SALON MOTO LEGENDE
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
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 georges-martin.fr).
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...
NOVEMBER 18-20, 2016 PARIS, FRANCE
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