Some of the best looking motorcycles ever came from the fast moving era of the 1970’s as dirt bike technology skyrocketed upwards.
Who doesn’t like looking at old motorcycles? I waste far too much time on it. They are like puppies; you want to play with every one of them. Like puppies they are all cute, but none is cuter than your personal favorite. So I forgive you if my choices don’t match your own favorites.
Every teenager dreamed of being Marty Smith and riding the fire engine red CR
Today’s dirt bikes have one common characteristic, except for color, they all look very similar. A couple of years ago at the Baja Beach Bash, we pulled a prank on Destry Abbott. In the middle of the night, we took all the plastic off his Kawasaki and swapped it for a Honda. We were amazed at how close the Honda parts fit on the Kawasaki. Come morning, Destry had to search among the 60 bikes parked at the hotel to find his. Once he found it, he was still a bit confused because the of the uncanny likeness.
As technology drives design, it is understandable how similar today’s bikes are. But 40 years ago, the direction of technology was not yet set. Manufacturers were still finding their way, so aesthetic designs varied greatly. This era brought us some of the greatest looking bikes of all time.
- 1980 Honda CR125
When Honda introduced the red Elsinore line in 1978, overnight everything else seemed obsolete. Teenagers everywhere flocked to the local hardware store to buy cans of red paint. It didn’t matter what you rode, it looked faster in red. Combine that with images of the Marty’s (Smith and Tripes) and the red Honda represented everything an adolescent motocrosser could aspire to. Perhaps no bike has ever looked closer to a factory special than the 1980 Honda.
The Spanish marques such as Bultaco had a unique style of their own
- Bultaco Mk4 250 Pursang (1968-1971)
When it comes to pure artistic expression, this may be the most beautiful dirt bike ever. Bultacos of the late 60‘s were fast, durable and handled well. That is why today, 50 years later, they are still a hit with the vintage crowd. In an era before plastic fenders, the beautiful fiberglass body work of the “boat tail” model 68 was fragile and tough to keep looking good.
- 1977 Can-Am MX3 Black Widow
With a name like that, how could the Can-Am not make the list? New to the scene in 1974, the Canadian bikes made a huge impact in both enduro and motocross. Gary Jones, Jimmy Ellis and Marty Tripes swept the top 3 positions in the 250 nationals that first year. But time was not kind to Can-Am, lack of development doomed the brand. The MX3 was famous for being fast, but ill handling. More power and longer travel suspension were too much for the aging frame design.
The Can-Am made a big impact on the market, but failed to keep up with the march of technology
- 1979 Husqvarna 390 CR/OR
The European bikes were slow to adopt long travel suspension in the late ‘70’s. When Husky did, it came in a big way with the towering black and gold 390. Raced by icons such as Dick Burleson and Larry Roseler, the bike became one of the most enduring images associated with the marque.
The towering black and gold Husky was one of the most iconic bikes of the twin shock era
- 1981 KTM 495
The 495 KTM was proclaimed the fastest dirt bike in the world. One magazine test was enough to secure the KTM’s place in history. That story may or may not be quite accurate, but the legend is well cemented. It is like saying the beauty queen is also a rocket scientist, who cares if it is really true. With its number plate rear fender and white and orange livery, the KTM is a beauty. Is that color red or orange? Regardless, it looks great.