Vintage MX Motorcycles
Back in the day – that day being in the late 1960s – when European motocross was making its earliest ventures to the U.S. in the form of exhibition races, the big thing stateside as far as off-road was hare scrambles and enduro.
The likes of Husqvarna, Maico, and CZ were still relatively unknown here, so most competitors were limited to modifying big displacement street bikes like Triumphs and BSAs to handle the off-road chores.
The thinking was you needed to possess the most power possible in order to pull yourself through the mud and guck, and the big 4-stroke twins seemed to fill the bill.
In 1968, one man, an Ohio native and serious racer, began to think otherwise. He figured if you had a light machine–perhaps trading displacement for weight–it wouldn’t sink into the mud as easily. Also, it would be a great deal easier to extricate from the hazards of enduro competitions if you did get stuck.
The man was John Penton, and he set out to build a custom, small displacement, light-weight motorcycle for serious competition. He fabricated the frame and various elements, and had the Penton motorcycle manufactured by KTM. An existing European motor manufacturer, Sachs, powered the KTM-built Pentons. The engine was a 125cc 2-stroke.
Penton went out and proceeded to prove his theory by winning enduro events, often with his sons, weaving his way through dense forests and over mud to the awe of his overweight competitors.
Penton immediately began to build the Penton name, assembling and manufacturing a full line of motorcycles Stateside that became synonymous not only with enduro competition, but excelled in the booming realm of motocross.
Most rewarding were the results in the highly prestigious International Six-Day Trial (known as the ISDT), for which John Penton named his popular 125cc model. A 100cc version was named after the prestigious Berkshire enduro in America.
Pentons were famous for superb handling and their dynamic looks, especially the bright green paint scheme and massive sunburst design of the cooling fins for the cylinder head.
Unfortunately, the Sachs transmission was infamous for having a neutral between each gear. Riding one you learned to nurse the gearshift into the next gear, often coming up with a handful of throttle and no engagement.
Nonetheless, Penton motorcycles won a decent share of races and earned a place on the mantel of motorcycling, giving plenty of major European and Japanese manufacturers a serious run for their money. The Penton pictured here is a beautifully restored 1970 Six-Day 125cc.
Visit theowencollection.com to see examples of motocross machines from the early days of motocross.