 – 1970: The paternalistic approach, this would be listening and helping the workers individually to their specific needs. In effect a benefactors approach to labour relations. The owners and management made you feel a member of the big Bultaco family. It was a family owned enterprise and that family extended into the workforce. There was an annual draw of a motorcycle between the workers, and a nice gift to celebrate Christmas for every worker. From those who knew the enthusiastic Paco Bultó, he was a man that got the best out of people and workers were people.

However, the late 1960s saw Bultaco commence with overtime working to increase production and improve productivity. Thereafter the first friction between worker and owner surfaced.

1971 – 1979: Confrontations emerged and festered in the company, owners versus workers. The first clandestine newsletter produced for and by the employees with the provocative title ‘Crazy Horse’ was published in 1971. One must appreciate that General Franco’s dictatorship was by now in its final days and worker’s unions were also clandestine.

Management responsibilities and day to day operations lay in the hands of persons such as Senors. Nomen; Chalamanch; Caballero and Gimeno. In 1976 there were two socialist unions at the factory in the form of CCT and CNT workers. That year, workers locked themselves inside the company to protest against some dismissals motivated by the crisis. This ended with the management lockout of the Company in December 1979, motivated by the refusal of workers to downsize the number of employees. To put this into perspective, the same number of workers produced 25,000 motorcycles for the US market in 1974, compared with in 1976 only 16,000 – in effect a 36% reduction in productivity.

In the second issue of the workers’ newsletter ‘Crazy Horse’ in 1972, the workers claimed an extra 500 Pesetas (2,68€) of weekly pay for all staff. Two years previously, Seat car workers were fighting exactly for the same increase.

caballo-loco-bultaco

Caballo Loco – Crazy Horse – The Bultaco factory workers bulletin

1980 – 1984: It was this at the beginning of this period that the Bultó family ceased to recognise Bultaco as their family concern. Suspension of payments in April 1980 (liabilities of 800 million pesetas, almost 5,000,000€). Workers proposed in the June to establish a cooperative venture. In July, 1980 production restarts once more with Snr. Chalamanch as the general director.

The factory languishes with a politicized environment inside it. This would be the final nail in the coffin for Bultaco, described as simply a mess. Some workers in the spare parts department viewed the situation as a good opportunity to increase their salaries. Finally the factory commenced the operation called ‘Puntilla’ (in Spanish these are the sharp knives used to kill the cattle in the slaughterhouse and the swords used to terminate bulls in Spanish bullfighting); The ‘Puntilla operation’ was the sale of the last complete motorcycles, machinery and parts to ‘Rectificados Bellavista S.L’, a Company formed in Barcelona, still in existence, that continues to supply some Bultaco parts in the present day.

The question could be asked: Do you think that the Workers Committee distributed the money among the other workers? The answer would have to be, probably not. It would fall way short of what might have been termed ‘an equitable distribution’.

In life, and in any collective organisation, the loudest voice that you can hear is that of the extremist, but beyond logical claims or the usual ‘class struggle’, what happened in Spain then went further. Some still hold the point of view that labour issues can instil bitterness and hatred within organisations. However, one must balance this view by taking into account an opposing view. Spain was ruled by a right-wing dictatorship, worker’s unions were banned under Franco’s regime, only the right-wing worker’s unions were permitted and the clandestine unions were in effect leading the resistance. They became trusted among the general population, similar to the Communist party.

We believe that such feelings did not emerge suddenly or overnight. In Bultaco in the early 1970s, the heat inside the factory at San Adria de Besos was described as insufferable by the workforce – the workspace described like a stable, the payment regarded as a meagre salary, the chief of staff Ricardo Gimeno, likened to a ‘gunslinger’, and the Bultó family likened to the Mafia. These were all opinions at the time. However there are those that enjoyed their working lives at the factory, happy with their lot.

