Over 30,000 peo­ple vis­ited the Parc Flo­ral in Paris – think Kew Gar­dens, Lon­don – for the 19th Sa­lon Moto Lé­gende. With more than 300 ex­hibitors and 500 mo­tor­cy­cles on show, it was worth the ride to the big­gest bike show in France

Classic Bike (UK) - - Contents -

The best of the 500 ma­chines from France’s big­gest bike show

Lau­rent’s ruck­sack was packed with the ropes and har­nesses he uses to ab­seil Paris’ his­toric build­ings – he re­pairs an­cient roofs, win­dows and drain­pipes. But in­stead of go­ing home on Fri­day af­ter­noon he was head­ing to the Sa­lon Moto Lé­gende. “I bought my Day­tona ten years ago,” he says. “I re­built the en­gine, to be sure I have a good bike I can ride every day... with­out too much oil on my garage floor!”

Lau­rent was at­tracted by the clas­sic lines of the sporty 500cc twin – and the power. “It’s al­ways a plea­sure to start my Day­tona, be­cause it sounds so great. It is much, much quicker than a car, but some­times I have to use a car to trans­port equip­ment when I start a job,’ he ex­plains.

He en­joyed re­build­ing the Day­tona so much that he’s bought and re­stored a rigid rear-end 1951 TR5 Tro­phy as well. “Clas­sic Bri­tish bikes are not per­fect and need more at­ten­tion than new bikes, but they are dif­fer­ent and that’s what I like.”

1972 HONDA CL450 Owner: Kevin Delys

There’s al­ways a way to beat the sys­tem. When ve­hi­cles man­u­fac­tured be­fore July 1997 were banned from be­ing used in Paris be­tween 8am and 8pm on week­days, there was a get-out-of-jail-free card for rid­ers of bikes which are more than 30 years old. “They are classed as col­lec­tor’s ve­hi­cles,” ex­plains Kevin. “So I can ride this CL450 Scram­bler to work in the morn­ing and to the Moto Lé­gende Sa­lon in the af­ter­noon.”

Kevin has been a me­chanic at Gen­er­a­tion Scram­bler – the clas­sic Honda spe­cial­ist based just three miles from Parc Flo­ral – for the last cou­ple of years, so there’s no sur­prise the CL450 de­liv­ers in the per­for­mance stakes. Honda claimed a top speed of 110mph, a bit ex­ces­sive for cen­tral Paris, but cov­er­ing the quar­ter-mile in 13.5s means it can get ahead from every stop light. The TLS front brake is also a big plus in the cut and thrust of city traf­fic. Honda anoraks will know that the tank is the 1971 shape, fin­ished in a cus­tom colour. “I like it that way,” he says. “The best thing about this Honda is the en­gine, which is rich in sen­sa­tions.”

2016 MOTO MARTIN Owner: Ge­orges Martin

Way back in 1970, Ge­orges re­alised that the CB750 had a great en­gine, but the big Honda han­dled like a sac de merde. “The Ja­panese knew how to build pow­er­ful, re­li­able en­gines, but the bikes were too heavy and cum­ber­some,” says Ge­orges. “I worked as an in­dus­trial de­signer, and I de­cided to make my own frame so rid­ers could use that per­for­mance.”

His ele­gant so­lu­tion was a spine frame that took its in­spi­ra­tion from the one Fritz Egli de­signed for the Vin­cent. Ge­orges launched Mo­tos Martin in 1971, sell­ing CB750 go-faster good­ies. The fol­low­ing year he was sell­ing frame kits for the sohc Honda, and soon af­ter the first com­plete Martin bike hit the road and track. He moved to big­ger premises in Les Sables-d’olonne, where he made nick­elplated frames and fi­bre-glass fuel tanks and seat units. Brembo brakes and Mar­zoc­chi sus­pen­sion com­pli­mented the Martin chas­sis. Frames and bodyk­its for Honda’s CBX as well as big Kawasaki and Suzuki en­gines soon fol­lowed. “We made 5800 frames, but only about 50 com­plete bikes be­fore pro­duc­tion stopped in 1986,” says Ge­orges. Now based in Nantes, he’s mak­ing CB750 frame and swingarm kits, priced at 2000 eu­ros. He’s also build­ing com­plete Martin CB750S – a bar­gain at 20,000 eu­ros for a hand-built bike (see ge­

