Cel­e­bra­tion� Mon­tesa Cota

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS -

On the 30th April 1968 Span­ish mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer Mon­tesa watched the first Cota tri­als mod­els de­vel­oped by Pe­dro Pi, Leopoldo Mila and Jordi Ros roll off its pro­duc­tion line. On the 30th April 2018, they will celebrate 50 years of con­tin­u­ous pro­duc­tion of the Cota tri­als mod­els. Here in Clas­sic Trial Magazine, we will take an ad­ven­tur­ous look at the highs and lows of this iconic model over the first 25 years. The golden wed­ding cel­e­bra­tions will con­tinue in our other pub­li­ca­tion

Trial Magazine. One of the ‘Big Three’, Mon­tesa has en­dured the test of time as Bul­taco and Ossa fell by the way­side. De­spite tough eco­nomic times in the eight­ies when an as­so­ci­a­tion with Ja­panese brand Honda was made the Cota model re­mains as strong as ever. We take a brief ride back to the be­gin­ning with the Cota 247 in 1968 through to the ar­rival of Honda-pow­ered ma­chines with the Cota 314 in 1993. Words: John Hulme and Don Morley Pic­tures: The Nick Ni­cholls Col­lec­tion at Mor­tons Archive, Brian Holder, Eric Kitchen and Mon­tesa

The com­pany Mon­tesa was formed in 1944 by Pe­dro Per­manyer and Fran­cisco Bulto who based their first pro­to­type Mon­tesa around the French Mo­to­be­cane mod­els. Over the fol­low­ing years, the Per­manyer and Bulto part­ner­ship would be dis­solved, as Bulto started the Bul­taco brand in the late fifties. With ex­ploits into road rac­ing and the In­ter­na­tional Six Days Trial to prove the ma­chine’s re­li­a­bil­ity Mon­tesa started to look at the tri­als mar­ket in 1965 as Bul­taco ex­ploded onto the scene with Sammy Miller.

Early Days

The early six­ties wit­nessed a shake-up of the man­age­ment when Pe­dro Per­manyer took note of the all-round Span­ish mo­tor­cy­cle cham­pion Pe­dro Pi and pro­moted him from the role of test rider to the head of the re­search and de­vel­op­ment en­gi­neer­ing depart­ment. Per­manyer also had ears and eyes on the ideas of his new tech­ni­cal director Leopold Mila. These two key play­ers at Mon­tesa used their in­no­va­tion and ideas to de­sign and de­velop a new two-stroke unit-con­struc­tion en­gine aimed at the home mar­ket and to be used in the lat­est Im­pala sports model. With an en­gine ca­pac­ity of 175cc this air-cooled sin­gle

cylin­der, four-speed gear­box would even­tu­ally go on to be used in nearly all the com­pany’s tri­als and mo­tocross ma­chines.

Three ma­chines us­ing this new de­sign en­gine in the Im­pala model con­verted for off-road use were sent to Africa, and each one suc­cess­fully cov­ered over 12,000 trou­ble-free miles. Based on these ma­chines a 250cc vari­ant of the 175cc en­gine was in­stalled in a Scor­pion mo­tocross model, giv­ing Pe­dro Pi the 1965 Span­ish Cham­pi­onship. With small mod­i­fi­ca­tions, this en­gine also car­ried Mon­tesa to vic­tory at the fa­mous Barcelona 24 hour en­durance race. In early 1967 Pe­dro Pi built two new tri­als ma­chines based on the now ti­tled Capra mo­tocross mod­els us­ing the 250cc en­gine. He wanted to have other opin­ions on his new ideas and built two tri­als pro­to­types us­ing the 250cc en­gine. One would go to France in the ca­pa­ble hands of the tri­als cham­pion Chris­tian Rayer, and he would keep the other. Though the ma­chines needed more work, they both won their re­spec­tive na­tional tri­als ti­tles.

