CLASSIC MOTOCROSS IRON: 1968 PENTON 125 SIX-DAY
In the late 1960s, small-displacement, entry-level motorcycles were extremely popular. John Penton was the East Coast Husqvarna distributor, and in 1966 he tried to convince Husqvarna to build 100cc and 125cc dirt bikes for the American market. “Husqvarna wasn’t interested in building smaller displacement machines,” says John, “so I dropped into the KTM factory in Austria. Unfortunately, the president of KTM, Erich Trunkenpolz, was in Milan for a motorcycle show, so I went home and came back in two weeks. At the time, KTM was big into scooters and bicycles, but there were a couple of guys in R&D who were building their own ISDT machines from available scooter parts. They didn’t have any interest in building dirt bikes.” But, John persevered, and Mr. Trunkenpolz agreed to build the first 10 prototypes. “I agreed to pay $6000 for them, and Mr. Trunkenpolz said, ‘Good luck. We’ll build them; you sell them!’”
In the spring of 1968, the first 10 prototypes arrived stateside, and John Penton took them immediately to the Stone Mountain and Alligator Enduros. The machines were a major success, and Penton Motorcycles was off and running in America. John recalls that the deal with Mr. Trunkenpolz was based on a handshake and a promise to pay for the bikes when they were sold.
In 1968, more than 400 machines were sold, and by the end of Penton production in 1978, over 25,000 Pentons had been sold in America. In later years, the Penton logo was joined with a KTM logo, and eventually KTM took over the reins to sell its own branded models. John closed Penton Imports when the currency exchange rate and increased competition from the Japanese made the business unsustainable.
WHAT THEY COST
Suggested retail in 1968 was $695, about $200 more than the other tiddlers on the market. Our featured Penton 125 Six-Day is a rare, first-year, steel-tank machine and is valued at $10,000.
In 1968, Penton offered the Berkshire 100 and 125 Six-Day. For around $100, an enduro kit was available that included lights and an odometer.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The frame was painted silver and the Sachs engine had a cast-iron cylinder, five-speed transmission and Bing carb. The steel fuel tank held 2.5 gallons. The fenders were aluminum, and suspension was by Ceriani. Unique to the 1968 model is the cast-aluminum airbox and 20 inch-long steel chain guard. Metzeler tires were standard.
There is plentiful information on the Penton Owners Club website at www.pentonusa.org. I also recommend the book John Penton and the Off-Road Revolution.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com