Vintage Motocross BikeI saw my first Husqvarna motorcycle when I was 13 years old. It was being ridden by Swede Bengt Aberg in the 1971 Trans-Am at Saddleback Park. Seeing Aberg blast up Saddleback’s uphill, the front mud flap flapping, the sound of that throaty 400cc motor cracking the air, and the resulting clods of dirt that his rear tire kicked up hooked me immediately.
I became a devout motocross fan. And the bike behind that new infatuation was the Husqvarna.Husqvarna motorcycles earned early prominence in America as the ambassadors of a new sport being imported from Europe; Motocross. The beautiful Swedish motorcycles, with their distinctive chrome gas tank patch, gained significant ground when they dominated the big movie screen in Bruce Brown’s 1971 classic motorcycle documentary, On Any Sunday.Not only was Bengt Aberg riding one-seen in a series of magical displays of riding caught in slow-motion-but the film’s stars, mega mogul Steve McQueen and rider extraordinaire, Malcolm Smith, road the red bikes throughout. The movie culminated with the now famous play riding on the beach at the end of the film. From that point on everyone wanted a Husqvarna dirt bike.The Husqvarnas are what first got me to look at a map of the world, to find out where this place called Sweden was. So, in essence, Husqvarna helped me to learn some geography.Huskys (as the motorcycles were affectionately known) not only dominated motocross but their wider ratio models wreaked havoc in the desert as well. Husqvarna garnered a number of motocross world titles before the Japanese got into the game and slowly knocked the various European manufacturers out. Brands like Ossa, Montesa, Bultaco, Maico, Monarch, AJS, Puch, and a number of others gradually fell when put up against the technological and financial powerhouses of the Japanese. In fact, Husqvarna and KTM are the only two European manufacturers to have survived.The beautiful 1971 Husqvarna 400 (known as the 400 Cross) pictured here belongs to restorer Kelly Owen. This classic motocross bike is true to what came off the Swedish assembly line in 1971, with signature front mud flap, Magura cables (with lube tabs) and brake and clutch lever dust covers. The motorcycle restoration is authentic right down to the official wreath on the airbox cover with World Champion Bengt Aberg’s signature printed on it; exactly what about one thousand dollars bought you back then.The Kelly Owen collection is an awe-inspiring walk through the motocross of yesteryear. Visit the motocross collection online to see more pristine examples of what drove us crazy as kids and, if you happen to be in Southern California, to make an appointment to see the collection in person.