In­ter­est in the new Mon­tesa was ev­i­dent and off the back of this en­thu­si­asm as 1967 closed a batch of 44 tri­als mod­els was de­vel­oped and built by Pi and Rayer; these were very much hand-built ma­chines. Fifty were ac­tu­ally en­vis­aged, but the re­main­ing ones were used for spare parts sup­ply. All the ma­chines sold straight away, with many go­ing to Mon­tesa en­thu­si­asts who wanted to en­joy the free­dom of the open trails while also tak­ing in some tri­als rid­ing.


In 1967 Great Bri­tain had a sur­plus of good tri­als de­vel­op­ment riders off the back of the de­clin­ing mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try it was once so proud of. The UK Mon­tesa im­porter was John Brise, who ran the mo­tocross team with fi­nan­cial sup­port from Spain. He had formed Mon­tala Mo­tors in Dart­ford in the south of Eng­land to im­port Mon­tesa prod­ucts and had heard about the new tri­als model. He made a few en­quiries as to how many he could have. To see the ma­chine in the flesh, he drove over to Spain. He agreed with Per­manyer and Pe­dro Pi that it needed more de­vel­op­ment but re­turned to the UK with two of the tri­als mod­els stripped down in his car. He agreed to have six more sent over at a later date.

Brise had taken his friend Don Bar­rett on the trip to Spain for a sec­ond opin­ion, and they both agreed that with some work they could be quite com­pet­i­tive. Pe­dro Pi had de­cided to re­tire from his po­si­tion at Mon­tesa, and this im­por­tant role was taken over by Al­berto Mollofre, who would also serve the role of com­pe­ti­tion man­ager. He, along with Mon­tesa, val­ued Pi and kept him on as the test rider for the new Cota tri­als model.

In the UK, Don Bar­rett was very in­ter­ested in the tri­als project, and based on his en­thu­si­asm, Brise handed the run­ning of the tri­als side of the busi­ness to him. Bar­rett im­me­di­ately con­tacted Gor­don Far­ley as his num­ber one choice, but un­for­tu­nately, he had just signed a twelve-month con­tract with Greeves.

Char­lie Har­ris was taken on board to ride and also help to pre­pare the ma­chines; the mo­tocross team also helped with

de­vel­op­ment. The 250cc en­gine had proved very ro­bust whereas the frame tub­ing was of very poor qual­ity. Mo­tocross wheels and hubs were fit­ted and dif­fer­ent sus­pen­sion com­bi­na­tions played with. A new one-piece seat and fuel tank ar­range­ment was fit­ted, which in red looked very nice match to the white frame. Don Smith joined the team in De­cem­ber 1967 as a sec­ond-choice rider. It’s ‘Cota’ 247 Time In early 1968, pro­duc­tion fa­cil­i­ties were set up to start to pro­duce the new five-speed gear­box Mon­tesa Cota 247. Four new pre­pro­duc­tion ma­chines would be taken from the assem­bly line and en­tered in the Scot­tish Six Days Trial. For Mon­tesa, the event was a huge suc­cess. All the ma­chines fin­ished the event as Chris­tian Rayer made his­tory by be­com­ing the first for­eign rider to take Best Per­for­mance of the Day award, as well as the Best New­comer and For­eign Rider awards and, along with Smith and Har­ris, they won the pres­ti­gious Spe­cial First Class awards. Pe­dro Pi was the last man home of the four, claim­ing a First Class award. Mon­tesa had ar­rived. The first na­tional trial win would come in Novem­ber from Smith at the Peak Trial. As tri­als riders started to sam­ple the de­lights of the new Mon­tesa Cota 247.

as mov­ing from the heavy front mo­tocross wheel hub to the smaller moped type one. A new cylin­der head, giv­ing smoother power and lighter clutch springs, made the ma­chines eas­ier to ride.

When Gor­don Far­ley put an end to his arch-ri­val Sammy Miller’s in­cred­i­ble run of eleven Bri­tish cham­pi­onship ti­tles in 1970 the Cota tri­als model had truly ar­rived in Great Bri­tain. Fur­ther suc­cess would come in Europe as Benny Sell­man, and Chris­tian Rayer won the Swedish and French cham­pi­onships re­spec­tively, and a very young Yrjo Ves­ter­i­nen won the Fin­nish ti­tle.

