By Tom White
Montesa was formed in 1944 by Pedro Permanyer and Francisco Bulto (who later formed Bultaco). In 1963, American entrepreneur Kim Kimball, in association with film star Steve McQueen, began importing the Montesa Impala 175cc Cross (which was called the “Scrambler”) to the USA. The small operation that started in Kimball's garage would grow to the point where they had 350 dealers in the United States. “Viva Montesa” had become a reality. Race car driver Dan Gurney joined Montesa Motors, and Formula I Champion Phil Hill became a stockholder.
The 250cc LaCrosse model was introduced in 1967 and was aimed primarily at the scrambles market in the USA. Scrambles tracks were smoother than the typical European motocross track. The LaCrosse had good power, used a 19-inch universal front tire that worked well on groomed tracks, and (with its swept back handlebars) was a versatile slider. Reliability could, however, be an issue, much of this attributable to Spanish metallurgy that yielded soft parts. Typically Spanish, the Montesa had good fit and finish, was attractive, and looked “fast” standing still. Motocross success would not come until later, when the Cappra model was introduced in 1968 and riders John DeSoto and Ron Nelson were hired as pilots.
As the Japanese entered the motocross market in the 1970s, Montesa, along with the other European brands, had a much more difficult time competing. By the late 1970s, Montesa was primarily building trials bikes, and in 1982, to avoid closing the doors, entered an agreement with the Honda Motor Company.
1967 MONTESA LACROSSE FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
Montesas have never been highly sought after by collectors. You almost never find the LaCrosse model for sale. Most of them had rod bearing failures. This Early Years of Motocross Museum LaCrosse is valued at $7500.
Total LaCrosse production was 1333 units from 1966 to 1967. It was replaced by the Cappra in 1968.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The LaCrosse had a fiberglass tank and shroud. These items are nearly impossible to find, but not that hard to duplicate. The forks are a Betor copy of the Ceriani motocross fork, and the rims are Akronts. The front hub has a big scoop to funnel air to the drum brakes.
Contact Bultaco West at (760) 815-3970 or Southwest Montesa at www.southwestmontesa.com
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com