By Tom White
Montesa was formed in 1944 by Pedro Permanyer and Francisco Bulto (who later formed Bultaco). They built their first batch of machines based on the very successful Motobecanes of the day. By 1951, their 125cc machines were entered in the ISDT, one being ridden by Señor Bulto himself. In 1963, American entrepreneur Kim Kimball, in association with film star Steve McQueen, began importing the Montesa Impala 175cc Scrambler for the American market. The small operation that started in Kimball's garage would grow to the point where Montesa had 350 dealers in the United States and "Viva Montesa" became a well-known phrase. Race car drivers Dan Gurney and Phil Hill became Montesa stockholders.
The VR acronym stands for Vehkonnen Replica. The Finnish rider gave Montesa its greatest Grand Prix results, including a fourth in the 1972 250cc World Championships (the first European brand in the standings). In March of 1973, riding a 360cc prototype, Kalevi Vehkonnen won a 500 GP at De Duinen, Belgium, beating DeCoster and Mikkola. As with all Spanish bikes, Montesas were beautiful machines with their red fiberglass tanks, long seats, black fenders (with an M molded in), and their wrinkle-fin cylinder and head. Over the ensuing years, Montesa would change the acronym to V75 (1975), VA (1976-77), VB (1978), VE (1979), VF (1980-82) and VG (1983) before Honda bought the brand. It is no surprise that they skipped VC and VD.
Honda continues to manufacture Montesa trials machines (at a financial loss) just so they can have access to the Spanish market for their other motorcycles.
1974 MONTESA 250VR
WHAT THEY COST
Montesa VRs are at the top of the list for AHRMA racers who want a Spanish brand. MXA's example was purchased by the Early Years of Motocross Museum from a Canadian collector for $4500 and is currently valued at $6000.
The 250VR was the only production motocross bike for Montesa in 1974. In 1976, Montesa would add the 125VA and 360VA to their lineup.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The most difficult items to source are the gel-coat fiberglass tank, black plastic fenders, Telesco shocks and Betor forks with "M" stamped on the sliders. But, the rarest parts of all are the rubber petcocks that were operated by squirting a ball bearing back and forth.
Southwest Montesa at (602) 938-6607 has many of the hard-to-find parts.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com