Took a trip down to the Early years of Motorcross museum last night, Tom White opens his private museum up once a year to raise money for the highhopes head injury center. Here's a few of the bikes, the museum is well worth a visit. More info can be found here..
Sweden was a major presence in early motocross, noted both for its talented riders and groundbreaking machinery, and Sweden’s Monark is one of the rarest motocross machines from the 1950’s and 1960’s. The marque enjoyed great success in the International Six Days Trials and achieved its motocross zenith in 1959, when Sten Lundin rode an Albin-powered Monark to the FIM World 500cc Motocross Championship.
From its birth in 1913 to its demise in 1975, Monark specialized in chassis and suspension development. The company relied on power from engine suppliers that included Albin from Sweden, Sachs from Germany, and Morini from Italy.
An intense rivalry between four-stroke bikes from Sweden and Great Britain raged throughout the early 1960s, but gave way to the other side of the Iron Curtain in 1966, when East German Paul Friedrichs captured the FIM World Championship on a Czech-engineered two-stroke CZ.
I'd vote for him...
HUSQVARNA 500cc 4-Stroke Motocross - 1962
In the late 1950’s Nils Hedlund worked first with the Monark factory and then later with Lito to develop a start of the art 500cc motocross machine. Some similarities exist between these early machines and the BSA Gold Star. In fact, the Gold Star transmission was used in these exotic machines. Only 6 true Monarks were ever built and approximately 30 Lito’s.
In 1960 Husqvarna hired Hedlund to build race bikes for factory riders Bill Nilsson and Rolf Tibblin. Hedlund build 10 complete machines from 1960 to 61 and 6 machines in 1962. Bill Nilsson rewarded Husqvarna with the 1960 500cc World Champion and Tibblin won the 1962 and 63 World Championship for the Swedish marques. By 1964 Jeff Smith would win the 500cc World Championship on a smaller 4-stroke machine signaling the end of the 4-stroke behemoths!
1959 BSA 500cc GOLD STAR "CATALINA SCRAMBLER" - DESERT, SCRAMBLES, ROAD RACING...........IT COULD DO IT ALL!
The BSA Gold Star Catalina Scrambler was the perfect machine for a rider like AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer - Chuck Minert. Minert excelled in all types of motorcycle racing from speedway to trials, from desert racing to scrambles, and later, in motocross. In the late 50's and early 60's Minert rode a factory -backed BSA for much of his racing career and was loyal to the British brand long after the bikes were past their competitive prime.
The most important win for Minert in his racing career came in 1956 at the popular Catalina Grand Prix. Almost 1000 riders competed and the win at Catalina was so prestigious, that BSA actually named the 1969 Gold Star DBD34 after the event, thus the name "Catalina Scrambler!" The machine he rode was a 1956 BSA Gold Star Scrambler! Chuck comments, "I changed the tank to a 5 gallon, borrowed a front brake backing plate with a scoop (for additional cooling), and used a 19" front wheel instead of the standard 21" wheel preferred by the English!"
The westcoast distributor for BSA, Hap Alzina asked the factory for a replica of this bike! By the late 1950's, the US market was the strongest in the world for BSA and they followed his advice and responded with the Catalina Scrambler in 1959. The machine would go unchanged until its production stopped in 1963.
The aluminum barrel Gold Star was arguably the most successful race bike every built. It won races for over a decade in every discipline.........desert, scrambles, motocross, flat-track, and roadracing! Ultimately, the Gold Star model was replaced by the smaller (and lighter) B44 that was developed by motocross World Champion - Jeff Smith. This machine, based on the BSA 250cc model, would win its final 500cc Motocross World Championship in 1965 and would mark the end of 4-stroke domination in the premier series.
1971 Ducati rt 450
Ducati sprung to life by making a small bicycle engine to transport the war-ravaged Italian citizens. In 1946, the Cucciolo (little puppy) engine was originally sold in a box to be attached to a bicycle. Before WWII, Ducati had produced radio tubes and condensers, but thanks to the Cucciolo’s success, Ducati became a name brand motorcycle manufacturer. By 1954, Ducati was producing 120 bikes a day. Even more momentous in ’54 was the arrival of engineer Fabio Taglioni. Taglioni’s big idea was to control valve float by having the valves positively opened and closed without using valve springs. The main benefit of his desmodromic system was the prevention of valve float. Valve float can cause a catastrophic collision between the piston and valve or, at the very least, create poor valve seal. The desmodromic system eliminates valve float by using dual rocker arms on each valve (one for opening and one for closing the valve). The Ducati 450 R/T was the first and only motocross bike to be outfitted with desmodromic valves.
In 1969 a 350cc Desmo Ducati actually won the Baja 500 piloted by desert ace Doug McClure. Following this success, U.S. importer Berliner Motor Corporation requested a off-road 450cc version of the 350 TSS being sold in Europe to compete against the popular BSA 441 Victor. The 450 R/T (road/trail), as it was called, was built exclusively for the American market and was finished in brite yellow.
Matchless 500cc G85CS – 1966
Too little (or possible too much), too late. That could probably be said about the Matchless G85CS Scrambler. As one of the last models of Matchless to be made, it was the last (and best) attempt by the British to build a 4-stroke scrambler capable of beating the light-weight 2-stroke machines that were dominating the European Scrambles scene.
It’s easy to see the Rickman brothers influence in the design of the frame. The G85 was a duplex design with lightweight forks, machined front hub, magnesium rear hub, and as many lightweight fiberglass and aluminum components as possible utilized. Though Matchless claimed 291 lbs, actual weight was nearly 320 lbs, much heavier that the 2-stroke competition.
The G85CS looked and sounded magnificent, but was not particularly fast and when combined with the weight, missed the mark.