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Checkpoint

THE 1975 BULTACO JPR 360 PURSANG

CLOSE TO THE END

By Matt Cuddy

 

By 1975 the Japanese had things pretty much sewed up when it came to competitive out-of-the-box dirt bikes. First the 1973 CR250M Honda Elsinore stunned the whole off-road motorcycle industry, and it only got better (or worse if you were a European motorcycle manufacturer) from there.

The once dominant Euro bike producers were floundering in a sea of red ink, as dealerships and parts availability started drying up, along with sales of motorcycles. No longer would the average dirt bike buyer put up with having to throw another five bills into a new machine, to make it live under the rigors of competition. Things like primary chains, rotten brakes, clutches and bolts made from butter, not guns, wouldn’t be tolerated anymore, period.

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But alas, some of the final models from the European factories were fantastic, reliable, lightweight fast motorcycles that were just as good, or better than their Japanese competition. One such motorcycle was the 1975 Bultaco Pursang. Both in the two fifty and three sixty configuration, it seemed Bultaco, at the end its life cycle, put together an excellent machine in the line of Pursang racing dirt bikes. But by 1975, it was a little too little, too late.

Let’s take a look at the Jim Pomeroy replica 360 Pursang, brought out in 1975, that sported some important changes that made it an excellent motorcycle. Number one was the carburetor; Bultaco got rid of the Spanish Amal concentric that plagued riders with sticky, broken slides, and a design that was prone to loading up the lower end with raw gas at a moments notice. Now the new line of Pursangs got the square-bodied Amal that more resembled a Mikuni both in looks, and performance. It got rid of the tickler, and was designed with a starting jet, like a Mikuni, that allowed cold starts without soaking your glove with pre-mix.

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Number two was a dual row primary chain with a decent tensoner that eliminated the classic Bultaco problem of spitting primary chains through cases, when the chain got old, or out of adjustment. If you kept the primary chain adjusted, with clean oil, it would last indefinitely.

Number three was front and rear brakes that were not only works of art, but actually stopped the motorcycle. Something Bultaco was sorely lacking since day one. In fact, the brakes were so good looking, and functional, they found their way onto other machines, namely Choppers and short track bikes. Who would have thought…?

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Finally Bultaco made the change from right side shifting, to shifting on the left, with an alloy shift lever that snaked around the countershaft sprocket, and, err, didn’t work all that well, since it flexed like a pole dancer. You could get a steel one from Muria products that solved the problem, but most didn’t, and lived with a missed shift now and then. At least the Bultaco factory was trying.

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The 360 put out an honest forty plus horsepower and even though it was a piston port configuration, it put out power over a very wide range, and could be trail ridden without loading up, and blubbering all over itself because of lousy carburetion, and race porting. Something unheard of on previous Pursangs. It also weighed 214 lbs, soaking wet, sported a chrome molly frame, and dual plug Motoplat ignition. The fiberglass tank was flawless, and the big Bull sported a plastic front fender, stock!. Nine inch travel Betor forks and forward mounted Telesco rear shocks gave the bike a plush ride, but, like most Spanish suspension of the period, the forks blew seals constantly, and the Telesco’s lasted about one month before they were thrashed.

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My Pursang was bought new at Hockie’s Cycles in Inglewood, California for sixteen hundred dollars out the door. By the time I sold it in 1988, it sported leading axle ‘Zokes off a Montesa, and straight up-and-down forward mounted gas Curnutt rear shocks. A giant skid plate and a three gallon Muria products gas tank with the clear stripe down the left side, so you could see how much gas you had left. It also had a license plate, since at that time in California all you needed was a working brake light, a rear view mirror and squeeze horn off a bicycle to be street legal. Lots of street bikes were embarrassed by the red dirt bike that got the hole shot on their 750 and disappeared over the horizon.

In a period of extreme bad judgment, I sold it to buy another transmission for my ’68 GTO that ate transmissions on a regular basis. Looking back, I should have sold the GTO and kept the Bultaco.

In all the time I owned the Bull, it never broke down, once, or left me stranded. The only thing that EVER went wrong was on a giant set of whoops at Red Rock canyon one of the top coils broke off the frame, and that didn’t even stop it, since it had dual ignition (two spark plugs & coils). It was still competitive up until around 1983, when the CR480 from Honda came out. After that, it became an instant antique.

But in bikes like the Pursang, you could see where the European factories were rising to the Japanese challenge by producing some excellent machines. It still is one of my favorite motorcycles of all time, and I dream about it a lot, and wonder where it ended up.

God speed my lovely Pursang, and we’ll meet again someday, I’m sure.