Montesa Honda is the Spanish subsidiary of Honda, which assembles several models of motorcycles, bicycles and parts at its Barcelona plant.
The company exports 75 percent of its production to Europe.
Permanyer and Bultó
Montesa was formed in 1944 by Pedro Permanyer and Francisco Xavier "Paco" Bultó. Their first Montesa prototype was based upon the French Motobécane models of that time. Permanyer began to produce his own gas engines, which allowed for a new area in motorcycles to be explored and expanded into. Permanyer and Bultó teamed up in Barcelona and created a light-weight motorcycle. This led to the creation of a bike powered by a 95cc two-stroke engine with no rear suspension. Despite some setbacks, they sold 22 of these units in the first year of production. The next year, the partnership focused on production improvements and meeting the growing demand for their bike. As a successor to the previous model, Bultó designed a new 125cc roadster, which was tested in many of the trail-type rallies and semi-enduros that were popular in Spain at the time.
This model went on to enter the 1951 International Six Days Enduro. The bike was entered in by the factory, being ridden by Bultó and G. Cavestany. In the early 1950s, Montesa entered many races in the 125cc class of road racing. These bikes featured six-speed, bolt on gearboxes, in semi-unit construction, with all gears running on needle-roller bearings. By 1956, these Montesa 125s were very competitive and took second, third and fourth places in the Ultra-Lightweight race at the Isle of Man TT.
The most successful Montesa street bike of the 1950s was the Brio 80, of which more than 12,000 were produced. The success of the Brio and the other models, led to the opening of a new, larger factory in Espluges de Llobregat. The Brio 80 and Brio 90 models contained many new advances, such as moving the carburetor behind the cylinder, and a handbrake. However, a slump in the Spanish economy had forced Permanyer to cut back on the company's racing activities. Permanyer wanted to pull out of road racing, but Bultó insisted that they stay the course. In May 1958, chief designer Bultó left, taking with him several of Montesa's vital personnel to form a competitive firm, Bultaco. Permanyer had not only lost the brilliant designer Bultó, but also his 30% share of the company.
Growth and success in the 1960s and 1970s
Fortunately for both, Spain's economy began to improve. Permanyer promoted the all-around champion motorcyclist Pedro Pi from head test rider to chief development engineer. Leopold Mila was made Technical Director and Permanyer's son Javier, was to be Sports Assistant. Work began right away on designing a brand new all-unit-construction 175cc engine that by 1960, would power the latest Impala sports roadster model. This engine would form the basis of the company's future trials and motocross machines. To promote sales of this model, three Impala's were taken to Africa where they covered over 12,000 miles of terrain, most of it being off-road. Back in Spain, Pi was busy winning the Spanish motocross and road race championships and working on a new 250cc version.
Following its introduction in 1965, the 250 engine would be the cornerstone of the company's future success. Mounted on the new 250 Scorpion scrambler, Pi won the Spanish championship again in 1966 and the similarly engined Sport roadster won the Barcelona 24-hour endurance road race. In 1967 the first Montesa trials models appeared and in 1968 retitled the Cota, Pi won the Spanish Trials Championship. After adding this title to go along with the road race and six motocross titles, he retired from competition to devote his full energy to bike development.
In the decade following, Montesa had unprecedented growth around the World and one has to remember that unlike Bulto's bike, the Bultaco, Montesa only sent a small percentage of its production to the States, concentrating mostly on the European market. Trials models were offered in many different sizes 25, 49, 125, 175, 250, 348 and 349, as were motocrossers 125, 175, 250, 360 and 414. This also included a line of street and Enduro models also. In 1973, the VR (Vehkonen Replica) was released and set the standard for 1974, as did the 348 Cota did in 1976. Ulf Karlsson won the World Trials Championship on a Cota in 1980.
By 1981, another round of economic unrest in Spain began to hinder motorcycle manufacturers. Strikes and a shrinking market left Montesa as the only major motorcycle concern in the country; however they were in need of a major influx of capital in order to continue to survive. A loan from the government and shares sold to Honda (to establish a European manufacturing base for their commuter bikes) helped production continue. Indeed, one of the government's stipulations was that Honda would guarantee that production would not stop. Honda was prepared to stockpile trial bikes and to sell them off at a loss in an effort to reach Europe's more profitable market and to bypass restrictive import tariffs.
In July 1985, a major reorganization took place and a large amount of money from Honda was received. By then, only two trials models were offered and the workforce had dwindled to a mere 152 employees. A year later, there were further financial moves between Honda, Spain's government and the Permanyer family, leading to Honda buying the majority of the family's remaining shares. Honda now had an 85% holding and spent another $5 million on modifying and updating the factory.
Montesa World Trials
Montesa was still active in World Trials competition throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Even though reduced to only offering one model, the Cota, such riders like former World Champion Eddy Lejeune and Andrew Codina rode the bike to good results in the mid-'80s. In 1992-93, the liquid-cooled Cota 311 was produced; this was to be the last "real" Montesa. In 1994, a new model, the 314R, was introduced. This model featured an HRC Honda powerplant with many other components from Honda. Montesa-mounted Marc Colomer won the World title in 1996 and the 315R followed in early '97. The 315R had a run of 7 years, taking Dougie Lampkin to many world championships, and was replaced by the technically advanced four-stroke Cota 4RT in 2005.
The Montesa HRC Trial Team has a long and rich history of individual and manufacturer World titles, spearheaded at first by the monumental achievements of Dougie Lampkin, who captured six World Championships during his seven-year tenure with the team, and more recently by Toni Bou, who has won ten consecutive World titles since signing with the team at the end of 2006.
Although Bou and Lampkin are the most decorated, and therefore by default the most celebrated Montesa riders in recent years, the team has played host to a number of other World Championship-winning riders. Ulf Karlsson triumphed with Montesa in 1980, as did Marc Colomer in 1996, while current Montesa HRC pilot Takahisa Fujinami was victorious in 2004.
While the men often get the majority of the limelight 11 times FIM Women’s World Champion Laia Sanz, who left the team at the end of last season, and who gained seven of her titles whilst riding under the Repsol Montesa banner also deserves a special mention.
Lampkin joined Colomer and Fujinami in the team in 2000 having already won three outdoor World titles. He made an incredible debut for the team and won both the indoor and outdoor World Championships in a season that saw Montesa HRC dominate, claiming the top three positions in the outdoor standings.
Colomer left in 2001, leaving Lampkin and Fujinami, accompanied at different times by teammates David Cobos and Marc Freixa, to dominate the standings for a further six years. It was during this period that Lampkin hit his peak, and Fujinami became the first ever Japanese World Trials Champion.
In 2004 Sanz joined the squad and has lost only one Women’s trial championship since, winning seven World titles for the team. 2004 was also the year that Repsol began its long association with Montesa HRC.
Toni Bou joined the formidable duo of Lampkin and Fujinami for the start of the 2007 season and won the World Championship at his first attempt aboard his Repsol Montesa HRC Cota 4RT, a machine that was first introduced in 2005. Lampkin
left the team at the end of the 2007 season, while Bou continued to win successive World titles, both indoors and outdoors. He currently has ten Word titles (five indoor / X-Trial and five outdoor) to his name and looks likely to increase his tally to 12 this year as the mighty Repsol Montesa squad marches onward.
