Bultaco Company History
The history of Bultaco
After the Spanish Civil War ended, Francesco Xavier Bultó (Don Paco) had a capital of 160,000 pesetas, which in 1940 allowed him to found the company Barella and Bultó with the collaboration of Antoni Barella, a fellow student. The factory, built on a large piece of land of 27,000 sqm that FX Bultó that he got from his father as a gift, was the basis of FX Bultó involvement in the motorcycle industry. The factory was dedicated to the manufacture of piston rings for combustion engines. Parallel to this, the partner of Don Paco was Pere Permanyer Puigjaner, a mercantile expert who was born the 24 of July of 1891, from a family of the upper class of Barcelona. They had a workshop for the manufacture of gas engines for motor vehicles.
Convinced that, with the end of World War II, fuel supply would be limited, he began to think of a new product – auxiliary motors for bicycles. That resulted in a private means of transport, an essential element, since after the war people felt the need to buy a simple and economical means of transport to get to work.
The Permanyer workshop boss was FX’s brother-in-law. Bultó, Josep Antoni Soler Urgell. The latter, seeing Permanyer financial aid, told him that he had a brother-in-law who was the owner of an automotive part manufacturing plant. His description was simple: “A young engineer passionate about motorcycles.” Those Words persuaded Permanyer, who did not even think about it for a moment to tell Josep to inform his brother-in-law of the new project – the manufacture of motorcycles. From this union Montesa was born in 1945, one of the first motorcycle factories in Spain after the Civil War.
Don Paco’s motto
Don Paco applied his favourite motto or the first time – “The market follows the checkered flag” Motorcycles improve day after day thanks to racing. He himself was part of the official team of the Factory that participated in all kinds of sports tests, inside and outside of Spain, conquering numerous titles for the marque including the 1948 Spanish 250cc championship with a Montesa of 125 cc, in the Sardinian circuit of Santander, where today is located the football field of Racing Santander.
The demand for motorcycles increased, and this is the reason Don Paco began to dedicate himself in body and soul. Previously he only made small visits to the factory, since he continued to dedicate himself to his company of segments Barella and Bultó, turned into Fisa (Industrial Foundries), a business run by his nephew Joan Soler.
The split with Montesa
After going through major economic problems, and advised by a member of the board of directors, Pere Permanyer decided that Montesa will no longer participate in more sporting events, a totally antagonistic idea to the philosophy of Don Paco, who had always believed that the motorcycle, needed to be presented as “The market follows the checkered flag” he repeated.
Permanyer, Milan and Cabestany disagreed with this approach and maintained it was not necessary to participate in motorcycle races to sell them and that his obsession of racing with Montesa was exaggerated. But what did most damage to Don Paco, in addition to the veto to the Montesa’s participation in the competition, was that those who were against him were the workers he himself had protected and incorporated into Montesa.
FX Bultó found himself very compromised, and chose to retire from the world of motorcycling. “Pere Permanyer and I formed a good marriage: they argue but never are separated. Permanyer was the sense of organization and economy. We formed a good team and we would never have separated, but there were those who complicated it all maliciously and neither of them saw it of course. Then we split, and I left. ” Don Paco returned to focus on his factory Barella and Bultó, directed by his nephew Joan, who at that moment already had enormous prestige, for it was a supplier of brands well recognized as Seat or Renault.That was not what he liked most, as his hobby for motorcycles was huge, but neither had he ever imagined the events that were to come.
The spirit of Don Paco
Don Paco, during his stay in Montesa, with his leadership capacity, created a spirit of his own. All the workers preferred his style as “the Chief” to the one of Permanyer. Paco had a kinder treatment of his own team, and became very interested in their families, and his philosophy was in line with the majority. All these reasons, and many more, were creating a split in the heart of Montesa. When leaving the company, the group Human Resources Manager who worked there was “touched”. It was then When Joan Chalamanch, production manager of Montesa and supporter of Don Paco, proposed to a small group of workers to set up another company.
