Established in Spain in 1924 as a manufacturer of movie projectors, Ossa (Orpheo Sincronic Sociedad Anónima) began manufacturing motorcycles in 1949.
By the 1960s their light weight two-stroke on & off road bikes were sky rocketing in sales across the States and Canada. Add to this repeated Championship success with their hot rider, Santiago Herrero and Ossa were on a winning streak …. until the Isle of Man TT of 1970, when Ossa tragically fell foul to a crash on the melted tar. This signalled the end of racing for Ossa. And so they turned their attention to trials – with great success … British rider, Mick Andrews, went on to capture the ’71 & ’72 European Trials Championships for OSSA … a feat he eclipsed when he won the ever gruelling Scottish Six Days Trial for three consecutive years in the early 70s. The late 70s weren’t as kind to OSSA due to a grossly demanding American market, super fierce Japanese competition and a volatile economic market in their Spanish homeland.
OSSA remained active until 1982.
Founded by Antonino Malaguti near Bologna in 1930, Malaguti was initially a bicycle manufacturers. Not until the late 50s did they venture into the motorcycle market. By the 70s their portfolio included over thirty models – with the Cavalcone 50 off-roader as the highlight of their international success. Malaguti eventually diversified into mopeds – including the super hot seller Ronco – often using engines by the likes of Minarelli and Sachs.
Sadly the company closed its doors to production in 2012 … only to re-open them in 2018 under Austrian ownership. As of 2019, Malaguti mopeds have have flying off the production line.
Barca born & bred, Bultaco was born out of a disagreement between the two directors of the Montesa motorcycle company: Francesc ‘Paco’ Bulto and Pere Permanyer. Bulto wanted to propel Montesa into the higher echelons of the racing circuit. Permanyer vehemently disagreed … and so Bultaco (a combination of Bulto’s surname & nickname) was conceived.
Formed in late 1958, within months Bultaco had launched its first road-going bike – the 125cc Tralla 101 (Tralla being the Spanish word for whip). Just a couple of months later Bultaco entered its first Spanish Grand Prix … scooping seven of the first ten places.
Successive 0ff-road competition fame followed: the Pursang for motocross (a big hit in the States), the Matador for enduros, the Sherpa T for observed trials (which dominated the European & World Trials Championships in the late 60s & 70s, along with consecutive wins in the Scottish Six Days Trial) and the Astro for short flat-track (favoured by the USAs AMA Grand National Number 1 holders such as Gene Romero & Jay Springsteen).
Industrial unrest in Spain the late 70s led Bultaco to close its doors and in 1998, Paco Bulto passed away. Legend has it he requested to be buried ‘with his Bultaco t-shirt & his moustache properly waxed’
Zundapp was a major German motorcycle manufacturer founded in Germany in 1917 by Fritz Neumeyer. Their first motorcycle, Z22, was released in 1921 as a ‘motorcycle for everyone’ and by the early 30s they began producing the heavy K-series encompassing models from 200 to 800cc. During the Second World War, Zundapp was a major supplier to the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.
After the war, Zundapp focused on smaller two-stroke machines – they did, however, release one last heavy bike in 1951, the KS601 the ‘green elephant’.
Zundapp did achieve some success in motorsports during the seventies, but by 1984 the company ceased due to bankruptcy.
Founded in 1955 in Japan, Yamaha Motorcycles was predominantly racing based from the outset: originally with 125 cc and 250 cc two-stroke engines, progressing to the 650cc four-stroke Yamaha XS-1 in 1968. In 1976 (seven years after rival Honda’s CB750 release) Yamaha unveiled the XS-750 followed by the XS-1100 which produced an impressive string of victories in endurance racing. During this period, Yamaha was also developing dirt-bike technology and introduced the first single-shock rear suspension – trademarked ‘Monoshock’.
They ended the 70s with the XT500 winning the first Paris-Dakar Rally.
Over the course of its trading, Yamaha has diversified its range so astutely that it has become the second biggest motorcycle manufacturer in the world today.
VeloSolex was founded in 1946 near Paris, France. Their kooky design of a motor with roller resting on the front wheel of a bicycle became fantastically popular on a mass level. Light and extremely economical the ‘bicycle which drives itself’ was a hit for over 40 years .. with over 8 million bikes sold worldwide … one notably to Miss Brigette Bardot.
Velocette was a small, family run company based in Birmingham, England. Founded in 1904 by John Goodman, Velocette produced expensive, hand-made, high-quality motorcycles which gained an excellent reputation in international motorcycle racing – notably, two World Championship titles and its legendary and still unbeaten (for single-cylinder 500cc machines) 24 hours at over 100 mph record.
Founded in 1902 in Coventry, England, by the German – Siegfried Bettmann, the first Triumph motorcycle was fitted with a Belgian Minerva engine. Within a year they had sold over 500 motorcycles and by 1905 they were producing their first entirely in-house machine. Production rapidly grew and by the beginning of the First World War Triumph were commissioned to build over 30,000 bikes for the Allied forces … including the Model H Roadster aka “The Trusty Triumph”. By the mid 20s Triumph sales were flying out of the factory and Triumph became the largest motorcycle manufacturer in England … however, the early 30s brought a stream of obstacles for the company and in 1936 Jack Sangster of rival Ariel fame bought out the ailing Triumph. Sangster transformed Triumph: he began the first exports to the United States, employed Edward Turner who designed the 500c 5T Triumph Speed Twin (1937) which became the basis for all Triumph twins until the 80s and by 1939 the 500cc Tiger T100 capable of 100 mph was released.
The Triumph factory was destroyed during the Coventry Blitz … so an undeterred Sangster restarted a new plant in Warwickshire in 1942.
By the late 40s American demand for the Triumph became insatiable, so Turner designed a 650cc suited to long distance riding – the Thunderbird … which once modified by a Californian enthusiast became the Wonderbird – which went on to hold the World’s Absolute Speed Record from 1955 until 1970.
Marlon Brando famously rode a 1950 Thunderbird 6T in ‘The Wild One’.
With 1959 came the Bonneville and eventually the record breaking Isle of Man Production TT race in 69.
By the mid 60s Triumph provided 50% of the motorcycles for the U.S. market … but within a handful of years they were unable to compete with Japanese imports and by the early 70s the company was merged into Norton Villiers Triumph.
Founded in 1953 by Bolognese entrepreneur and designer Erio Testi and his son Umberto, Testi produced mopeds and motorcycles with super stylistic elegance and a high level of finish. The 60s & 70s were extremely productive and successful models included the 50, Champion & Grand Prix.
Tecnomoto was a short lived affair based in Modena, Italy. Established in 1968 by brothers Vittoriano and Giancarlo Pellegrini they initially produced a range of Kiddies Mini Bikes, Fun Bikes and Sixteeners. By the early 70s they had developed their own lightweight frames incorporating Minarelli engines to produce such streamlined delights as the Squalo.
The company ceased trading in 1979.