Photos: Bultaco Motorcycles; Todotrial – Horatio San-Martin; Malcolm Rathmell; Carlos Bosch; Yrjo Vesterinen; Barry Robinson; Eric Kitchen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 133 frame was distinctive and unlike the previous and subsequent production machines. There was also more than one version of the 133.
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’
“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.”
“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:
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’
Photo: Carlos Bosch ‘Manuel Soler tribute-replica’
Trials Guru has donated a brand new, artisan made trophy for this year’s Leven Valley Two Day trial in September, promoted by Kinlochleven & District MCC.
Called ‘Spirit of Cemoto‘, the trophy will be presented to the rider giving the best performance in the event, riding a Bultaco motorcycle.
The trophy was commissioned by Trials Guru’s John Moffat and made by artisan fabricator, Richi Foss of Inverness based Foss Fabrication and Welding.
It consists of a 1973 325cc Bultaco Sherpa T cylinder head, mounted on a besel made from Dochgarroch Oak, with the ‘spirit’ being a solid stainless steel ‘thumbs up’ in the style of the original Bultaco trade mark from 1958.
The front plate, also made in polished stainless steel, has subsequently been inscribed by Lancahire’s Peter Kenyon with the ‘Trials Guru‘ logo and the words: ‘Spirit of Cemoto – Best Bultaco Rider‘ on the face of the trophy which sits seventeen inches from base to thumb tip.
The trophy will be retained by the Kinlochleven & District Motor Cycle Club as an annual award for the Best Bultaco Rider.
Richi Foss said: “John Moffat appeared at my shop one afternoon and said, Richi can you make me a trophy from this. I said to him, surely someone might want that cylinder head for their bike! He left it with me for inspiration and within a week I had worked something out for him and began working on the ‘spirit’ taken from the original logo of Bultaco. It has over fifteen hours of my life invested in that trophy, I hope the winner appreciates it.”
John Moffat added: “There was only one man I could trust to be creative enough to make such a trophy and that is Richi Foss. He is an amazingly skillful chap with a welding torch and he made that ‘spirit’ from sections of stainless steel, fused together then ground and polished into the famous thumbs up symbol of Bultaco. It is unique, there is not another one like it in the world. The other interesting facet is that it uses a genuine Bultaco component, the cylinder head from an early model 325cc Sherpa, a model that then went through two years of continuous development to win the very first World Trials Championship for the brand. Trials Guru is proud to be associated with the Leven Valley Two Day Trials as one of their sponsors.”
Foss Fabrication and Welding are reknown for taking on unusual and out of the ordinary work at Unit 3 The Old Sawmill, Dochgarroch, IV3 8JG – 07761 286112
The pre-production Bultaco Sherpa T reputedly used by 11 times British Trials Champion, Sammy Miller is on sale at an undisclosed price.
The machine, which has been advertised with all relevant documentation for UK registration number 669NHO, is not the machine in Sammy Miller’s New Milton Museum, but is believed to be one of two used by Miller when he was developing the Sherpa T for the Bulto factory in 1964/65.
It is believed the machine will be sold for a significant figure given its history in trial sport.
The incredibly popular Nostalgia Trial for Pre’65 and twin-shocks which has run in conjunction with the Nostalgia Scramble for the past couple of decades, has now split from the scramble date and from that organising club.
The trial will run this year under the banner of the Westmorland Club, originators of the Nostalgia Trial title and on a new date of SATURDAY JUNE 17th. The venue remains the same – Holme Farm, Middleton near Sedbergh, Cumbria – but there will be a totally new start area and three quarters of the course will be new due to changes in the land management.
To boost the popularity of this trial it has been renamed as the ‘Bultaco Revival Nostalgia’ Trial with Yrjo Vesterinen the guest of honour along with local Bultaco men Chris and Mike Myers and Nick Shield all featuring amongst the famous faces. In addition, Vesty is hoping that several of his French and Spanish former Bultaco rivals and very good friends will attend this mid-June event.
In all other respects the trial will remain the same, two laps of 20 sections off-road, sponsorship from Ian Bradley and his award winning Coniston Brewing Company, with the trial organising committee remaining the same.
The regulations and entry forms are available now from the attachments below with the trial classes the same as they have always been.
STOP PRESS! – Trials Guru, John Moffat will be there, with a suitable Bultaco machine of course!
Download the event regulations and entry forms below:
In an attempt to keep at the cutting edge of the sport but with a factory in serious financial trouble, Yorkshireman John Reynolds rode a special Comerfords Bultaco 340 in 1983 which had been built by Reg May on a freelance basis. It had some innovative features. Reg had managed to move the swinging arm pivot very close to the final drive sprocket. This was achieved by mounting the swinging arm pivots on two independent mounting ‘bobbins’ mounted on the frame. The swinging arm spindle was effectively dispensed with as was the rear engine mount assembly.