The beginnings of Bultaco
Motorcycles with Don Paco at the front and, logically, with his philosophy. The answer was unanimous and everyone said yes. That same night, Chalamanch called by telephone to Don Paco’s house and said: “Chief, would you be willing to open another motorcycle factory?” This question seemed so great to Paco Bultó that Joan had to repeat it to him. A group of eight people, each working at Montesa, were ready to follow the steps of the man who left Montesa of his own free will. That group were ready to follow in his footsteps and continue sailing beside him on board a new motorcycle factory. He was amazed and did not think twice and phoned his brother explaining what had happened. He too was astonished, very excited, and supported him fully.
In the beginning the people who formed this group were eight: Joan Chalamanch, Albert Nome, Josep Nomen, José Fèlix Asequell, all former workers of Izalde, the Spanish company of aviation engines. Jaume Mas and Josep Sun, two fabulous mechanics; Paco López, who was on the test bench of Montesa; Joan Prat and Josep Maria Nogué, who were the administrators; Tomàs Salafranca, company secretary, and Marcel Cama and John Grace, both motorcycle racers.
It was a very classy group, people who liked things well done. Paco Bultó stated: “Leaving Montesa was sad, I had worked hard. That group of hardcore people who lived the motorcycle gave me encouragement: That can not be, we want to race with you, they told me. Against this argument, who resists? I told them that we had no means, it was very risky, but I was told that they would draw on the ground if necessary. They were exceptional people, first rate and ready to go. After fourteen years of giving the best of me, it was a huge bet to start from scratch and have to do it even better. The funny thing is that I left Montesa because they did not want to go racing, but then they kept running. If it was not because I’m 46, but the truth is that I got it.” On the night of May 17, 1957, a group of twelve people, plus uppliers, met with Paco Bultó to dine in a Vallvidrera. That dinner dispelled any doubts of Don Paco, if he still had any,to carry out the new project. Dinner was also a statement of principles.
In it they discussed the guidelines that should be followed to create the new factory. Finally it is decided to start from zero, with nothing, without leaving from any plan. They wanted to start like this to avoid discrepancies with Montesa, who soon appeared, denouncing that the models of Bultaco were made from plans of Montesa.
Proof of this was that a senior Montesa charge, “El Foca,” accused Chalamanch of having copied the engine of one of the bikes of its old factory. Chalamanch summoned him to supper and, with a paper in front and a pencil in his hand, said: “Do you want me to draw you all parts of the engine, including the tolerances?” Because the engine was designed by Joan. Not one of the projects that Joan Chalamanch had designed in his house, which were the key to progress in construction of motorcycles was used. The three-engine project, a ‘block’ motor (compact) with sprocket transmission, a change with the different axles, a fork with the axle at the front, among others.
“In albis”, as Bultó himself said, the whole group settled in the farmhouse of “the Chief” in San Antonio. Everyone left their place of residence, a few left the wife and children at home for a greater cause – to work on Bultaco projects. However, it was not easy.
In Spain there was a law that did not allow the granting of manufacturing licenses for motorcycles unless the annual production was at least 25,000 units. At that time, this amount was unthinkable, since Bultaco had just begun. But as the saying goes: “Make the law, made the trap“; The only option left was to associate with a manufacturer who already had the license.
And they found it. A motorcycle manufacturer in Esparreguera called Monfort had the license to manufacture Aleu bikes, but his company had entered decline. It was so bad that the phrase that was repeated in the town when talking about motorcycles was: “If you want to go on foot, buy yourself a Aleu; If you want to suffer from the heart, buy yourself a Monfort. “After a few trips to Esparreguera to convince Mr. Monfort, he accepted the proposal of the assignment of the license. Monfort only put one condition, that another company would be the supplier of the frames of the Bultaco bikes. Both sides were happy and Bultaco began to take form.
The Legend of the Name
Bultaco, and why that name? Legend says that it was the British racer John Grace who suggested a version of surname and nickname of the founder to name the brand: BULTO and PACO. But the reality is very different, the name of Bultaco was registered in the post office in Barcelona for “Don Paco”. It was the name of a post office, which he used to receive correspondence from his other company, Fisa. The name of the factory was Cemoto, an abbreviation of Compañía Española del Motor. “From now on I will use the word “Bultaco” to refer to both to the company and the factory”.