In the mid-1970s, the factory must have been similar to a pressure cooker. Perhaps the people in charge were not very receptive, or the paternalistic philosophy that F.X. Bultó subscribed to was no longer valid, but Bultaco had a particularly hard and uncompromising workers union that for sure, other similar companies such as the rival Montesa or car manufacturer Seat, perhaps did not have. However Bultaco was not unique there were large strkes in the region. Montesa and Seat were large companies and played a lead role in the resistance against the right-wing Franco regime. Seat, a public company, was eventually purchased by Fiat.

These were turbulent years, with uncertainty in every walk of life. To compound matters, Paco Bultó had suffered his first heart attack in 1976. The following year his brother was killed by terrorist activity. Perhaps Bultaco in the final years was left to die, and when someone made serious attempts to rescue it, there were too many other more pressing concerns for governments in Madrid and Barcelona to be concerned with?

The conversion of Bultaco CEMOTO to a cooperative was the easiest solution, but the result always seems to be the same – the end of companies. Here we have the example of the great British industry: Norton, BSA, Triumph together and strongly supported by the government and manufacturing in Meriden as a workers’ co-operative. The British motorcycle manufacturers’ adventure lasted little more than the Spanish Bultaco and also ended with a resounding bankruptcy. Later, it was a private initiative that worked the resurrection of the Triumph brand.

As far as is known, there is only one clear case where a government has saved a motorcycle brand and that was in the United States of America. The Ronald Reagan administration took protectionist measures in 1983 to prevent the closure of Harley Davidson. The formula was to apply for a 5 year period, a tariff, by a sliding scale rate from 49.4% down to 14.4% applied to any Japanese motorcycle imports above 700 cc. Compare that with Spain with their market that was completely closed to Japanese motorcycle imports until 1982, this explains the reason why there were no trial model Yamahas, Hondas, Suzuki or Kawasaki in Spain, except for a few private imports following the classic trials boom in the year 2000 and beyond.

puch-logo

Austrian motorcycle manufacturer, Puch based in Graz were interested in buying Bultaco

It is factual that companies, Honda, Suzuki and the Austrian Puch when knocking on the doors of Montesa and Avello, were also interested in purchasing Bultaco. Once again, the worker’s unions refused to talk about any staff reductions and what they achieved was to thwart any attempt to revive Bultaco, making it an impossible mission. But we consider the thought that even more than an oversized workforce, what really frightened the Japanese most of all, was a belligerent, hostile and uncompromising environment among the workforce. To buy Bultaco would have been likened to put your feet into boiling oil.

Maybe it is pride, maybe it is patriotism, but this happened and continues to happen in Spain since the demise of Bultaco. To outside observers, employees seem to prefer to close a company rather than to work with interested parties for it salvation and save it when in a major crisis. It seems a great pity, because in the end there were no more Bultaco motorcycles, no new models released.

Of course whether you agree or disagree with the above assessment of the Bultaco Finale – it is entirely up to you.

Bultaco now:

014_Brinco_2015_LTDedition_3_4_delante_dx

Bultaco Brinco LTD – Image courtesy of Bultaco.com

The Bultó family retained the legal rights to use the name and trading style and trade marks of Bultaco. Spanish manufacturers, Piaggio who owned Derbi motorcycles used the Bultaco brand on small capacity road and trail machines based on the Derbi range for a period of time, but re-badged as Bultacos using many of the original Bultaco model names.
In 1998, the Bultaco name was re-used once more for the 250cc Bultaco Sherco 2.5 trials machines, made in Spain which subsequently became simply ‘Sherco’ made under the company Sherco Motorcycles S.A.R.L headed by French businessman and trials rider, Marc Tessier in 2000.
The agreement to use the Bultaco name terminated when Sherco wanted to produce smaller capacity trials machines to create a larger range from 80cc up to 300cc. The trading mark of ‘Sherpa’ was owned by Leyland DAF for a range of commercial vans so the model name of Sherpa was thus avoided.
Like Sammy Miller’s Scottish Six Days win in 1965, the Bultaco Sherpa 2.5 won the 1999 Scottish in the hands of Graham Jarvis, who had moved over from Rotax powered Scorpa, thus history was mirrored once more and the trials machine buying public lined up to buy the Bultaco brand once again. The UK Sherco importer being former Bultaco factory rider Malcolm Rathmell through his Malcolm Rathmell Sport company based in Harrogate, Yorkshire.

