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1963 Montesa Impala 175
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Lloyd Watson was a confirmed fan of four-stroke motorcycles, and he really wanted an Italian classic bike. So how did he end up with a classic Spanish two-stroke, then?

'I had owned very few 2-strokes,' explained Lloyd Watson when he sent us this pic of his 1963 Montesa... which is, of course, a 2-stroke. He was certain he wouldn't want one. 'They never seemed to have the charisma of a loud 4-stroke and they have this reputation for unreliability, poor electrics, and fouled plugs. Don't they?'

Beyone patina...

Well, that was what Lloyd believed before he owned this Impala 175. He was really looking for a sporty late 50's Italian lightweight but they felt very expensive to find and fettle. So Lloyd brought the Spanish Impala home from a Stafford jumble, looking then much as it does now.

Montesa started building motorcycles immediately after World War Two, and they concentrated on making tough 2-strokes, many destined for trials and moto-cross success. Among the founders of the firm was Francesco Bulto, who left in 1958 to start his own Bultaco factory after a disagreement about whether Montesa should pursue competition success. The Impala project followed soon afterwards, when Montesa planned to ride 12,000 miles across Africa, from Capetown to Cairo, on prototype unit construction machines. They succeeded with the stunt and the sports-roadster Impala went into production in the early 1960s, winning several design awards.

Montessa's 175 (top) and 250 (bottom). Not many on eBay though, sorry.

When Lloyd first owned his Impala it didn't run but it did turn over and was mostly complete. The starting was down to a minor wiring problem - no bother - but the big end was in an advanced state of decay - big bother!

However, it was all fixed with some considerable time but for not too much outlay… so did life with the Impala prove Lloyd's preconceptions about owning a 2-stroke to be correct?

Ah. Nope.

Random Bultaco stuff on

Exactly the opposite, he says. 'This little gem has turned all that on its head. It never fails to go and go and go. It is a delight to ride and has a sprightly performance. On club runs it keeps up with the Jampots and the Triumphs -- it's a bit different on a wide open road, but it still gives a huge number of smiles per mile and it's never far behind the pack.

'I run it on racing pre-mix oil and have yet to put rings in it. It's still on the tyres and chain which came with it - and the lights still work. The only thing needed for the last MoT was a wheel bearing, although at every test I have to convince the man that the suspension is undamped. I'm often asked when I'm going to paint it but of course I'm not going to do that; it would be like re-painting the Mona Lisa! The history of the thing would be lost in a few strokes of a brush.'

Notice that the red bike seems to have skidded to a halt.. backwards. 2-Stroke; you've got to love them...

In fact, the Impala has changed Lloyd's entire way of thinking and he soon bought a Bultaco and another Montesa to keep it company. And he's up for more, too:

'I'm now a 2-stroke convert - but I have yet to buy that little Italian. So if anyone in the south-west has a Spanish or Italian lightweight surplus to requirements then I'd like to hear from them!'

And Lloyd's on 01209 213386 if you've a little Italian crying out for his attention…

Moto Retro? Good name for a magazine, that...


Montessa Stuff on


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