More well known is the origin of the thumbs up as the brand’s logo. It came to Paco Bultó when, on one of his visits abroad, he observed that the racer David Whitworth showed during his passage through the pits that everything was going well with a clenched fist and a raised thumb. But that gesture of Whitworth did not start with motorcycles, as before he was a motorcycle racer, he was a pilot with the British army. It was then when Whitworth began to use that gesture to say goodbye to his Comrades as he took off from the aircraft carrier.
In May 1957 Don Paco and his men got to work. They set up the motorcycle shop in the old mill of the farmhouse, the foundry in the barn and the technical office in the bedrooms. There were also two warehouses of parts and materials that ended up completely occupying the Farmhouse.
Chalamanch remembers that to make the project, the first motorcycle started from zero. Don Paco and he locked themselves in the barn with an old drawing table and a huge sheet of paper on top. Joan drew and Paco Bultó, from behind, watched. “On the paper when there is nothing.” This was the phrase of “Don Paco” before starting to design the first bike. Then Joan drew a horizontal line in the middle of the paper and said, “Already e have the axis, and now what do we do? “In the design of the first motorcycle many people participated, but never all at the same time, since many opinions at the same time in the same project are never good.
In four months the first bike from Bultaco was created: the Tralla 101 Gran Turismo, a name with which it was baptised that dream became a reality.
Motorcycle magazines from all over the world dedicated space in their publications: Moto Revue, The Motor Cycling, Das Motorrad, among others.
Plans for a new factory
The farmhouse of San Antonio did not last long as the headquarters of Bultaco. While designing the first motorcycle, the ones in charge of finding land to establish the factory, found in Sant Adrià del Besòs (Barcelona) a very interesting area. There was a farm, owned by the mayor that Bultaco were vey interested in.
Josep Narbon, who was the third deputy mayor of Sant Adrià at that time, not only managed to get the mayor to give him land, but also granted permission to demolish the farm and build the new factory. Then Bultaco moved to Mas Caselles, which was the name of the land of Sant Adrià. Bultaco grew slowly. The staff of the company was increasing as people were needed. They were workers from Montesa with whom had previously contacted them with the promise of warning them. Mas Caselles soon became too small, but the brand was reluctant to abandon it for three Reasons: pure and hard romanticism, because there was so much space and more importantly, because the money was invested in competition.
The plans of the new Spanish brand of motorcycles were being fulfilled day after day. From March 1959 to August of the same year, it went from producing two motorcycles per day to five, and in September the number of production had reached seven. Bultaco was on the march.
In January 1960, the new models of the brand were presented in Barcelona, in the Municipal Palace of Sports and later in Madrid. The idea of presenting the models in “the Palace” was Chalamanch, who proposed renting the pavilion to give a touch of quality to the brand and, at the same time, to give a strong blow to the competition.
In March, Bultaco models were first Foreign, at the Motor, Motorcycle and Bike Show in Geneva (Switzerland). That year, production increased to 4,171 units. Bultaco focused, from the moment of its foundation, on competition. The aspirations of Paco Bultó with the Tralla 101 were that that model also be successful in the sport and not only in the commercial.
A month after the launch of the first Brand, emerged a more sporty version emerged: the Tralla 101 Sport. And, in order to expand the export of motorcycles, not only at the national level, but also in Europe, the creation of a competition team that would give the brand international sports success. “Don Paco “considered that this was the best way to be known in all the world. He kept saying, “The market follows the checkered flag.” From this “movement” came the Escudería Dos Tiempos formed by Paco González, Marcelo Cama, John Grace (England) and Georges Monnernet (France).
The following years were of great productive intensity, both commercial and sports. In this sense, Paco Bultó was always surrounded by great specialists, racers and renowned designers. Sporting successes were present throughout its history.
- 1st in the I Motocross International of Barcelona in the categories of 125 National and 250 International (Joan Soler and Don Rickman);
- 1st in the Great XII Motocross Spain Grand Prix (Pomeroy);
- 1st in the VII Motocross Bay of The Naranjos (Pere Arpa);
- 1st in the Championship of Spain of Motocross (Toni Elías);
- 1st in the 37th Six International Days of Trial (Oriol Puig);
- Gold and silver medals in Spindleruv Mlyn in 1963 (Joan Soler Bultó and Jose Sánchez).