In May 2014, it was announced that the Bultaco name would be further revived, with the Bultó family’s blessing, by Juan Manuel Vinos to brand a range of electric-powered motorcycles with the formation of the company LGN TECH Design S.L. founded in 2010 and now trading as Bultaco Motors.
For details of the new Bultaco Motobike range click on this link: Bultaco Brinco

The emergence of the ‘Bultaco 1959’ brand as a fashion icon occurred in 2005 with a lifestyle clothing and accessory range from Spain. This was a new departure from motorcycle manufacturing, but not by the old Bultaco firm. The Bulto family still held the name and thus the royalties from using that name for the clothing brand Bultaco 1959.

Bultaco 340 pullover - Bultaco 1959

The Bultaco 1959 fashion brand, launched in 2005 – Photo Credit: ‘Bultaco 1959’

The clothing and accessory brand was to be sold throughout Europe.

Riems Bultaco - Laurent Philippe Callot

A model poses in a Bultaco 1959 leather jacket, photographed at the old French Circuit de Reims-Gueux with the 1967 Bultaco Metralla MK2, model 23 of Gilles Escuyer – Photo: Laurent Philippe Callot.

And more to follow when we cover the rejuvenation of old Sherpas in the hands of Jose Luis Rodriguez – ‘El Puma’ (Puma Racing) and Rafa Vazquez (Vazquez Racing).

50 Anniv - Puma Racing

60th Anniversary special Sherpa T created by ‘El Puma’ (Jose Luis Rodriguez) at Puma Racing for Ramon Palau – Photo Ramon Codina, Bultaco Sport Classic

50 years tank

Tank detail of the Puma Racing 60th Anniversary Sherpa T – Photo: Ramon Codina, Bultaco Sport Classic

50 years Puma Racing

Puma Racing’s special 60th Anniversary Sherpa T in 2015 – Photo: Ramon Codina, Bultaco Sport Classic, Barcelona

El Puma

Jose Luis Rodriguez – ‘El Puma’ with one of his Sherpa T creations.

 

Team Bultaco Classic June 2013 - Alvie

Bultaco Trials Team reunited at the Highland Classic 2 Day Trial in 2013. From Left: Oriol Puig Bulto; Juan Oliver, brother in law of Oriol Bulto; Yrjo Vesterinen; Juame Puig; Ignacio Bulto; Charles Coutard; Manuel Soler and Javier Cuccerella – Photo courtesy: Fiona Watson

 

Some interesting ‘modified’ Bultaco Sherpas:

A good shot of this altered Bultaco

Close up of this unusual Bultaco with top tube acting as a fuel tank seen at the Welsh Trophy Trial in 1978 – Photo: Mike Rapley

Steve Wilson - Bultaco - John Collins

This is a ‘Steve Wilson’ framed Bultaco Sherpa made in England. The machine is now owned by ACU director, John Collins in Port Talbot, Wales. The fuel tank is under the seat area.

 

Other Trials Guru Articles on Bultaco:

Bultaco Sherpa T – 50 Years

Scottish Six Days Trial

Francesco ‘Bambi’ Valera – Bultaco Technician

Alan ‘Sid’ Lampkin

Trials Guru and the Bultaco connection:

Trials Guru’s founder, John Moffat has had a long association with the marque Bultaco and the Sherpa T. He acquired a model 80 Sherpa T first in 1974 and has had at least one Sherpa T in his possession ever since!

JMOFFAT

John Moffat in the 1977 Scottish Six Days on his modified Sherpa T model 80 – Photo copyright: Michael Little

Moffat rode the 1971 model 80 in the 1977 Scottish Six Days Trial, with the specification slightly upgraded.

