The History of Bultaco Motorcycles

One of Spain's most iconic motorcycles celebrates its 50th birthday

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    Sammy Miller aboard a Bultaco.
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    A Bultaco Astro 360 Model 146 built for American short track.
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Over 1,000 riders gathered in the hills above Barcelona on a wet and windy day in late October 2008. But torrential rain couldn’t dampen their enthusiasm to celebrate 50 years of Bultaco motorcycles and their status as one of the most iconic classic Spanish motorcycles.

Bultaco had a huge impact on the world of motorcycles, with road models like the Tralla and Metralla gathering an army of fans while the TSS road racer, the Pursang motocrosser, the Matador enduro and of course the Sherpa T trials bike made their mark in national and international events. And it all started because of one man’s passion for motorcycle sport.

Fifty years ago, don Francisco Xavier Bulto resigned as technical director of Montesa. He had started the company with Pedro Permanyer in 1944, but when Permanyer and the other directors decided to pull out of racing Bulto felt he had no other option.

When word spread that don Francisco was leaving Montesa, his racing team went to production manager Joan Chalamanch’s office and asked what he was going to do. “I’m going to suggest that he starts his own motorcycle business,” said Chalamanch. “And that we are all behind him.”

That was May 17, 1958, and within days work started on a new 125cc single-cylinder 2-stroke motorcycle. Four months later the prototype was ready for testing, and by February 1959 they were ready to go into production. The new company’s name was Bultaco — Francisco’s telegram signature when he was on business trips for Montesa and a contraction of Bulto and Paco, Francisco’s nickname. The “Thumbs Up” gas tank emblem was designed by Paco after he noticed British riders give the signal to show all was well as they flashed past the pits.

The first Bultaco, the Tralla 101, was revealed to the press March 24, 1959. The Tralla — Spanish for whiplash — was not only a good roadster but also the basis for an effective racer, so it wasn’t long before a road race version based on the factory bikes joined the line-up. The resulting Tralla Super Sport in 125 and 250cc versions gave a generation of privateers including Barry Sheene a taste for the Spanish fliers. Sheene’s first race was on a Bultaco in 1968, when he was 18.

Bill Johnson
3/10/2011 6:29:12 PM

I'm looking to see if there are folks out there who are interested in Bultaco road bikes. My first was a 200cc Metralla, which I rode for a year. My second was a 250cc Metralla a friend of mine rode in AFM production racing in the late 70's. He did the riding, I did the wrenching, and we wound up with a 5th in state one year against heavy Japanese competition. We turned that bike into a 200cc GP bike with some serious engine and exhaust work and he rode it to two state championships in class... I still have that bike, and am restoring it slowly to its former glory. I love that sound. Is there anyone out there riding or racing Bultacos on pavement these days? Bill Johnson

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