After canceling its birthday party because of COVID-19, Montesa is back on track with its 75th anniversary museum exhibit, at Spain’s Museu de la Moto de Bassella.
The museum, in the Catalonian town of Bassella, originally planned to run the 75th anniversary exhibit in 2020, but had to shut down the exhibit early because of coronavirus pandemic closures.
Montesa isn’t a household name in North America, but if you’ve been around the offroad scene a while, or you follow trials riding, you should be familiar with the Spanish marque. Founded in 1945, Montesa sold built-in-Barcelona bikes for racing and transportation through the second half of the 20th century. It was probably best-known for its motocross machines of the 1960s and 1970s. American moto-historians will remember that King Kenny himself got his start on a Montesa; Kenny Roberts won the US Junior Motocross Championship with a Montesa in 1970.
As Japanese competition grew stronger, the Euro offroad manufacturers had less market share in the motocross segment. Labour unrest and financial problems put the company into receivership in 1983; however, management had worked out a deal with Honda before the closure, and a new company, Montesa Honda, kept plugging along. This is the company that still makes trials bikes today. Montesa also produces other Honda-branded bikes for Europe, including many popular adventure models of the past two decades.
So, what’s on exhibit at Museu de la Moto de Bassella? The museum will show a wide variety of machine, ranging from Sprint models from the ’50s, to a couple of roadracing machines that served at the Isle of Man TT, to the D-51 Varesse, the first Montesa to ever challenge the ISDT. There’s a water-cooled Brio on display, that Montesa released all the way back in 1957. The collection also includes rare prototypes, bicycles, and other projects Montesa tried to diversify into–and of course, a selection of the company’s most famous motorcycles.
Given the realities of our ongoing pandemic situation, it’s unlikely most readers will be able to visit the museum anytime soon, but if you do get the chance to visit Catalonia in the near future, this does sound like a very interesting look at one of Europe’s longest-lasting moto manufacturers. For more information, visit the museum’s website.