The history of Montesa goes back to 1944, when a young Barcelona industrialist, Pere Permanyer Puigjaner, 33, began to produce his own gas generators for automobiles, thus opening a new branch of activities in the motorcycle industry.
The gas generator industry was characteristic of Spanish life during the post-Civil War period.
During the Second World War, 1939-1945 and during the time of Spanish reconstruction after its devastating civil war from 1936-39, the shortage of fuel had paralysed Spanish transport in such an way that the application of the gas generator system (an artful procedure for obtaining fuel by burning almond shells) was at that time a virtually magical resource for running cars, trucks and electrical generators.
Pedro Permanyer had learned of the performance of vegetable combustion through the business founded by his grandfather, who had devoted his time to the importing and distribution of coal. Carbones Permanyer obtained the raw material from Corsica and Sicily and shipped it to Barcelona aboard its own schooners.
Pedro Permanyer Puigjaner was born in Barcelona on 21 July 1911. At the age of 11 he and his family moved to the new family home in the Sant Martí district of Barcelona, where the family firm was located. His involvement in the neighbourhood and his work with local youth and the development of the district earned him the "San Martín de Oro" prize in 1975, awarded by the Municipal District Office for his "internationaln presence". Although for a certain period of time he worked in the familyn firm under the direction of his father, he soon showed a natural inclination for industry and a passion for mechanics.
As a child, a beloved meccano set contributed to the development of his vocation for industrial innovation. When he finished his degree in Engineering and Commerce in 1931, his natural curiosity prompted him to get involved in one of the first projects of his youth: having forecast possible energy restrictions, he studied combustion systems using gas generators in internal combustion engines. He went to Madrid, and then to London and Paris, where this system had been studied in the universities, in order to gather all possible information. In the French capital he managed to drive a garbage truck fuelled by a gas generator system in order to check its performance in practice.
During the Spanish Civil War, in Zaragoza, Pedro Permanyer took over the management of a repair and reconstruction workshop for vehicles used by the Air Force. During that time he established a long-lasting friendship with Josep Antoni Soler i Urgell, "Jasu", with whom he shared the arduous war years. Permanyer was in charge of the workshop of soldiers who were mechanics, bench hands, millers, carpenters, body workers and assembly workers. The German DKW two-stroke engine was of special interest to the young 26 year old manager, and was the basis of his subsequent projects.
In 1939, after the end of the civil war, and his military activity, his active spirit led him to set up a mechanical workshop, first in premises in Calle Rómulo Bosch, in Barcelona (where several family warehouses had been located) and administrative offices in a building at Calle París, 193.
By taking advantage of his previous knowledge, PPP decided to manufacture and distribute gas generators, a business that produced brilliant results. His models were so successful that the demand surpassed manufacturing capacity, whereupon, in 1941, he moved his installations to larger premises at Calle Córcega, 408, in Barcelona.
Nevertheless, around 1944, with the end of the Second World War in sight, Permanyer realised that the supply or fuels would soon return to normal, and, therefore, that he would have to reorientate his industry towards a different activity other than gas generators, which was, in fact, an emergency resource, the result of prevailing circumstances. His first idea was to study to the two-stroke engine for motorcycles, since at that time there was an extraordinary demand for this type of light vehicle, coexisting with both a total lack of domestic production of the same and imports, due to the two warsn that had raged in Europe, the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the Second World War (1939-1945).
FROM THE BEGININGS UNTIL 1945
"Jasu", whom we have mentioned earlier and who was aware of the potential of Pedro Permanyer as an industrialist, introduced him to his brother-in-law, Francisco X. Bultó, a great fan of motorcycling as a sport and an excellent motorcycle driver himself. The three of them decided in June 1944 to begin manufacturing light motorcycles at the Permanyer shops at Calle Córcega 408, in Barcelona.
A Motobecane B1V2GR38 that Bultó had given as a present to his nephew Juan Soler Bultó (son of "Jasu" and who latern became a motorcycle racing and trial driver) served as the basis for their first prototype, which was ridden in the streets of Barcelona by the end of October that same year.
After making certain modifications, this first prototype was ready and on 11 February 1945 the bike was registered for team motorcycle performance testing organised by the Royal Motorcycle Club of Catalonia under the initials XX, since the name of the make was still undecided. The driver of that motorcycle was José Luis Milá, who was unable to finish the trials due to a breakdown in the starter.
This setback did not discourage the company, and, in fact, spurred them on to perfecting the technical development of
their design, on which they worked intensely. At that time, the difficulties in sustaining assembly-line production were enormous, enough to dampen the most fervent enthusiasm.
In Spain at that time there was still no auxiliary industry properly speaking, and Spain's political isolation made it extremely difficult to obtain the necessary raw materials and parts.
In the face of this situation, one of the most important elements, the most difficult to get one's hands on, was the magnetic flywheel used for the starter. Luckily, Manuel Giró, who owned a movie projector factory (Orfeo Sincronic S.A. – O.S.S.A) had imported, prior to the war, Bosch flywheels in order to manufacture motorcycles. Permanyer and Bultó bought 100 units from him for 22,000 Pesetas and began building the first one hundred bikes on the assembly line.
In order to obtain the materials they needed, under such adverse circumstances, Permanyer had to stretch his imagination to limits which would be incomprehensible today.
There were no means of production whatsoever nor specialist personnel. To this end he made continuous forays to gather information gathering in Madrid and Bilbao, and later on, abroad, and had to take recourse to wily manoeuvres, such as the export of Spanish Rioja wines in order to obtain the raw materials import license he needed for the industry. Meanwhile, Bultó was designing prototypes. His friend Carles Flywheels, another engineer, collaborated on his first drawings.
At that time, Bultó could only devote several hours of his spare time to the project, since he had his own business to look after, Barella y Bultó S.L., which had its factory in Vilanova y la Geltrú (Barcelona) and produced segments and cylinder liners for the automobile industry and were distributed under the trade mark "Bolaco".
In June 1945 three of the new motorcycles were shown at the Barcelona Trade Fair. It had already been decided that the trade mark would be called Montesa, chosen after having analysed the different alternatives. This was the A-4 model, a rigid frame motorcycle with a 98-cc engine (45.6 x 60-mm) and three manual speeds. A lady's model was also shown as well as one with rear suspension. The carburators used were French Furtner's, although, later on, the company would manufacture its own.
The capital contribution to the new business was mostly assumed by Pedro Permanyer. The first balance sheet of the new company, which was incorporated on 31 December 1945 states as owners Pedro Permanyer Puigjaner and his father, Marcelino Permanyer Grifoll, with a share capitaln of 630,003.36 Pesetas, 89% of the company shareholding, and Francisco X. Bultó, with a share capital of 80,619.75n pesetas, a shareholding of the remaining 11%. Pedro Permanyer was the company's first Director.