1969 KAWASAKI H1 Owner/rider: Pa­trick Car­alp

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve been nuts about Kawasaki triples,” says Pa­trick. “When I grew up, the bike I re­ally wanted was the Mach III. But they are hard to find – even in bad shape. I found this one in Amer­ica and spent a few years restor­ing it.” No won­der the Mach III was Pa­trick’s dream bike. The 500cc triple – also known as the H1 – was in­tro­duced in late 1968 and quickly earned a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing a bit of an an­i­mal. Those three howl­ing ex­pan­sion cham­bers only hint at the 60bhp avail­able at a spine-tin­gling 8000rpm. Thanks to an im­pres­sive power-to-weight ra­tio, Amer­i­can mag­a­zine Cy­cle cov­ered a stand­ing quar­ter-mile in 12.8secs, hit­ting a top speed of 125mph. But the dou­ble­cra­dle frame with its sin­gle top tube wasn’t up to har­ness­ing the power, and the skinny Ce­ri­ani-style forks didn’t help, ei­ther.

But that doesn’t mat­ter. Look at Pa­trick’s face – and the look of a man who en­joys hav­ing the crap fright­ened out of him...

1977 MOTO GUZZI LE MANS Owner: Charles Kra­jka

In Au­gust 1969, Charles en­tered a V7 Spe­cial in the Bol d’or. “It still had the high frame of the road bike, so it was like danc­ing on the as­phalt!” he ex­plains. That all changed when Lino Tonti de­signed the frame for the V7 Sport.

1971 LAVERDA SF Owner: Thierry Guidoum

It’s taken Thierry ten years to get his 750cc SF just as he wants it. Ob­vi­ous ad­di­tions are the hand-crafted gas tank, seat unit and side pan­els, but he’s also fit­ted a cou­ple of 36mm pumper carbs from the twin’s 1000cc 3C big brother and his own ex­haust. “The gear­box cover, with its oil filler, came from the SFC long-dis­tance com­pe­ti­tion model,” adds Thierry. “I’ve also fit­ted a big­ger oil pump and oil cooler.”

The SF stands for Su­per Freni (‘su­per brakes’), a ref­er­ence to Laverda’s 230mm di­am­e­ter twin-lead­ing-shoe stop­pers which were fit­ted to both wheels. A stock SF750 will eas­ily top 100mph – but it also weighs 218kg dry, so Thierry’s will be a bit lighter thanks to those hand-bashed al­loy parts. “He was an ex­tra­or­di­nary man,” says Charles. The two be­came good friends, and Charles – win­ner of the 250cc French na­tional cham­pi­onship in 1957 with a sec­ond­hand Ari­one – would be­come one of the best known Guzzi agents in France. Now aged 82, Charles was show­ing off the Bol d’or en­durance racer that he de­vel­oped, from a V7 Sport, in its ul­ti­mate form – with an im­pres­sive 992.4cc.

1968 NOR­TON COM­MANDO Owner: Yves De­la­mare

The big vibes at the Septem­ber 1967 Earls Court Show in Lon­don were all about the new Com­mando and its Iso­las­tic en­gine mounts. The dis­play pro­to­type looked very dif­fer­ent to the old At­las, with a sil­ver glass­fi­bre gas tank and a tail­piece that ex­tended to the back of the mud­guard, while the seat was in-your-face orange. Small round tank badges bore the leg­end Nor­ton Vil­liers Nor­ton (so good they named it twice) and there was a larger plain green globe badge on each side, which was dropped be­fore it went into pro­duc­tion.

But Nor­ton Vil­liers didn’t start sell­ing the Com­mando un­til April 1968. The first bike off the line car­ried en­gine and frame num­ber 126125. “My Com­mando is num­ber 126434, so it is one of the ear­li­est,” says Yves. “It was found in the USA and re­stored by Bax­ter Cy­cle in Iowa.” They’ve done a su­perb job, and fin­ished it in Gre­nadier Red. “It’s got the cor­rect tank badges, and the speedo and rev counter fea­ture the large green dot at the bot­tom of the dial,” adds Yves. Class.

