Manuel Soler Replica

Words: John Moffat; Yrjo Vesterinen

Photos: Bultaco Motorcycles; Todotrial – Horatio San-Martin; Malcolm Rathmell; Carlos Bosch; Yrjo Vesterinen; Barry Robinson; Eric Kitchen.

Manuel Soler – Photo: Horatio San-Martin/Todotrial

Manuel Soler, son of Juan Soler Bulto and the Grand-nephew of Bultaco founder, F.X. Bulto was a development trials rider with the family factory.

Sadly Manuel died a relatively young man in January 2021 at the age of 63. He was revered in his native Spain (Catalan) and after his death many tributes were made on social media and a trials series named in his memory.

Madrid trials enthusiast, Carlos Bosch a hotelier and lover of Bultaco motorcycles decided to create a tribute- replica of Manuel’s 1974 model 133, a machine that never reached volume production, but was a rare development model only supplied to factory riders and some importer supported Bultaco riders. The recognised number of these machines constructed was a lowly 13 units.

The factory prototype Sherpa T model 133 of French Champion, Charles Coutard taken in 1974, identified by Yrjo Vesterinen as the early type frame of the 133 model – Image Credit: Bultaco Motorcycles

Less than a handful were ever made and they found their way into the hands of Manuel, Ignacio Bulto, Charles Coutard, Martin Lampkin, Yrjo Vesterinen, Alan Lampkin and Javier Cuccurella.

Photojournalist, Barry Robinson tests the rare factory model 133 Bultaco Sherpa of Malcolm Rathmell in 1974. It is believed there were only 13 ever made and were supplied to factory riders only. Photo: M.C. Rathmell

Carlos Bosch was inspired by a photograph of Manuel Soler competing in the 1974 Scottish Six Days Trial in Glen Nevis, issued with racing number 37. The photograph is the copyright of Mortons Publications, Hornchurch and therefore we are not in a position to show the image. However, an artist made a caracatuer drawing based on the photo, which Manuel used in his social media pages.

Artwork based on a photograph taken of Manuel Soler in the 1974 Scottish Six Days Trial – Artist: Unknown

Soler’s machine was registered by the Bultaco factory in Barcelona as B-F-8896. Bosch realised that he had a healthy stock of Bultaco components that would possibly make a nice replica machine, so he set to work, using the photograph as a guide.

Factory rider Javier Cucurella on his 325cc Sherpa model 133 carefully guiding the machine over the rock slabs of ‘Edramucky’ Ben Lawers in the 1974 Scottish Six Days Trial – Photo Copyright: Eric Kitchen

Bosch selected a Sherpa 250cc frame as a starting point, the short version used on the 1977 M190, which is almost identical to the 1975 model 158 frame.

Malcolm Rathmell on one of his special Bultaco Sherpa model 133 with English registration in 1974, this is probably the later frame type – Photo copyright: Barry Robinson.

The tribute bike motor is taken from the Sherpa model 199A, a 325cc, five speed from 1979 and creator, Carlos Bosch reports that it is a strong one and pulls really well. In keeping with the 133 model, the cylinder head has been copiously drilled to save weight and improve heat dissipation, as carried out by the factory at the time.

Fuel tank and airbox were taken from the 1975 model 159 Sherpa, which is quite fitting as that Sherpa model is known in Spain as the ‘Manel Soler’ the machine developed by Manuel in 1975 from the later version of the model 133.

Manuel Soler seen here in 1974 testing the prototype Sherpa model 133, B-F-8896, which the factory used as a publicity shot for brochures, posters and advertising cards – Image: Bultaco Motorcycles

Obviously the shape is not identical to the 133 model as the component was bespoke to that model and made of fibreglass, although a few had aluminium versions.

The 159 Sherpa tank was repainted and liveried to resemble Soler’s works model 133 tank – Photo: Carlos Bosch

The 133 frame was distinctive and unlike the previous and subsequent production machines. There was also more than one version of the 133.

The model 190 frame (250cc) makes a good starting point for a tribute-replica Bultaco, due to the curved front down-tube feature. Photo: Carlos Bosch

Trials Guru took the liberty of contacting three times World Champion, Yrjo Vesterinen, having been a factory contracted rider at the time of the Sherpa 133.

Vesty: “Of course I had a Sherpa 133, in fact I had two because riders who were not Spanish, did not have the opportunity to visit the Bultaco factory very often and it made sense to have a spare machine to hand. Manuel Soler, Ignacio Bulto and Javier Cucurella usually had one bike as they could leave their machine at the fatory for repairs and any upgrades or modifications. It was not a popular version of the Sherpa for the riders and there were changes made to try an overcome the rider resistance.

“The 133 was a true prototype/development bike and went through quite a few changes during an eighteen months development cycle. It was not the same as the model 159 which was mass produced from 1975 and known in Spain as the ‘Manuel Soler’ model. The steering stops were quite different on the 133, it used a bracket fixed to the steering head which comes up against a concentric pair of yoke stops, whereas the production Sherpa relied on two rods fitted to the frame with nylon bump stops which contact the lower yoke. The front frame of the early version of the 133 and production model 158 (250cc) are similar with the curved down-tube. The model 159 frame was different and based on a subsequent frame design. The engine of the 133 was set further back in the frame than the model 92 of 1973.”

Photo: Carlos Bosch ‘Manuel Soler tribute-replica’

Carlos Bosh’s Bultaco M133 tribute/replica – Photo: Carlos Bosch

“I have looked at the photographs of Carlos’s tribute Sherpa and it looks very nice indeed, he has captured the escence of the 133 without having the components to make an exact replica.”

A Sherpa model 159 airbox was used in the Carlos Bosch build.

“The airbox of course is not the same as the 133 bike, but the colour scheme utilised gives an acknowlegement to the factory model.”

The Vesterinen Sherpa 133:

Yrjo Vesterinen’s Bultaco Sherpa 133 from 1974, clearly shows the steering stop on the steering head, flat bottom yoke and the exhaust of that year used on the model 124/125 Sherpa. ‘Vesty’ retained this machine and is now in his private collection.

Vesty continued: “Comparing the tribute bike to my own 133, you can spot the differences, but Carlos Bosch’s machine looks very purposeful and I believe he is happy with the finished article. He has tried very hard to keep the machine looking similar to what Manuel’s works bike was like in the 1974 Scottish.”

Photo: Carlos Bosch ‘Manuel Soler tribute-replica’

The offside rear view of the Manuel Soler 133 tribute-replica.

Photo: Carlos Bosch ‘Manuel Soler tribute-replica’

The Soler 133 tribute-replica is a fine looking machine – Photo: Carlos Bosch

In memory of Manuel Soler 1957-2021