A special snakey exhaust system was used with the back box lowered to the footrest area on the off-side of the machine using modified Bultaco components. The swinging arm was a modified Bultaco Pursang item on the final version.
Enthusiast and journalist, Stefano Bianchi from Milan had the opportunity to buy this very special machine and has allowed Trials Guru to feature some photographs taken by Stefano.
With special thanks to Stefano Bianchi for allowing Trials Guru to feature this very unique Bultaco 340.
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We set out to find out what made Skipton trials rider, James Moorhouse want to ride the the 2016 Scottish Six Days Trial on a 35 year old motorcycle.
Moorhouse: “Ever since I got the 340 Bultaco I call ‘El Donkey’ – I jokingly said I would do the Scottish and it just snow-balled from there. After breaking down on the Tuesday last year I knew I had to come back and finish what I started.”
What preparations had he to do to the bike prior to the Six Days:
Moorhouse: “Just about everything you can think of, the piston, main bearings, wheel bearings, chain and sprockets, brake shoes, tyres. All of these components were replaced by my ‘factory mechanic’ and friend, Robert Barber.
We sent the rockshock dampers to be serviced and stronger springs fitted by manufacturer, Gary Fleckney in Bedfordshire and InMotion/Bultaco UK in Egham, Surrey both were very helpful, they have a fast postal service”.
“I had fitted fat-bars to an adapted top alloy yoke some time ago and the snaky exhaust pipe.
Because of last year it was always in the back of my mind it could go bang, but I knew we had done everything we possibly could so if she didn’t make it then it was simply wasn’t to be and I wouldn’t waste an entry on it again. Fortunately the entry wasn’t wasted!”
“Tuesday afternoon over the moor, she got some water in the carburettor and would only run with the choke on. At the next section I drained out the carb, it must have whiskered the spark-plug so I had to replace that too – luckily I had a plug on me, in fact I carried a lot of spares in my bag”.
Running repairs through the week long event included: Welding the exhaust pipe, welding a snapped rear brake arm and fitting a new rear tyre on Friday morning. The rear tyre and plug were the only components replaced during the week.
It was noticeable that James rode with a broken front mudguard:
James: “It didn’t affect the way it rode so thought I’d save some weight!
I thought on Friday she was running a bit weak but on Saturday she felt as good as new”.
When asked if he would do it again, James replied:
“I have achieved what I set out to do, it’s time to retire her from the SSDT, but I will compete again but next time on a modern bike”.
Many thanks to James for allowing Trials Guru to publish this article.
Ahead of it’s time, we are carried back to 1978 when photo-journalist Mike Rapley snapped this unique monocoque framed 325cc Bultaco at the Welsh Trophy Trial.
The top frame tube carrying fuel it bears a strange resemblance to machines we use today.
Mike Rapley could not recall who built it, who rode it or if it still exists, but we do know someone that would like to own it!
Have a look at the detail shot and judge for yourself!
November 2019 – Thanks to the power of the internet, Phill Smith, the machines creator in 1978 discovered Trials Guru and his machine! Stephen Hopkins also produced a colour photograph which indicated that the machine was further modified and developed.
We aim to bring more information on this special machine shortly.
All photos: copyright Mike Rapley & Stephen Hopkins
For more Welsh Trophy and other action from Mike Rapley, click HERE
To contact Trials Guru with information about this Bultaco special, make contact HERE
Mick Bradley wrote: 06/03/2016: “RE unusual Bultaco. Phill Smith from Kidderminster built and rode a very similiar Bulto to this around that time. Not sure if this is him but looks very much like it. Regards Mick”.
Francisco Valera who was universally known as ‘Bambi’ was an employee of the Bultaco factory. Not just any employee on the assembly line, he was a factory technician or mechanic, who had input to the development and servicing of the factory bikes for racing, motocross and trial. ‘Bambi’ started working in the racing department at the Bultaco factory in the early 1960’s before a dealership network had been formed. ‘Bambi’ worked for Bultaco until the factory closed in 1984. In 1960 he rode in the 24 Hour race at Montjuich with another rider nicknamed ‘Tiger’ on a Bultaco ‘Tralla 101’ model winning their class and the Endurance Championship of Spain.
‘Bambi’ was a well known face at International motocross and enduro evnst over the years and knowing Bultacos inside out, so to speak, he knew all the tricks of how to make them more reliable and faster.
Setting individual machines up to individual factory riders specifications for not only handling but also carburation and overall performance.
Now retired, ‘Bambi’ encourages his Grandson Oriol to ride motorcycles as much as possible and has a very nice Bultaco Chispa for him to ride.
‘Bambi’ also rode Bultaco machinery during his time at the factory.
With many thanks to Cristina Valera Fandos for her assistance in providing information and photos for this short article on her father and special thanks to former World Trials Champion, Yrjo Vesterinen for his co-operation and assistance in preparing this article.
Text Copyright: Trials Guru/John Moffat – 2015.
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