The mixture of the sporting spirit and adventure which had existed since the founding of the company, together with the need to test the motorcycles in order to complete their development, gave rise to the organisation in July 1945 of a climb to the Caldes de Bohí balneary, where no motor vehicles had ever gone before, since there were no roads and one had to make the climb cross-country on by horse or mule. Five motorcycles reached the goal and their drivers, true heroes of cross-country mountain motorcycling, were Paco Bultó, José Luis and Alfonoso Milá, J.M. Llobet "Turuta" and Juan Soler Bultó.
The company participated for the first time in 1945 in a circuit speed race, the "Montjuich Motorcycle Race" where the home grown Montesa performed brilliantly, walking off with four first prizes in the 100-cc classes, before the enthusiastic applause of the public. First place was won by J.M. Llobet, "Turuta".
THE BEGINNINGS OF ASSEMBLY LINE PRODUCTION
Assembly line production had already begun and on 19 June 1945 the first unit appeared on the market, with the Serial number MB 0001. The buyer was Pere Permanyer himself. The second unit was sold to Juan Soler Bultó, the third (Lady's model) went to Ana Mª Villavecchia, the fourth to Carlos Flywheels and the fifth to F.X. Bultó. The sale price was 8,500 pesetas for the normal model and 9,000 pesetas for the Lady's model.
During that first year, 1945, output totalled 21 units. And although Spain had experienced attempts to manufacture motorcycles before, none had been serious enough to be considered normal industrial production. According to Francisco Herreros, author of the Spanish Motorcycle Encyclopaedia,
"Only the Madrid-born Soriano had had proper installations and the total support of the regime of General Franco, thanks to the political loyalties of the owners. However, the quality of their production left much to be desired …".
There can be no doubt that Montesa was the first motorcycle manufacturer in Spain, with assemblyline production and a truly industrial and export-minded spirit.
was basically devoted to the increase and improvement of production, stimulated by growingdemand. On the sporting front, Montesaparticipated for the first time in an international competition: it was 5 May at the International Gran Prix in Barcelona, on the Montjuich circuit, and resulted in the spectacular victory in the 125-cc class. Montesa also was the Spanish Championships in the 100 and 125-cc classes that year.
That same year some series units were built with a 51.5-mm diameter piston and 60 mm stroke: this 125-cc model was called the B-46.
By way of experiment, some units were also equipped with English Villiers engines, although the idea of importing these engines for use in the series was finally rejected. Finally, at the beginning of 1947, the manufacturing of a new version, known as the B-46/49, with new cylinders and head, larger on the outside, with a squarer exterior but the same characteristics as the 51.5 x 60.
The final incorporation of the company took place on 3 February 1947 under public deed before the Notary Public F. Trias de Bes and took on the name of Permanyer S.A. de Industrias Mecánicas. The contribution to share capital of the Permanyer family totalled 76.3% and that of the Bultó family 23.7%. Total share capital was 810,000 pesetas.
The company continued growing and greater financing became necessary. In November 1947, before the Public Authorities, the company declared its intentions to increase capital through the increase in the contribution of the to share capital in order to bring their shareholding up to that of the Permanyer family.
However, this capital increase did not have positive results, as the Bultó family changed its mind, fearing that the future of the Montesa motorcycle business was not clear, due to the difficulties of auxiliary industry which was lacking at that time in Spain.
Finally, on 29 May 1948, the necessary capital increase was effected. Permanyer pledged his own private equity and, together with 23 other minor shareholders, contributed the capital necessary to continue the company's expansion plan. Share capital was set at 2,310,000 pesetas.
The breakdown of the shareholders was as follows: the Permanyer family, 44%, the Bultó-Marqués family, 30,9%, the Guixà-Arderiu family, 13,6%, the Milá family, 9,5%, others, 2%.
The company increased production to 2 units per day and the monthly turnover totalled 500,000 pesetas.
Orders for Montesa motorcycles continued to grow faster than production could increase. But the priority continued to be the maintenance and improvement of product quality. The premises on Calle Córcega could not take on any additional expansions and efforts came underway to move to new, larger industrial sheds.
FROM THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL RACES TO THE FACTORY IN CALLE PAMPLONA
F.X. Bultó's great interest and enthusiasm for motorcycle racing and the first successes obtained led to the decision to participate for the first time in a test outside of Spain in 1948. The race chosen was the "Tourist Trophy", in Assen, Holland, the most important in the continental calendar that year. The Spanish press that year glowed with enthusiasm.
Four motorcycles were prepared to participate in the 125-cc race. A large group of fans and friends gave the drivers and their team a warm send off at the Prat airport in Barcelona, as if they were football stars. The members of the expedition included: Paco Bultó, "Turuta", Leopoldo Milá, Alfonso Milá, Guillermo Cavestany and José-Antonio Romeu. The four motorcycles were drawn by lots and not assigned a prior to any one specific driver.
Once on the racetrack, it turned out to be difficult to regulate the carburation since they had to use 72-octane petrol.
Finally, the idea of drawing lots for the motorcycles was discarded and they decided to choose the four pilots with the lowest weight. They found out afterwards that the best results were obtained by "Turuta", who weighed the least. 32 drivers participated with 14 different motorcycle makes. The final results were:
- 1st Dick Renouy Eysink-Villiers a 98 Km./hour (average)
- 2nd Nello Pagani Morini
- 5th "Turuta" Montesa a 95,5 Km/hour
- 9th L.Milá Montesa
- 15th A.Milá Montesa
Guillermo Cavestany had to withdraw, without finishing the race. Of special note is the well deserved merit of having competed at that time with the experience and prestige of Italian and British makes, who had at their disposal better means and longer experience in speed race competition.
In 1959 the company leased a large three-storey building at Calle Pamplona 89, Barcelona, where they set up the new Montesa factory with greater expansion potential.
At the same time premises were also leased at Calle Ausias March 113, where company offices were installed.
This was the time of the introduction of a completely innovative model, the result of the creativity of the design team and called the "D-51".
Of special importance with the X-48/49 "Montjuich" motor. This motor, which had already been subject to competition, was first tested in June 1948. It had a piston without deflector with a 54.2 x 54 stroke diameter.
The petrol tank, which was now rounded instead of square, led to the need for a colour change. Several drawings were made.
The company finally chose red, which came to be symbolic of the make. The X-48/49 engine was rejected as a result of the difficulty in mechanising the cylinder. An oil bathed multi-disc clutch was used.
The new model was shown at the Barcelona Trade Fair in 1951 and would signify the end of parallel suspension, which was replaced by a telescopic fork suspension system. The new brakes were twice as efficient and cast in aluminium.
Several units of this model participated on 16 and 17 June in the Andorra Rally, and Leopoldo Milà, one of the drivers, claimed first place.
A new bout of international competition led F.X. Bultó and Guillermo Cavestany to the 6 day Internationals held in Varese (Italy). Both won the bronze in the arduous 2000 km. race.
Another major event that year was the company's first time participation in the Tourist Trophy speed races on the Isle of Man on 6 June.
The final classification in the 125 cc class:
- 1.- C.Mc Candless (Mondial)
- 2.- C. Ubbiali (Mondial)
- 3.- G.Leoni (Mondial)
- 4.-N.Pagani (Mondial)
- 5.-J.S.Bultó (Montesa)
- 6.-"Turuta" (Montesa)
The fact that Montesa classified as the second make (out of 16) and, moreover, the first in the 2 stroke-motor classification, had a major impact in the English specialist press.
THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRADE FAIRS UNTIL THE BREAK UP. 1953..1958
Technical evolution continued its unstoppable path and in February 1953 the Montesa "Brío 90" was showcased for the first time. The Brío 90 was a finely turned sporty model which, for the first time, had the carburator located behind the cylinder, as well as other important modifications to the engine which gave it greater power and acceleration speed.
In March 1953 Montesa participated for the first time in a Trade Fair outside of Spain: this was the Geneva motor show, where Pere Permanyer personally presented the new "Brío 90". Moreover, the showing of miniatures of various Montesa models (crafted in great detail by the artist Manuel Olivé) caused great admiration. The specialist press tried out several Montesa bikes and the reviews in the magazine were highly favourable.
Pere Permanyer felt proud of the company's participation in the Geneva Show, since this was not only the first time that a Spanish motorcycle was shown outside of Spain, but also that it was totally unusual to see Spanish industrial products accredited beyond Spanish borders.
We should recall, for example, that SEAT had still not begun car production at that time. A more utilitarian model, the Brío 80, was shown the next year at the Barcelona Trade Fair. This new Montesa had smaller wheels, more inflatable tyres and wider mudguards. The bike gave a smoother ride and was easier to use as a two-seater, a very attractive option at that time.
In February 1954, a Montesa "Sprint" type motorcycle participated in the International speed Gran Prix held in Sao Paulo (Brazil) competing against the favourite drivers and makes in the world. Montesa's success cemented its fame world-wide.
The Montesa driver, John Grace, won 7th place in the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man that same year with the Montesa "Sprint". He chalked up another major success at the popular International Monaco riding a "Brío 90".
That summer, as a result of the experience at the last TT on the Isle of Man, Montesa adopted a new cowling for the "Sprint", which raced the Spanish Gran Prix, winning points for the World Championship. Montesa came in 3rd and 4th place in the 125-cc class. This long string of accumulated successes, technically, commercially and in competition, was reinforced world-wide in November 1954 by the London Motor Show held in the classic Earls Court Exhibition Hall, where Montesa showcased its Brío 80 and Brío 90 for 1955 along with its "Sprint".
The Montesa stand piqued the curiosity of many Londoners and was one of the most visited.
J.P.Griffith, reporter for "Motor Cycle" tested the Montesa bikes and asked himself: "What have I learned? That Spain is producing good motorcycles, which drive as good as they look".
At the beginning of 1955, the new versions of the Brío 80 and 90 were launched, including speedometers on the headlight, a light switch on the handlebar, a new two person seat and a handbrake, which was new to Spain. Pere Permanyer had brought the patent on this ingenious device from Geneva after having struck up a great friendship with its inventor, Abraham Neiman (who became the owner of the multi-national of the same name).
In order to develop this product, P.P.P. created Compañía Clausor, and became its first president. That year brilliant results were to be obtained with the "Sprint": a 2 and 3rd place at the VI International Speed Gran Prix in Sarre, with motorcycles driven by Paco Gonzalez and Enric Sirera. Montesa also claimed victory at the Rabassada Speed Slope Race, with José A. Elizalde, and, later, at the International Gran Price in Lyon, John Grace, riding a 175-cc model, won a spectacular victory at which he lapped the second place driver.
In June, Montesa returned to the Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man, and made off with 2nd, 3rd and 4th place in the 125-cc race on the Clypse Circuit. This was an extraordinary affirmation of the potential of the make's team, underlined by the praise it received in the international motorcycle press. On 2 and 3 July the first Montjuich 24 Hour Motorcycle Rally was held involving 88 drivers alternating on 44 motorcycles. Juan Soler Bultó and "Turuta" won first place, ahead of Guzzi, BMW, Triumph, etc. with larger engines.
That year the tenth anniversary of the founding of the company was celebrated with different commemorative acts. The first was held on 1 December, Saint Eloy, when all company personnel was bussed to Montserrat for a banquet at the Hotel in the Colonia Puig, on Montserrat mountain, and where gold insignias were awarded to employees with ten years of service with the company. On 9 December that year, on the occasion of the anniversary of the founding of the company, the First National Convention of Official Montesa Sales Agents was held, at which the new Brío 80/56 was showcased. This new model included numerous improvements on the old model, especially in the locking toolbox, the petrol level, removable ring, illuminated speedometer, etc.
The success of that first convention gave rise to periodical conventions of Montesa distributors both in and out of Spain. The conventions let the agents discuss commercial projects and listen to problems, sales plans and experiences, which the participants brought up in the course of their discussions. This reinforced, from all points of view, communication among agents and between agents and the factory. The commemorative activities finalised that year with a celebration on 23 December at the Salón Rosa in Barcelona with a homage to all the Montesa drivers.
The evolution of the company was most satisfactory and its commercial activity and success in international races had made Montesa motorcycles world famous and much admired.
Two new models were introduced: one, which was clearly a sports model with 4 speeds and with the speed selector integrated into the gear box: the Brío 91, in 1956, had an exhaust pipe, a momentum wheel for smoother handling and other features. This model saw the end of the typical red paint job, which was replaced by a "trout green". The 1956 Montjuich 24 Hour Rally was also won by the Elizalde brothers, riding a special 142-cc motorcycle.
2dn, 3rd and 4th place also went to Montesa drivers.
Clearly on the rise, those years saw exports in substantial numbers to numerous countries in Europe, South American and the United States. But in 1958 the Spanish government decided to implement that National Stabilisation Plan, which was extremely restrictive, in order to reduce inflation and eliminate the public deficit. The general cutbacks led to a restructuring of Montesa, as was the case of other prosperous companies in Spain, and Permanyer, under the force of circumstances, proposed limiting structural costs, which also temporarily affected the racing department which, at the time, and as a first provisional measure, was forced to suspend its activities. However, F.X. Bultó refused to accept this restriction and decided to leave the company, stating that the competitions were his main
motivation for his personal involvement in Montesa.
At that moment, the group made up of Muntadas, Cavestany, Rumeu and the Milá brothers had a small involvement in Montesa, and inclued P.P.P.'s collaborator and faithful friend "Jasu", who remained with Montesa as long as possible. The break was inevitable. The sale of the shares in Permanyer S.A. de Industrias Mecánicas held by the Bultó-Marqués family was agreed and Pedro Permanyer took recourse once again to his family and friends to face the new situation.
In fact, Permanyer did not know at that time that Bultó had already had the intention of setting up his own motorcycle manufacturing company while he was still on the bridge at Montesa. It was a surprise to Permanyer to find that several members of his racing department had "deserted" him to join Bultó and the latter's project. The situation was serious for Montesa, but Permanyer faced it with his usual capacity for decisionmaking:he replaced the Board of Directors, placed Leopoldo Milá at the head of the technical
department and restructured all departments.