JOM SSDT - 1977 - Hans Zahn

May 1977 – Scottish Six Days Trial machine inspection – John Moffat with his Sherpa T M80 at Fort William – Photo: Hans Zahn, Weidel, Holstein, Germany

He is friends with Jock Wilson who was with Comerfords International at Thames Ditton when they were the official importers of the marque and was also friendly with tuner, Reg May and stores-man Brian Green. Moffat later struck up a friendship with John May, son of Reg and in September 2016 with full cooperation of the May family wrote a comprehensive article on Reg May for Classic Trial Magazine Issue 18.

1978 JOM Bultaco 325

1978 – Moffat with his Sherpa T model 199 (325cc) – Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Bultaco has been almost a life-long affair concerning Trials Guru’s Moffat, which continues to this day, he rides and restores Bultaco Sherpa, purely for the enjoyment of the marque.

Jan 1979 - Whitburn - Bultaco 199A

1979 – John Moffat and his Bultaco Sherpa T (model 199A) when new – Photo copyright: Trials Guru/John Moffat – all rights reserved

JOM - 1980 - JY

1980 – Sempre Bultaco! Moffat on the Sherpa 199A – Photo: Jimmy Young, Armadale

Moffat was one of the first in Scotland to purchase a Sherco Two-Fifty in the year 2000 from dealers Lewisport.

2000 - Lewisport - Sherco - Bultaco - Boys - JOM photo

Collecting the new 2000 Sherco 250 from Lewisport with the 1979 Bultaco Sherpa 325 – Left to right: Steven Moffat, David Moffat, Graham Ferguson (Lewisport) & John Moffat – Photo: Trial Guru

 

JOM Alvie 2016 - Bill Mc

Still riding Sherpas when time allows! John Moffat (Bultaco 325 – Vazquez Racing Preparation) at the Highland Classic 2 Day Trial, June 2016 – Photo: Bill McGregor

With special thanks to: Yrjo Vesterinen, Jock Wilson, Oriol Puig Bultó, Eric Kitchen, Mick Andrews, Lane Leavitt, Cristina Valera Fandos, Ramon Codina, Blackburn Holden V, Gilles Escuyer, Manuel Soler, Steve Saunders, the late Albert John ‘Buttons’ Button, Mike Rapley and all the photographers listed below for their co-operation in the preparation of this dedicated Trials Guru feature to Bultaco Motorcycles.

We would like to thank John Hulme of Trial Magazine UK/Trials Media for special and unlimited access to the private ‘John Hulme Catalogue Archive’ for imagery of Bultaco Sherpa T models over the years, used in this Trials Guru production.

© – All text copyright and Images as indicated: Trials Guru / Moffat Racing, John Moffat – 2016

© – Image: World-wide Copyright and by special arrangement – Eric Kitchen, England (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Mercedes Gou/Motocat,  Barcelona (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Heath Brindley,  Bristol (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Ramon Codina, Bultaco Sport Classic, Barcelona (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Steve Saunders, Gloucester, UK (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Robert & Michael Little, Peebles-shire (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Torbjorn Eyre, Macclesfield (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Mike Rapley, Carnforth, England (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Iain Lawrie, Kinlochleven (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Iain C. Clark, Fort William (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright David Coughlan, Waterford, Ireland (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Lane Leavitt/ Debbie Evans-Leavitt, California, USA (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Neil Sturgeon, Darlington (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright John Honeyman, Fife (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Jimmy Young, Armadale (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Rainer Heise, Germany (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright and special permission, Mr. Barry Robinson of Ilkley, West Yorkshire (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Blackburn Holden V, Yorkshire (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Fiona Watson, Aberdeenshire (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Chris Sharp, Belfast (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Norman Hawkins, Wales (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Colin Goode, Bedlington (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Donald Young, Stonehaven, Scotland (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: World-wide Copyright Marta Prats Fabregas, Barcelona (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

© – Image: Publicity material, Bultaco Brinco R – World-wide Copyright bultacobrinco.com (All Rights Reserved) – 2016.

Trials Guru:  Main Index

INTERACTIVE TRIALS GURU – If you wish to contact us about this Bultaco – Spain special section, please do so using the contact online form here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s