1970 KAWASAKI H1R Owner: Bruno Nor­mand

Bruno found this in­ter­est­ing H1R on a trip to Italy. The 500cc two-stroke triple might have been based on the road bike, but this one is pure GP racer.

In 1970, 12 of the 49 rid­ers in the world cham­pi­onship threw a leg over a Green Meanie. Kiwi Gin­ger Mol­loy swapped his Bul­taco for the H1R and fin­ished sec­ond be­hind Agos­tini on his MV.

But did the H1R de­serve its fear­some rep­u­ta­tion? Fel­low Kiwi Graeme Crosby doesn’t mince his words: “To tame this mon­ster re­quired balls the size of a hot air bal­loon and a to­tal dis­re­gard for one’s own safety. But I loved it

1970 MV AGUSTA SPORT Owner: De­nis Ur­man

This 350cc twin was launched in Novem­ber 1969 at the Mi­lan show and by 1974 there would be scram­bler, GTE tour­ing and fully-faired Sport Elet­tron­ica ver­sions. But the best was the first. Just ask De­nis.

“I’ve owned this Sport for 20 years,” says the Nor­mandy-based MV en­thu­si­ast. “It has the neat, small tool­box un­der the sad­dle while the later ver­sion has a much big­ger one, so it looks classier. And it will still reach 100mph – not bad for an old bike!”

The five-speed 350 twin might be a sim­ple pushrod en­gine, but as you’d ex­pect of an MV, the Sport has style with al­loy rims, a pow­er­ful twin-lead­ing-shoe front brake, and the clip-on bars and rearset footrests for when you want to play at be­ing Agos­tini.

“Some peo­ple think Ital­ian bikes of the 1970s are un­re­li­able – but, hand on heart, it has never left me at the side of the road,” says De­nis.

1977 BEAMISH SUZUKI Owner: Philippe Boisse

A tri­als rider since 1967, Philippe doesn’t hes­i­tate for a sec­ond when asked about his favourite bike: “The Beamish Suzuki!”

Brighton-based Beamish Mo­tors, the baby of for­mer BSA works rider Gra­ham Beamish, im­ported Suzuki mo­tocrossers. Unim­pressed with a batch of 50 RL250 tri­als bikes he was sent, Beamish modified them with a lower com­pres­sion ra­tio and a heav­ier fly­wheel mag­neto. The CCI lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem, which pumped oil to the cylin­der and crank­shaft, was also ditched for old-fash­ioned pre­mix to make the en­gine more suit­able for mud-plug­ging. All 50 bikes sold quickly. Beamish bought up the re­main­ing stock of RL250 Ex­acta mod­els from Suzuki, and in­stalled new en­gines in a new frame de­signed by Mick Whit­lock, made from Reynolds 531 tub­ing. All 1200 were sold.

Philippe’s has the lighter MKII frame, the Bri­tish re­place­ment side pan­els, petrol tank and mud­guards – as well as the ul­tra­rare red and black colour com­bi­na­tion.

1974 MOTOBECANE 500/3 Owner: Fran­cois Porquiet

To take on the mighty Ja­panese, French moped builder Motobecane launched a 350cc two-stroke triple in 1972. It of­fered some ad­van­tages over its Kawasaki ri­val, in­clud­ing elec­tronic ig­ni­tion, a su­perb Mar­chal bi-io­dine head­lamp and a Lock­heed disc brake that worked in the wet. The stock colour for the 350/3 was daf­fodil yel­low, but at the 1974 Paris sa­lon there was a green triple in pride of place on the Motobecane stand – badged as a 500. “But it was a fake,” says Fran­cois. “It was only a 350 with a new paint job!”

But sales of the 350/3 were ham­pered by re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues and a five-speed box with nearly as many neu­trals, so pro­duc­tion ended be­fore 1976. Motobecane never made the 500 triple. “That was left to an en­thu­si­ast who had new bar­rels cast and a crank­shaft ma­chined a few years back,” ex­plains Fran­cois. “Apart from the colour, this 500/3 is the same as the stock 350.”