Milá rejected continuation on the "motor-block" engine project, on which he had been worked with his former colleagues (and which would finally be used as the basis of Bultaco's future "Tralla 101". He wished to start off fresh, introducing his own ideas and his own philosophy on the concept of design, of which he was very sure. While Milá was forging ahead on what would be the future "impala" the international market saw the launching of certain developments in the already existing models, the "Brío 82", the "Montesa 150"
and, especially, the "Brío 110".
1959 witnessed the first shipment of motorcycles to Japan, which can be considered a real milestone.
Japan was a world power in the export field and, domestically, an impregnable bastion to other exporting countries. The rumour was flying then that the Japanese technicians were eager to test the Montesas in their own country in order to examine them closely and, eventually, copy some of their details.
THE IMPALA AND THE ESPLUGUES FACTORY 1959..1963
Bultó and his team began their activity and named the new make Bultaco, a combination of the last name of the founder (Paco Bultó), who gave the imprint of his own sporting ethos from the very beginning to the new company.
The appearance of a new unexpected competitor and the positive evolution of the market contributed to the fact that Montesa reconsidered its temporary absence from competition, and on 19 March 1959, the first clash between Montesa and Bultaco took place on the racetrack. It was the 15th Montjuich Gran Prix, in the 125-cc class. A passionate duel was fought there in an atmosphere of tremendous expectation between the best drivers from both makes; Juan "Tey" Elizalde riding Montesa and Johnny Grace on Bultaco. At the end of an exciting race, the Montesa pilot won by a neck.
At that time, Montesa obtained other sporting triumphs of great importance with motorcycles driven by César Gracia, Enric and Jordi Sirera, Rafa Marsans and the multi-talented Juan Ramón López de la Torre. Of special importance was the fact that the team was joined by a young driver especially gifted for Moto-Cross: this was Pedro Pí, who was to play a fundamental role later on, first as a driver and then as a technician and designer, in moto-cross, and then in trials. His first race with Montesa was the 1st International Moto-Cross in Barcelona, held at the Pedralbes Circuit in February 1960.
Pedro Pí rode a series "Brío 110" simply equipped with "taco" tyres and a larger diameter gear ring to cut down development. The precariousness of the mounting did not allow him to fight for victory under equal conditions, but that year, with the appropriate moto-cross designed bike, he won several victories, culminating in the 2nd Annual Barcelona International Moto-Cross the following year.
That was year - 1961 - Pedro Pí won the Spanish 125 cc and 250-cc Championships. He won again in 1962 in the 250-cc class.
On 5 September 1961 the cornerstone was laid at what would be the new Montesa factory in Esplugues del Llobregat. Activity at the new factory was begun in 1962, and on 19 April 1963 the premises were officially opened, with all the authorities in attendance. The new building, measuring 10,000 square meters, and designed by the renowned architects Correa and Milá, used pre-fabricated materials, which were very new for the period. Meanwhile, Leopoldo Milá was working intensively on the "Impala" project. One of the basics of the project was to assureb the quality and reliability of the product, and that is why it wasb necessary to subject the prototypes to tough, exhaustive testing.
Along the way the idea arose to make a motorcycle crossing of Africa, from north to south, where the most trying conditions were insured. The plan was risky and ambitious. Five volunteers quickly appeared to make the trip: Oriol Regás, Tey Elizalde, Enrique Vernis, Rafael Marsans and Manuel Maristany. Crossing Africa by motorcycle, from Capetown to Cairo, under the conditions of the time, was an adventure of epicb proportions. The media covered the event very closely. Three "Impala" prototypes were painstakingly prepared, and, in the company of a back up Land-Rover, the adventure kicked off on 15 January 1962. During 1000 days, and crossing 20,000 kilometres, no greater problems arose than a few minor incidents that cropped up along the way in inhospitable countries, through forests and plains, without roads and facing a myriad of risks of all kinds.
The design ideas of Leopoldo Milá were confirmed and the final project was a complete success. The new Montesa "Impala" earned from the first moment onward major technical, commercial and sports success. An example for design was also set which has not been invalidated with the passing of time.
You can still see "Impalas" being driven on the streets of Barcelona, which is something totally unusual given that they were designed in 1961. Young motorcycle drivers still today compete with each other for the purchase of these models as if they were precious jewels.
The Montesa "impala" was awarded the ADI-FAD prize for the best industrial design in 1962.
At that time the company had 460 employees on the payroll, and production of 11,000 units per year.
The reigning industrial notion of the time was that of highly integrated manufacturing: foundry work, presses, welding, complete mechanisation of the engine, painting, and assembly …The models manufactured simultaneously in the sixties were the "Impala", the "Impala Sport", "Comando", and production for the first time was begun for the assembly line production of a Moto-Cross bike (the "Impala Cross" 175 and 250-cc.), basically for export. A new model based on a very advanced concept for the time was also launched: the 4-speed 60-cc scooter called the Montesa "Microsooter".
THE PERIOD FROM 1963-1968. MOTO CROSS. THE U.S. MARKET
In the following years, Pedro Pí would win several Spanish moto-cross Championships in hard fought duels, first with Oriol Puig-Bultó and later on with José Sanchez, both Bultaco racers. He also won numerous, key international competitions, especially in France and Belgium.
1963 was a brilliant year in terms of sports victories: Jordi Sirera became the 175-cc Spanish Speed Champion and José Mª Busquets, the 250-cc champion. Brothers Jordi and Enric Sirera riding a 250-cc Impala Sport won the Montjuich 24 Hour Rally while the team of Carlos Rocamora and Juan Ramón López de la Torre came in second on an Impala 175 cc. Pedro Pí was proclaimed champion once again at the Spanish 125-cc Moto-Cross Championship. Victories were also obtained in other specialities, such as at Rallies where the consummate specialist Oriol Regás won a string of victories, including the Canne-Geneve-Cenn International Trophy.
José Mª Arenas alternated participation in speed races with hill climbing victories, which were very popular at the time. And the Madrid racer J. R. López de la Torre won the Spanish Regularity Championships in 1960, 1963 and 1964. The North American market, potentially very important, opened up great expectations for exports.
The American importer Kim Kimball (in association with the popular film star Steve McQueen) began in 1963 with the import of the Impala 175 Cross, which was called the "Scrambler" in its American version. He initially used his own garage and then expanded to other premises.
He began himself to participate in desert trials (popular at that time) and made the trademark known, beginning in California. His friend Dan Gurney, the famous racing car driver, would join Montesa Motors Inc., which would end up with a retail network of 350 dealerships through out the USA. Other racing car drivers joined the company as shareholders, including Ritchie Ginter (first winner for Honda of a Formula 1 race) and Phil Hill.
Several Montesa models could be seen in numerous Hollywood movies, such as "Big Jake", "Freebie and the Bean", "On Any Sunday", etc. Even the famous film star Steve McQueen, a friend of Kim Kimball's, spent his days off riding a Montesa in the California deserts.