- 1st in the Six Scottish Trial Days of 1965, 1967, 1968, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1978;
- 1st in the British Championship of Trial (Sammy Miller);
- Four European Trial Championships in 1968, 1970, 1973, 1974;
- Five World Championships (Sammy Miller, Martin Lampkin).
- Seven of the top ten positions at the IX Spanish Grand Prix,
- 1st and 2nd in the XV International Speed Prize of Madrid (John Grace and Marcelo Leg);
- 1st in the 24 hours of Montjuïc (Marcelo Cama);
- Five world speed records in 175, 250 and 350 with the “Bultaco 175 “, organized the Streaker Cup from where they have racers: Sito Pons, Carles Garriga, Carles Cardús
- Four World Cups with 50cc Ex-Piovaticci 50 (Àngel Nieto).
- Sammy Miller, Scottish Six Days Trial,
- 1965 Ignacio Bultó, Trial of Tarragona, 1968
After this brief parenthesis to review the most important thing that led to the creation of Bultaco, the competition, let’s proceed with history. In 1963 Paco Bultó decides that the future of the company was dirt bike. All asphalt models were no longer manufactured except for the Metralla, Mercurio, Junior and TSS.
That same year, on a total production of 11,836 units, 885 were exported, the majority to the United States. In 1966 the bikes sold to the USA was 7,199, out of a total of 20,042 units. They had four Distributors in the American market: one in New York, one in Santa Clara and two in California (one in the north and one in the south). It seemed that in Bultaco there were no limits, but they forgot the most important thing: they were “Latin” and that caused their motorcycles to have poor finishes, or worse, that they had no vision of the future to correct them.
In 1973 the strong crisis that the United States suffered caused the oil price to rise dramatically and the American economy weakened. This coupled with the entry of the Japanese in the American motorcycle market, caused a fateful turn in the Catalan brand. The number of sales of Bultaco in USA Began to decline. They had to make road bikes again.
The decline begins
In 1975 the first signs of the new policy were seen. At the Barcelona Motor Show the last year, held in May of 1974, The new Metralla had been presented with electric ignition, but the motorcycle was not very successful. Bultaco needed and wanted to do something new and different, but there was no time. In the autumn of 1975 General Franco died and the period of transition towards democracy in Spain began. Left-wing parties and their unions are legalized. They were difficult days, but optimistic, since it was thought that democracy would open up the doors of foreign trade.
Protected by the new Constitution, Unions ensured that workers had all the rights that, at the time of the dictatorship, had been denied them. Bultaco was no exception, and a few years later the factory closed for ninety days because of a strike. In April 1976, a few months before moving to a new factory, Bultaco suffered its first strike. These internal problems would be the reason that the brand was not able to bring to market the great models that were expected at the Barcelona Motor Show in 1976. The only new product was the Mercurio 175 GT was new. Soon after, the brand announced the end of Mercurio and Metralla, and the launch of new road bikes. The end was near.
In May 1978, labor problems became serious at Bultaco; Proof of this is the publication of the August 7 diary referring to Monday, where it says that the Austrian brand Puch absorbs the Catalan company. Measures to overcome the crisis did not wait. Sports plans for 1979, the great dream of Paco Bultó, were reduced considerably. The reasons that gave the signature would be two: the crisis that crossed the industry in Spain, and that of the motorcycle, due to the entry Japanese in the market.
The new racing team was composed by: Pomeroy And Toni Elías (the father of the current 250cc racer) in MX; Vesterinen, Martin Lampkin (father of Trial World Champion Dougie Lampkin) And Schreiber for the World Trial; Houses, Riudalbàs and the Soler brothers for the enduro; And a solitary Ricardo Tormo for the Road Racing.
But all These measures did not produce any results. In the second half of 1979, labor conflicts resurfaced. Don Paco Bultó, aware of the bad management of the business and hurt by the decision taken to reduce the number of participants in competitions, decides to intervene and in October of that same year, take the reins of the factory.
The sale of motorcycles in the United States fell from 12,000 to 2,500 units. This fall in sales coupled with poor financial management, the low profitability of the units sold and the strike, cuts off the growth aspirations of the Catalan firm.