1972 JAPAUTO BOL D’OR WIN­NER Owner: Pa­trick Massé

Honda deal­er­ship Japauto, sit­u­ated a short walk from Paris’ Arc de Tri­om­phe, was opened in 1966 by Chris­tian Vil­laseca. Three years later, his rid­ers Michel Rougerie and Daniel Urdich rode a CR750 to vic­tory in the Bol d’or, but af­ter Tri­umph Tri­dents won it in 1970 and 1971, Japauto needed some­thing new for 1972. This is it. “The en­gine was bored out to 70mm to give 969.8cc and there was a Quaife gearset,” says Pa­trick. “But the stock 28.5mm CB750 carbs were used. The forks were also stock, although the front brake was from a CB500 for quicker pad changes.” Then he points to the frame: “This was made by Dave De­gens of Dresda fame. It is much lighter and, with the Dresda fork yokes and box-sec­tion swingarm, it trans­formed the han­dling be­yond imag­i­na­tion.”

Three Dresda-framed Ja­pau­tos were en­tered in the Bol d’or. One was blue, one was white and the third was red – a tribute to the French tri­col­ore. And the win­ner was... “The red bike was rid­den to vic­tory by Roger Ruiz and Ger­ard De­brock,” says Pa­trick. “This is not 100% the win­ning bike,” he adds with can­dour. “Parts are al­ways swapped be­tween race bikes, but at least 80% of this bike is the win­ning ma­chine.” No won­der he’s smil­ing.

1961 LITO MOTOCROSSER Owner: Fabrice Bazire

Pos­ing with his hero Sten Lundin – or at least a man­nequin wear­ing the Motocross World Cham­pion’s peaked crash hel­met – Fabrice is a big four-stroke thumper fan. Lundin won the 1959 World Cham­pi­onship on a 500cc Al­bin-en­gined Monark, but that bike was sold to one of the man­u­fac­turer’s for­eign agents at the end of the sea­son, so Lundin hand-built a new bike for 1960 in the Var­berg fac­tory, us­ing an­other Al­bin en­gine. Part-way through the sea­son, team man­ager Len­nart Var­born died and the com­pany stopped rac­ing – but Lundin kept his bike. He was run­ner-up to fel­low Swede, Bill Nils­son and the Husq­varna in the 1960 cham­pi­onship. Lundin and the Monark were back for 1961 with a new name on the tank – Lito. Short for Li­toverken AB of Hels­ing­borg, the tiny com­pany was founded by young Swedish motocrosser Kaj Borneb­usch and the plan was to make Lito crossers for sale to the pub­lic, with pro­duc­tion be­gin­ning later that year. When Lundin took the 1961 ti­tle ahead of Nils­son it looked like they were on to a win­ner, but less than 35 Lito mo­tocrossers were made be­fore pro­duc­tion ended in 1965. Lundin died ear­lier this year.

1968-72 TRICATI Owner: Henry Lao-martinez

Ten years ago, when Henry spot­ted a pretty lit­tle Tricati, he was be­sot­ted. “I re­ally wanted to buy it, but I couldn’t af­ford to,” he says. “But I kept dream­ing of find­ing an­other one.” That never hap­pened, so six months ago he de­cided to build one him­self. “The en­gine came from a 1972 Tri­umph Day­tona, and the 350 fame was do­nated by a 1968 Du­cati.”

He chose the green, white and red colours of the Ital­ian flag and the de­sign of the Union Jack for the fuel tank. The Mar­zoc­chi forks came off a Honda NSR125, Henry ex­plains. “That and the NS125 were made by Honda Italia In­dus­tri­ale SPA in Atessa. Be­sides the Mar­zoc­chis, they used Grimeca brakes and a Dell’orto car­bu­ret­tor.” While Henry opted for a much lighter mag­ne­sium rear hub from a Husq­varna, the front brake is a Grimeca float­ing disc from a TZ. That should have no trou­ble pin­ning down a 110kg spe­cial...


What French trip doesn’t in­clude saucy pic­tures?

Pa­trick and his H1 epit­o­mise the phrase ‘devil may care’

Raw al­loy parts lose weight and add style Very early Com­mando was re­stored in the US

Cheese and wine: oblig­a­tory at Le Sa­lon This 500 is a 350 in dis­guise Light­weight RL250S were built in Ja­pan and re­fined in Brighton

The race of races for many

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