Another interesting anecdote was the gift that astronaut Neil Armstrong came home to when he returned from his successful moon voyage. Pedro Permanyer, forever in awe of technical advancement, wanted him to find a Montesa at his front door awaiting his return. In 1964 three German Moto-Cross riders were recruited: Fritz Betzelbacher, Otto Walz, (Otto and Fritz, the famous pair) and Georg Hauger, who obtained numerous victories in Europe. The popularity of Moto-Cross gave Montesa the opportunity for launching new models for customers taking part in this speciality. Thus, the Impala Cross was replaced in 1967 by the Cross '66 (conceived of for the American market) and the Cappra 250. In 1965 Montesa decided to penetrate the moped market before the forecasted decline in sales of the utilitarian model in the coming years.
Thus began production of the Ciclo Montesa, with a 50-cc engine and 3 speed manual gears (manufactured under JLO's license due to the impossibility of developing Montesa's own motor in such a short time).
This motor would continue evolving over the next few years and come to be the company's own design. Carlos Rocamor won the European Resistance Championship in 1965.
But high-level speed competition was not so easy anymore as the Japanese makes (which had grown much over the years as a result of the Japanese domestic market) had come to the fore, bulldozing their way to the top. This was the period of Mike Hailwood's unbeatable 6 cylinder Honda 250 and Luigi Taveri's 5 cylinder Honda 125.
Nevertheless, far from abandoning the field, (and with the cooperation of the Italian specialist Francesco Villa), Montesa undertook the construction of a new 125-cc rotary valve for competing internationally. Important results were achieved with this mount, such as the Spanish Speed Championships won by José Mª Busquets. That year, (in July) a new victory was clinched at the Montjuich 24 Hour Motorcycle Rally by the F. Villa - J. M. Busquets team, riding a motorcycle especially designed for the event.
A 5-speed 250-cc bike with a central exhaust pipe. Pedro Pí was once more won the 250-cc moto-cross Championship. The company also won the England Go-Kart Championships in 3 categories.
This intense racing activity also included the "Hill Climbing" trials where Santiago Trías and Roberto Blanc were literally unbeatable. In Moto-Cross, Manuel Olivencia and Francisco Lancho were preparing to take over the reins from P. Pí, but their results were not always to achieve the same level.
On the other hand, the Swiss rider Cenneth Loof crowned a triumphant campaign which later on led to his obtaining the official Montesa important concession for Sweden.
Continuing with the collaboration of F. Villa, a new twin-cylinder 250-cc bike was built to compete in speed racing, equipped with a rotary value and mixed cooling system (water for the cylinders and air for the head). The motorcycle was an authentic rocket in flight and could hit amazing velocities but its mechanical fragility made only one single flash of brilliance possible with the Walter Villa having to make an extreme effort to face down Mike Hailwood on his Honda 6 cylinder at Riccione, Italy. The excellent role played by Montesa in this race received ample attention in the Italian press.
1968 saw the beginning of the production of the Cappra 250 and the 360 GP with a design clearly differentiating it from the
Impala style. The major sport successes of these machines culminated in 1969, when Montesa won the national championships of Belgium, France (with Jack Porte, who had already won in 67 and 68), Italy, Switzerland and also the USA, where J. De Soto and R. Nelson claimed victory in the 250 and 500-cc categories.
THE BEGINNINGS OF TRIAL
Trial was a very popular speciality, especially in Great Britain, where the competition season began at the beginning of the fall, after the end of the speed and moto-cross competitions. It was a chance for major sports figures and enthusiasts to have fun during the winter, competitively speaking, in friendly, healthy competition.
John Surtees, for example, was the world speed champion and later a Formula 1 champion, and he was often to be seen at trial competitions in winter. The Irishman Sammy Miller, who was an extraordinary speed racer also got in the game, and so successfully that he ended up devoting himself fully to this speciality, becoming a virtually unbeatable racer. In 1964, Sammy Miller had won his sixth British Championship astride his four stroke Ariel 500 as well as the Scottish Six Day Trials (S.S.D.T.) for the third time. But he had no clear future with Ariel and proposed to Bultaco (through the importer Don Rickman) that they build a light 2 stroke trial bike. Trial in Spain was at that time almost unknown. The first trial competitions in Spain were probably those held at the 1st Viladrau Trials at "Mas Noguer" in Viladrau on 27 august 1961, and, one year later, on 2 September, the second trophy was awarded at the same site. Racers and amateurs in other specialities, such as Juan Soler Bultó, Oriol Puig, Pedro Pí, José Mª Busquets, Carlos Giró, etc. also participated. In October 1964 the International Federation sent an invitation to several European federations to participate in a course in Grenoble, in order to promote Trial around Europe. A team of Spanish racers went there to participate.
At the end of the course, a competition was held among the participants resulting in the victory of the German W. Steiner with his Triumph while Manuel Marqués placed third. Pedro Pí, who was the only Montesa representative, competed with a slightly adapted moto-cross bike and came in 13th. It was not so much a competition as a demonstration of what the penalisation "zones" in a trial race were like and how the rules were to be applied on the ground.
All of this stimulated and encouraged the practice of this sport. Along the same lines as the Swiss course mentioned above, on 1 November 1964 the 1st Tibidabo Trial was held, under the auspices of the Real Moto Club of Catalonia, on the slopes of Barcelona's famous mountain. So many enthusiasts registered that the organisation was forced to restrict admission after reaching prudent limits.
Racers from other specialities, such as Jaime Martinez de la Rosa (Go Kart champion and father of the Formula 1 pilot), Alex Soler Roig (racing car driver) Tito Puig (father of G.P. Alberto Puig), Ramón Torras (the formidable driver from Sabadell). Pedro Pí participated astride a prototype adapted especially for this speciality, but was well aware of his limitations in competition with more experienced riders and with more suitable mounts, and showed up at the starting post dressed in a sports jacket, tie and dress shoes.
The winner was Juan Soler Bultó riding a Sherpa N and P.Pí came in tenth. It was at the Manresa Trial on 31 January 1965 when P. Pi made off with his first Trial competition victory, ahead of the Bultaco riders Oriol Puig Bultó, Juan Soler Bultó and the other Montesa rider Otón Tena, who came in sixth.
Sammy Miller managed to ready what would be the first Sherpa T, but Montesa did not take the Trial so seriously and had only made small improvements which were tested little by little.
By 1966 the company began to take more interest and a prototype with an "Earles" type suspension was put through the tests.
The first Montesa Trial motorcycle manufactured on the assembly line was showcased at the 1967 Motorcycle Industry Exposition in Barcelona. This was the 250 Trial of which only 44 units were made. That summer training was intensive in the area around Viladrau, with the goal in mind of reaching optimum conditions at the beginning of the season.
The presentation of the model at competition took place at the 1st Sant Llorenç (Terrassa) Trial race on 1 October 1967. The winner was, once again, Juan Soler Bultó; Pedro Pí won third place, which was encouraging progress.
From that time onward a frenetic race was on, led by P. Pí, as technicianracer, Jordi Ros and Leopoldo Milá, to develop a motorcycle that could compete fully with Sammy Miller's experienced Sherpa T. The expert French racer Christian Rayer was recruited as pilot and test
runner, and who managed to win the French Championship.
The first Spanish Trial Championship was held in 1968. Three races were run, the first in Valencia on 11 February where the surprising victor was Pedro Pí, beating the experienced Bultaco squadron. Pí also won the other two point scoring Spring Trial heats in Barcelona and Madrid, and was thus proclaimed Spanish Trial Champion.
