Classic metal: Bultaco Metralla-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

19 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Classic metal: Bultaco Metralla-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader
Bultaco Metralla 250 GT

04 Jan 2013 | Classic expert Ian Falloon says the Metralla was much under-rated

The Northern Irish singer Van Morrison’s song Brown Eyed Girl was released in 1967 but, at the time, wasn’t a hit and didn’t receive much recognition. It became popular much later and is now considered one of the all-time classic pop songs, and one that defines an era. Bultaco’s Metralla is much the same.

It was never really popular in its day, has earned belated recognition and defines an era of motorcycling.

Introduced in 1962, the Model 8 Metralla 62 had a 196cc two-stroke engine, a four-speed gearbox, and weighed 97kg. And it was a rocket. At a time when the fastest production machines available were 650cc British twins that could run a standing 400m in around 15 seconds, the little Bultaco was barely a second behind. With the optional racing kit the Bultaco had a top speed of around 150km/h and would leave all the famed British twins for dead on a mountain road.

Compared with other 200s (like Ducati’s famed Elite) the Metralla was in a class of its own.

Bultaco’s 200cc engine grew out of the Tralla 155 and 175cc Sherpa scrambler. Even with a street-legal exhaust system the 64.5 x 60mm piston-port single managed to put out an impressive 14.7kW (20hp) at 7000rpm.

The bike was styled to resemble a European endurance road racer with a large tank, flat ’bars, and semi-rear set footpegs. In retrospect, this look was way ahead of its time and it didn’t translate into sales success, especially in the US where Bultaco was endeavouring to establish itself.

Resistance to two-strokes and its unusual name probably had much to do with this. Metralla may have meant grape-shot in colloquial usage but most Spanish-English dictionaries translated this to shrapnel, not the most encouraging word to promote an impression of long-term durability.

By 1966 the success of Yamaha and Suzuki two-strokes saw the two-stroke street motorcycle becoming more accepted and Bultaco released the Model 23 Mark II Metralla. Apart from an enclosed drive chain, this looked similar to the Model 8 but was now powered by a 250cc engine producing 20.3kW (27.6hp) at 7500rpm.

A five-speed gearbox made the Mark II Metralla much more pleasant to ride and Bultaco released a factory racing kit that transformed the Metralla into a highly competitive production racer. At the 1967 Isle of Man TT, Bill Smith and Tommy Robb took first and second in the 250cc production race, Smith winning at an average speed of 142.64km/h. But the Mark II Metralla was no longer the leader of the pack. Kawasaki’s Samurai and Suzuki’s X-6 were cheaper and faster, as was the Ducati 250 Mach 1.

By 1970 Bultaco stopped producing street bikes to concentrate on off-road machines. Then an about-face in 1976 saw the release of the Metralla GT, a touring machine that did little to uphold the sporting spirit of the original Metrallas. Overweight and soft, with alloy wheels and disc brakes, the final Metralla became the GTS in 1978, finally finishing in 1982.

The original Metralla was significantly better than the competition and should have been a commercial success. Although the later Mark 2 was no longer standard setting, it too was a superb machine – a delight to ride – but also a sales failure. But as with Van Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl, the Metralla has finally achieved recognition and is now anointed as being the definitive sporting small capacity machine of its era, and the ultimate classic Spanish motorcycle.

Many thanks to Allen and Lorraine Smith of the Australian Motorcycle Museum, Haigslea, Queensland, for the use of the Model 8 Metralla 62 featured.

Bultaco Metralla 250 GT

Bultaco was formed in 1958 when Francisco Xavier Bultó left Montesa to set up his own company, Bultaco. The name was a combination of Bultó and Paco (a Spanish nickname for Francisco).

In March, 1959, Bultaco released its first bike, the 125cc Tralla 101 and, two months later, took seven of the first 10 places in the Spanish Grand Prix.

Bultaco motorcycles enjoyed considerable road racing success throughout the 1960s and 1970s. New Zealander Ginger Molloy provided it with its first Grand Prix victory in 1966 and in 1969 Barry Sheene became a works rider. In 1972 a Bultaco 360 won the Barcelona 24-Hour endurance race.

Bultaco production ended in 1979. The factory reopened in 1980, but finally closed in 1987. In 1998, Marc Tessier purchased the rights, launching the Bultaco Sherco trials bike. The Bultaco name was dropped in 2001.

A total of around 330,000 Bultaco motorcycles were built in Barcelona.

Former MotoGP racer Sete Gibernau is a grandson of ‘Paco’ Bultó. Bultó died in 1998 at the age of 86, asking to be buried with his Bultaco T-shirt and a properly waxed moustache.

Have a look at this fantastic site by the Bultaco Club Australia:

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