I bought my 1978 Bultaco Sherpa 350 from a man who had two trials bikes for sale. The other was an Ossa 350 Gripper (good name for a trials bike eh?). I went to buy one and ended up buying them both. The Ossa had been restored and the yellow paint job on it was amazing. Waaaaaaaay better than anything that came out of Spain in 1980. The Ossa engine and suspension was a bit more advanced than the Bultaco, but it lacked soul, even if the thing did have a good kick-back when starting it. I sold it.
The Bultaco however, is a different ball game. It hailed from the same country as the Ossa, and the Bultaco factory shared the same blend of motorcycle passion, debatable quality and shit employee relations with the Trade Unions of the time, which sadly led to both companies failing. It was the same for Montesa too.
The Bultaco was reasonably complete-ish when I bought it, with original lights, handbook and stuff. The mudguards and side panels were a bit scratched and the seat was ripped, but it still had something that the Ossa didn’t. The other thing about Bultaco’s is the global appreciation of the marque. From Spain to the US and around the world, its still seen as a top brand which competed in road racing, trials, moto-X, drag racing, and they also made some nice road bikes too.
It took me about 12 months to get mine to a ‘nice-but-not-perfect’ and ultra reliable condition. It looks great (even my wife says so), it sounds great and it goes really well too. Sometimes, and I can only put this down to Northern UK weather, it leaks a little bit of oil, and sometimes it doesn’t. The cold and damp seem to decide whether the cases are oil tight or not. Its weird and unpredictable. As I bought it in Switzerland, it also has the plastic tank, instead of the alloy one that UK bikes had. Something to do with petrol regulations apparently.
I use it when I can, and especially in winter. It is no problem cleaning it with some Muc-Off and a hose pipe. I have made a device that plugs the exhaust outlets up so water doesn’t get in there when I’m washing it. It is made of two wine bottle corks, one for each outlet, and they are held together with a piece of string. I obviously needed to drink the wine to get the corks. Obviously.
One of my top ‘works-shed-factory’ modifications was to lighten the clutch action by swapping the standard clutch arm with a front brake arm as their splines are the same. Because the brake arm is longer, it therefore makes the clutch action lighter. Ha! The only problem is, that the shorter clutch arm on the front brake makes the action of the brake, less progressive in its action. Doh! However, after purchasing another brake arm, life is good.
I treated it to a number of things like a pair of Renthal bars, a new seat and new side panels plus tank badges. It isn’t immaculate, but it is very smart.
The bizarre thing is, that when this bike rolled of the Spanish production line in February 1978, Abba were number 1 in the UK singles charts with ‘Take a chance on me’. I took a chance with buying the Bultaco and it paid off. Anyway, it definitely is not a heap of shit, but it is parked in one in the featured image on the home page.
All pictures by the author.