Montesa now had its competitive trial bike and its commercial name was Cota 247. Its innovative design with integrated fuel tank and seat was awarded the Delta de Plata Industrial Adi-Fad design prize. That same year the British racer Don Smith was hired, and he walked off with the European Championships after having defeated the mythical Sammy Miller and his Sherpa. The triumph made quite a splash.n In May 1968 Montesa made its official debut in the Six Dayn Scottish International Trial competition with its "Cota 247" bikes ridden by Don Smith, Charlie Harris and Pedro Pí. Don Don Smith, in his first international contact with Montesa in the Six Days, came third in the general ranking, which meant a clear indication of what the possibilities of the new Montesa trial bike would mean in the future. During the next year P. Pí was faced with a tough new competitor: the young IgnacioBultó.
Both riders tied in points at the Spanish Championship in 1969, but the tiebreaker was won by Ignacio for scoring fewer penalty points. At their second participation in the S.S.D.T. (the Scottish Six Day Trials) in May 1969, Montesa won the team classification with Don Smith, Gordon Farley and Lawrence Telling.
THE APOGEE OF TRIAL AND CROSS IN THE SEVENTIES
At the end of 1968, and in spite of the fact that Walter Villa had won the Italian 250-cc speed championships, Montesa decided to reorient its product towards the mountain motorcycle, which, at that time, was evidently on the rise, and speed competitions was abandoned. The decision was also made to diversify industrial activity with the launching in 1968 of a ground tiller, and an outboard motor in 1969.
In 1970, Benny Sellman and Christian Rayer won the Swedish and French championships, respectively, while the young American white hope, Kenny Roberts, won the US Moto Cross Junior Championship riding a Cappra. Another youth, Yrjo Vesterinen, on a Cota 247, won the Finnish Trial Championship that year also. The English Formula IV champion was the up and coming Tony Brise, using a Montesa 250-cc motor. Tony Brise unfortunately met his death years later in a plane accident together with Graham Hill, who was training for the World Formula I championships. That same year the Montesa trial team was joined by two young men who had already become British trial champions: Ian Haydon and Rob Edwards.
But it would be Gordon Farely who in 1971 would go on to win the prestigious British Championship. At that time, trial was in full development, in England and around the world. Due to the technical participation of Spanish industry - with Montesa, Bultaco and Ossa - trial was no longer a winter pastime and had become a new, very demanding and ruggedly competitive sportn which was being practiced by a large number of highly trained international racers, while, throughoutn the world, the clubs organising new trial races for the international calendar made every effort to find new tougher circuits for the new machines, generally Spanish bikes, that were already being especially designed and manufactured for trial racing.
Thus, trial competitions were no longer simply for the winter season but were run throughout the year, having become spectacular races and winning over a massive public in all countries. In order to please the younger fans, Montesa launched the Cota 25 on the market, a small reproduction of the Cota 247, and, from that time on, the "Children's Trial became a popular hit, with races for children in zones specially designed for them. Jordi Tarrés and Alex Crivillé learned how to handle a motorcycle on those small Montesas. On the 25th Anniversary of the company, Pere Permanyer certainly made the right decision when he commissioned José María Subirats to make a splendid sculpture and monument, which was to be placed in the front court of the Montesa factory in Esplugues de Llobregat.
The monument has all the signatures of the Montesa employees and consisted of a mass of historical pieces weldedn together and held aloft by two rectangular columns bearing all the named of the models manufactured.
A great international Moto Cross racer came to form part of the Montesa team at the end of 1971. This was the Finnish driver Kalevi Vehkonen. On his Cappra 250 MX he would chalk up excellent results in the point scoring heats for the hotly contested World Moto Cross Champions in 1972, as well as becoming the first European motorcyclist to classify after the Japanese makes driven by Joel Robert (Suzuki), Hakan Anderson (Yamaha) and Silvain Geboers (Suzuki).
It was the year of the presentation of the Cota 123, the younger brother of the 247. At the first Three Day Santigosa Trial, a competition organised much like that of the Scottish Six Days, where Pedro Pí won with this model, in spite of competition from higher capacity Sherpas and Cotas. The Alguersuari-Escobosa team won the European Resistance Championship in their category in the 24 Hour Montjuich Rally as well as the "Bol d'Or Championship.
The seventies were a brilliant decade in the evolution of the business thanks to the success of the extensive Trial range and the competitive Moto Cross Cappras. The best racers in the Trial world competed to become members of the official Montesa teams, which grew successively with drivers like Rob Shepherd, Geoff Chandler, Malcolm Rathmell and others. Meanwhile, the Japanese manufacturers, who were already producing road bikes that were highly competitive price-wise, began to improve the quality and features of their products, and gradually came to win the trust of the world markets: as a result the British motorcycle industry, which was at that time the world's top road bike exporter, sank into a crisis from which it would not emerge.
Suzuki was the first Japanese make to breach the Cross competition at the international level, and in 1970 won its first World Championship with Joal Robert. But in the following years, it would be followed by Yamaha and Honda. Honda tested its first prototypes under the name Elsignore at the California Cross Trials at the end of 1972, in the hopes of make a massive penetration of the American market. As international competition was become fiercer and fiercer, industrial structure had to adapt to obtain maximum competitivity. Strategically, Montesa planned to decentralise its production centre in order to achieve greater efficiency and flexibility. Thus, different companies were created: Dentex S.A. for the manufacture of engranajes, Tonova, S.A for the manufacture anassembly of engines, Comec S.A., which produced front suspension and frames, Cyser S.A., which was in charge of marketing and sales, and Motocicletas Montesa which, at the Esplugues factory, made the final assembly of the bikes. The research and development and competition departments are also located there. The Group had 650 employees.
In 1973 Montesa won the national Trial Championships in Sweden with Benny Sellman, in Belgium with Jean Marie Lejeune and Germany, with Felix Krähnstover. But the Spanish championship would still deny Montesa, as Jaume Subirá, Miquel Cirera and Pere Ollé would not be able to dethrone Manuel Soler on his Bultaco. In 1974 Montesa presented its Cota 172 to the public at the Paris Motor Show.
The Cota 172 was designed on the basis of 123's structure, but with 21 and 18-inch tyres a raised 153-cc engine. This concept of a trial motorcycle was the one that would show itself to be more competitive years later, but Montesa, at that time, still preferred the higher cylinder motor, and in 1976 it launched the long-awaited Cota 348.
Cross motorcycles underwent constant innovations in the three categories in which they competed. The 125-cc category is basically a category to promote young drivers.
Thus the idea of organising the Montesa 125-cc Trophy was created for racers using the Cappra 125. The success was so great and the number of registered drivers so high that before the competition began a large number of heats had to be run to classify the final competitors.
