1977 Montesa 125 VB
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1977 Montesa - 125 VB
Provenance

This is a new, never ridden 1977 125 VB. Sure it’s extremely rare to find a new bike from 1977, but interestingly, most people have never seen the original fenders that came on these bikes because even when new, they were so brittle that after the first crash they broke and were replaced with aftermarket fenders. Original fenders are unobtainable.

The only reason these fenders have lasted is because this bike was kept in a safe, climate-controlled storage for most of its life. This bike looks as if it had just rolled off the showroom floor over 35 years ago; the rubber, paint, and metal are in perfect condition. There aren’t even any accidental scratches on this bike. Ironically, this bike never made it to the showroom floor.

Here’s why: This 125 was part of a shipment of Montesa’s brought into Canada by the Montesa importer for a specific dealer. Apparently, a technicality necessitated the bikes to be placed in customs hold for further review/inspection. Like most highly efficient government entities, by the time a review decision was made, the dealership had gone out of business.

It’s my understanding that these bikes remained in their crates inside Canadian customs for over 20 years before they were sold as part of a lot to a clearing house. Essentially a Montesa time capsule.

I acquired this bike from Tom Kieft, a good friend who had one of the most impressive motorcycle collections I’ve ever seen. He actually had the complete set of 1977 NOS VB’s from Canada, the 125, 250, and 360! It took a while but I finally convinced him to sell me the 125 in 2009. I’m glad I did, because he later sold his entire collection to single buyer.

The funny thing is, Tom and I grew up in the same neighborhood. When I was learning how to ride on a Honda Mini-Trail, he was already starting to race Bultaco 125’s. My family then moved out of the neighborhood and I hadn’t seen Tom in over 30 years when someone told me, “This guy named Tom Kieft may have the best motorcycle collection in Illinois, you should meet him someday”. Small world.

1977 Montesa - 125 VB
Model Information

Considered to be the first motorcycle manufacturer in Spain, Montesa was formed by Pedro Permanyer and Francisco Bulto in 1944. Their first model was a road bike based on a 100cc two stroke engine manufactured by the French company Motobecane. Fuel was a scarce resource at the end of WWII and consequently there was great demand for motorcycles.

Bulto, the company’s chief designer then developed their own 125cc engine which would become successful in ISDT, road racing and the Isle of Man TT. When Permanyer (the Director and primary share holder) decided to cease Montesa’s involvement in competition, Bulto left and formed his own company Bultaco in 1958. Pedro Pi, test rider and design prodigy then took over development responsibilities at Montesa.

Kim Kimball was solely responsible for bringing Montesa to the US as Montesa Motors. Kimball was later known as “Mr. Montesa” and also coined the phrase “Viva Montesa”. Kim Kimball was also a pioneer in the concept of “sponsoring” motocross riders, supporting the likes of John Desoto and Ron Nelson. He also formed the American Motocross Team to provide American participation (Desoto and Nelson) in European motocross races.

Montesa’s first production 125 motocross model was the 1970 Cappra MX (18M). Although I like the look of the “Grey Ghost”, it was considered heavy, slow, and ugly. Stagnant sales lead to its discontinuation after only two years. Without a 125 motocrosser for the next four years, Montesa finally introduced the Cappra 125 VA in 1976. In the new standard Montesa red color, the bike looked beautiful, but the engine was based on the 125 Cota Trials model, hampering its durability in a motocross environment.

With motocross technology advancing very quickly in the mid 70’s, Montesa recognized the VA’s shortcomings and released the Cappra 125 VB in 1977. The laid down shocks on the VA were now forward mounted and offered 9” of travel. The forks were upgraded to leading axle Betor’s with 9.5” of travel. From what I understand, the porting and piston were changed, but the reliability issues persisted. I’ve never been able to find any magazine tests on this model, so it’s hard to say how the VB stacked up to the competition. If you looked at the spec sheet, this bike had everything sans reed valve, but at approximately $1100 it cost more than the Japanese competition without the aftermarket performance options. The VB returned unchanged for 1978.

The quality of craftsmanship and attention to detail were exceptional for the approximately 600 125 VB’s that were ever produced. The VB was replaced by the VE in 1979 and lastly the VF in 1980, ending Montesa’s run in the 125 motocross market.