I have a serious soft spot in my heart for Bultaco motorcycles, which also means I have a serious soft spot in my brain. I started my desert racing career on a Bultaco and ended it on a Bultaco. Bultaco’s were notoriously unreliable (bad electronics,crappy steel for the frames, etc, etc), but at the same time how could you not love them??
The worst motorcycle I ever raced in the desert was a Bultaco El Bandido. At the time I was being sponsored (given a motorcycle and some service help) by the local Bultaco dealer each year. I had been riding Matadors in Enduro’s and desert races along with a Pursang in Scrambles races occasionally. They both required a lot of maintenance but I loved them…most of the time.
Early in 1969 I was given a left over (but still new) 1968 El Bandido 360 to race. The break-in period was in Texas Canyon with my friend Jim Gaver on his Maico 501. If there was ever a motorcycle that truly deserved the name Beelsebub the Maico was it, but…the El Bandido came pretty damn close. It was evil.
After a couple of Hare Scrambles I figured out the Bandido’s strengths…fire roads. That bike could slide through corners like no other. Tap the rear brake just a bit, let the rear end drift into a smooth powerslide and you had the most beautiful feeling in motorcycling. Feet up, the bike almost sideways, you could almost picture yourself at the San Jose Mile. Dirt and gravel being thrown up at the rider behind you, great fun.
I hated that motorcycle. Then. Today, I have a better vision for the El Bandido. A cafe racer. The ‘Scrambles’ version had a 19″ front wheel whereas the MX version had a 21″, so the Scrambles model would be the choice. The motor had plenty of power, it was the first ‘mid-size’ bike that could easily keep up with the 500’s of the day and was lighter weight. The Scrambles version had a longer wheelbase so stability in Cafe Racer form wouldn’t be a problem A bit of frame bracing and you have a canyon carver like nobody else!!!
I found an El Bandido on ebay today, it looks a little ragged but nothing that can’t taken care of easily. The seller says it did run when he bought it but you will have go through it yourself. It is all there and is pretty much all original.
Some new shocks, upgrade the fork internals, a set of Avon race tyres (AM23’s are my choice), get a headlight and tail light, find a ‘friendly’ DMV person and you my friend have a hooligan bike that nobody else does.
For more info and pictures, click on the pic’s below.