Out of this promotion formula would emerge renowned drivers such as Toni Arcarons, who would win the 1976 National Trophies for the 75 cc and 125 cc categories and, in 1980, the Spanish 250-cc and 500-cc Championships. The Moto Cross models continued their evolution on the basis of a motorcycle replica that Vehkonen used in the 1972 season. Thus, the 1973 Cappra 250 VR would give way to the VR75 models, firs the Cappra 250 VA in 1875 and the VB in 1976. The unforgettable driver Fernando Muñoz, who won several Spanish 250 and 500-c Championships in 1976 and 1977, was, perhaps, the Spanish driver to record the best records in world racing.
Michel Combes, the French 500-cc champion was also an outstandingn driver of that period. But Montesa's best recruit was the Swiss Hakan Anderson, who joined the team in 1976 and scored top notch results in the world-250 cc championships as well as making a great personal triumph in the 500-cc Nations Moto Cross championships that were held that year in France.
Another of Montesa's most outstanding victories was won by the Belgian Raymond Boven at the Cross Gran Prix held on 3 April 1977 at the Sabadell-Terrassa circuit by winning in first race as well as the Grand Prize for total classification, ahead of the KTMs and the Russians Moiseev and Kavinov, Carlson's Husqvarna, H. Maisch's Maico and the Czech J. Falta's CZ, thus becoming the leader in the World Championship.
In 1977 the young racer Carlos Mas became part of the Montesa All Terrain team. Montesa had yet to win a single major championship in this speciality since its drivers, Casanovas, Sucarrats and Bellsolá, had not managed to surpass the professional level of Narcis Casas. But with Carlosn Mas the situation changed radically and he took his Montesa Enduro to victory in the Spanish Championships in 1979, and would do so six more times. The different models of the Enduro 360H6 and H7 were also notably successful in sales and contributed to popularising the All Terrain bike when Trial was the most popular speciality. Anticipating the end of the popular "off road" motorcycle trend, Montesa introduced a new touring model in 1978 called the Crono, with 75 and 125- cc engines. The Crono 350 would hit the market in 1981 as a touring bike with a classic design, and in 1982 the company decided to produce the Impala 2, a version with alloyed wheels and electronic ignition, of the series that had been discontinued in 1972.
With the Cota 348 and then the Cota 349, outstanding victories were achieved in Trial competitions, such as those at the Scottish Six Days led by Malcolm Rathmell in 1979 and the historic first time ever victory of a non British pilot of this race by Yrjo Vesterinen, racing for Montesa in 1980.
The American Marland Whaley was named two time US Trial Champion, the last time in 1980 on a Cota 349, which has been conserved in the Foundation's museum. Later, Curt Comer in 1981 and Scott Head in 1984 would make repeat victories for Montesa. But the most hoped for victory occurred in 1980, with Ulf Karlson winning the World Championship with the prototype that would become the future
In order to get an idea of the keenness of World competition at that time, you only have to look at the final standings and see that among the top ten were riders from six different countries on six different makes:
- 1st U.Karlson (Sweden) Montesa, 121 points
- 2nd B.Schreiber (U.S.A.) Italjet, 111 points
- 3th Y.Vesterinen (Finland) Montesa, 94 points.
- 4th E.Lejeune (Belgium) Honda, 86 points.
- 5th M.Lampkin (England) Bultaco, 61 points.
- 6th M.Soler (Spain) Bultaco, 47 points.
- 7th R.Shepherd (England) Montesa 41 points.
- 8th M.Rathmell (England) Montesa, 41 points.
- 9th A.Gorgot (Spain) Ossa, 41 points.
- 10th J.Subirá (Spain) Fantic, 29 points.
Montesa would win the make title that same year and the one following. In 1982, Toni Gorgot joined the Montesa team and posted the first clearly Spanish win at the Scottish Six Day Trials, a competition that had been repeatedly won by Spanish Montesa motorcycles (with Rathmell and Vesterinen), Bultaco (with Sam Miller) and Ossa (with Mick Andrews). But in 1982 Gogot was the first Spanish driver, with Montesa, to have his name inscribed on that legendary competition driving a "Cota 349". Montesa decided to introduce Trial bicycles onto the market in order to diversify its product. This new sport, which Montesa called "Trialsín", became a real school for future champions, which would include A. Codina, J. Tarrés and M. Colormer. Montesa decided to introduce Trial bicycles onto the market in order to diversify its product. This new sport, which Montesa called "Trialsín", became a real school for future champions, which would include A. Codina, J. Tarrés and M. Colormer.
Bultaco and Ossa, traditional competitors and direct opponents of Montesa, decided to close their factories. Other minor factories had already closed as well. Montesa had anticipated this situation and had made a tremendous effort to acquire, outside of Spain, super modern equipment and machinery to improve its products with the help of the most advanced technology. The new technology and the drop in net sales as a result of the crisis called for a reduction of staff, butm external conditions were not the best for acceptance of such a necessary measure for the survival of the Company. There were strikes and very little governmental protection at the most important
moments (there was a strike at the company that kept the factory idle for three months in which today seems almost incomprehensible).
The financial situation became critical and investments in new models had to be frozen and the company finally suspended payments in September 1983. Thanks to the fact that Montesa had a very solid commercial and industrial organisation, it managed to avoid closing its factory doors by inking an agreement with Honda Motor in 1982. Thus, a new company was incorporated called Montesa Honda S.A., whereby Honda committed itself to marketing new special models of the popular Cota 125, 200 and 349, manufactured under the MH
mark, which were sold through its sales network in Europe. For its part, Montesa Honda S.A. used Montesa's Spanish sales network to sell its units. The Esplugues factory began production of a 75-cc Honda MBX model to be sold on the domestic market. This agreement was finalised on 1 July 1986 with the take-over merger by Montesa Honda, S.A. of the installations and remaining staff of Montesa. The share capital was constituted definitively with 88% in the hands of Honda Motor and 12% in the hands of its Spanish partners. The principal activity of this company is the production, distribution and sale of Honda and Montesa brand motorcycles. Unfortunately, and completely unexpectedly, Pere Permanyer passed away on 20 March 1987 at the age of 75, and on 3 April, several days later, was sorely missed at the official opening of a painting factory in Esplugues, which was attended by the President of the Government of Catalonia,
Jordi Pujol, who spoke movingly in memory of Pere Permanyer Puigjaner, whom he cited as an exemplary Catalan industrialist.
Mr Kume, President of Honda Motor, attended on behalf of Honda. During the first year of operations, the new company started production of the Honda MTX 75/50 and in March 87 it launched the extremely popular Scoopy, both of which were transferred from the Honda production plant in Belgium.
Montesa's Cota 304/75, the Enduro 360H7, the Enduro 80 and the Impala 2 were also produced highly successfully. As from January 1987 the company launched the new Cota 335 and in November of that same year the Cota 307, which can be considered the first of a generation of Cotas with the "123" motor to be truly competitive at the World Championship level and which definitively replaced the
"348" motor based models.
The drivers of the Cota 307 at the World trials were Philippe Berlatier as from 1987 and Eddy Lejeune in 1988. With the introduction of the Cota 314 in October 93 and, especially, the Cota 315 in 1997, an important step was taken in the competitive capacity of the company's trial models. The motor, designed in Japan by HRC with the collaboration of the Montesa competition department, made it possible for Marc Colomer to win the World Trial Championship in 1996.