On November 14, the Barcelona daily El Correo Catalán published that seven Japanese were visiting the Bultaco factory accompanied by the gentlemen Bultó, Chalamanch and Joan Soler. They were the executives of Honda that, taking advantage of Stay in Spain to attend a congress, visited the Bultaco at the request of its president, Yoshio Nakamura, designer of the first Engine of Formula 1. And they did it with some intention more than the one of only visit the facilities. This caused a considerable uproar, and a press release appeared to calm down the atmosphere: “The contact started a year ago at the request of Honda, not Bultaco, with the idea that the Spanish brand is the distributor of Honda in Spain, as well as gaining valuable Japanese technology. ”
Unfortunately for Bultaco, time was running against them and although in November an agreement was reached between the suppliers and workers, the following month neither the payroll nor the extra Christmas pay would be paid, so the workers decided to occupy the factory with the executives, Paco Bultó included. They were moments of great tension And confusion. A little later, the works council would reassure the spirits of the workers.
But the calm did not last long, on January 7, 1980 the leadership abandoned the factory and never returned. The board of directors resigned, and granted Chalamanch the total power of the factory, the workers returning from the Christmas holidays with which the company had decreed a lockout.
Chalamanch knew what was coming. So, along with Jonny Grace, he left for the United States to find an entrepreneur who agreed to partner with Bultaco. In the United States that was very likely, since any entrepreneur, in any sector, could always be interested In other companies.
The mentality of American entrepreneurs was and is Very different from the Spaniards. The US tour did not have the expected result. Later, the Yamaha president quoted Joan Chalamanch for dinner; his hour had come. Dinner was good but neither of them drew the subject of the collaboration agreement between both brands. Later they would realize that they were both wishing the subject came out but they hoped the other would get it out. Another missed opportunity, and they would never get another chance.
There were several meetings with the Town Councils of Sant Adrià and Barcelona, as well as with the Generalitat of Catalonia.
Reasons for closure
The motives behind the brand to try to justify the problems of the ompany were the drop in sales in the United States (25,000 bikes in 1974 and only 16,000 in 1979) as a result of the oil crisis, that had made many Americans unwilling to invest, and that Japan would break the market by selling the motorcycles below the cost price.
From here the sequence of events began to accelerate. In April 1980 the petition for suspension of payments is filed before the court, and the judge accepted it in only four days. At this point only participated in two sports: MX and Trial, and the factory was stopped.
On May 3, the Extraordinary Shareholders’ Meeting appointed Joan Chalamanch Director general of Bultaco with a very concrete plan: reduce the template of 460 To 200 workers, to obtain a loan of 480 million pesetas to start up the factory (not for compensation) and get 10,000 bikes to market (Most of a new model: the Pursang Mk15 of 250 cc).
The workers point of view was very different. They wanted a production of 15,000 bikes per year for a workforce of 400 workers, with only 60 layoffs. Finally, on July 1, 1980, an agreement was reached to resume the activities with 412 workers as of the 7th of July.
The restart of production was very slow. In October, at the same time that Bultaco reappeared at the Paris Salon production is officially resumed. In the heart of the company they go full speed ahead. The designers design new models, the riders race the bikes. All these projects would have meant the salvation of Bultaco, but they did not have enough money to push back time.
There was no money for moulds and dies, so no new models would be made. Everything was “derivatives” of motorcycles already in the market. There was no money to hire elite racers to participate in the competitions and they could not keep the Bultaco name excelling in the sports field.
The solution to save Bultaco went through a state credit to the entire Spanish motorcycle industry of 1 billion ESP if the Bultaco- Derby-Ossa-Montesa factories joined and reduced the 1,677 workers to 853. The workers affected by the dismissal demanded to collect their back pay, and the money did not arrive.
From here, the news on Bultaco would be scarce. So much so that four years later, after dividing the money from the sale of the facilities and the machines, every worker (rather, ex-worker) went off very different paths. A destination that very few fans noticed, and no specialized magazine devoted a single line.
Thus, according to the words of Paco Bultó in 1965, the vocation of a team of people for a profession disappeared. His idea, not of making more motorcycles, but that of being able to continue constructing motorcycles as art, would no longer be possible in the future.
Bultaco had come to an end.
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