1971: As Far­ley re­tained his Bri­tish ti­tle more im­por­tant changes would ar­rive on the Cota 247, in­clud­ing flan­ge­less Akront rims that did not re­tain the mud, Gir­ling shock ab­sorbers at the rear and a smaller, slim­mer and lower red one-piece seat and fuel tank. They would also de­velop a mini tri­als ma­chine in or­der to feed the ad­dic­tion of the younger tri­als fans and would in­tro­duce the Cota 25 to the mar­ket. As they cel­e­brated the sale of 1,000 mo­tor­cy­cles in the UK, they had 21 fully sup­ported works riders in many dif­fer­ent coun­tries around the globe.

To celebrate the 25th An­niver­sary of the Mon­tesa Com­pany, Pere Per­manyer com­mis­sioned sculp­ture artist Jose Maria Su­bi­rats to make a mo­tor­cy­cle re­lated mon­u­ment to be placed at the front of the Mon­tesa fac­tory at Es­plugues de Llo­bre­gat. It was con­structed by a mass of his­tor­i­cal Mon­tesa as­so­ci­ated com­po­nents all be­ing welded to­gether and sus­pended by two rec­tan­gu­lar col­umns bear­ing all the names of the Mon­tesa mod­els man­u­fac­tured.

1972: Want­ing to ex­tend its ma­chine range to suit riders of all ages and abil­i­ties, a younger brother for the Cota 247 the Cota 123 was pre­sented at the first Three Day Santigosa Trial in Spain. It’s quite ironic that the win­ner Pe­dro Pi won the event de­spite the hand­i­cap of the small ca­pac­ity ma­chine against the big­ger ones of its ri­vals, which im­me­di­ately made it a huge suc­cess with the buy­ing pub­lic. By the close of the year, Mon­tesa had sold 27,000 ma­chines world­wide. In the UK, it was sad news though as the orig­i­nal Mon­tesa tri­als spe­cial­ist John Brise passed away.

1973: Hav­ing been a dis­trib­u­tor of Mon­tesa, re­spected tri­als rider and busi­ness­man Jim San­di­ford took over the im­porter­ship of the Mon­tesa off-road ma­chines to the UK. Such was his rep­u­ta­tion that Mon­tesa looked on this move as a sure-fire way of ex­pand­ing their tri­als busi­ness. The Cota 247 con­tin­ued to be the main­stay model and was vir­tu­ally un­changed, apart from a change of frame and swing­ing arm colour to black was in­tro­duced. Mon­tesa only ever made small changes to the 247 model, which was a good sales pol­icy as own­ers of cur­rent mod­els could then up­date their ma­chines.

The Mon­tesa suc­cess story con­tin­ued for the Cota 247 as it took na­tional ti­tles in Swe­den with Benny Sell­man, Bel­gium with Jean Marie Le­je­une and in Ger­many with Felix Krahn­stover. De­spite the ef­forts of its team riders Jaime Su­bira, Miquel Cir­era and Pere Olle the Span­ish cham­pi­onship would still be de­nied.

1974: Hav­ing first made its pro­to­type ap­pear­ance in late 1972 the new Cota 348 again ap­peared in early 1974 when Bel­gian tri­als ace and el­der brother to even­tual World Cham­pion Ed­die Le­je­une, Jean-Marie, rode the ma­chine in a com­pe­ti­tion. It was based on the Cota 247 but had an en­gine ca­pac­ity of 306cc. Both Spa­niard Fran­cisco Paya and Bri­tain’s Rob Shep­herd were also sent pro­to­types to test in com­pe­ti­tion. An­other new Cota was in­tro­duced, the Cota 172, which was very sim­i­lar to the 123 model but came with 21” and 18” wheels to com­ple­ment the big­ger 153cc en­gine size. Ulf Karl­son from Swe­den also be­came a mem­ber of the works team.

1970: With his su­perb back­ground and me­chan­i­cal un­der­stand­ing that Far­ley had learnt from his days em­ployed at Comer­fords deal­er­ship work­ing in the com­pe­ti­tion depart­ment, the ma­chines were now get­ting the de­vel­op­ment they re­quired with in­put from a...

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