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Two Wheels, 10 Horses, and Three Moving Parts Edition

Peter Tanshanomi March 23, 2010 Two-Wheel Tuesday 13 Comments

Ed. note: From time to time we are going to explore the two-wheeled world of the motorcycle. We kick off Two-Wheel Tuesdays with a story from our friend Tanshanomi and his two-wheeled Eleanor… enjoy!

My dream car is not a car at all, but a motorcycle, and by many measures not much of one at that. The Bultaco 125 Streaker stands out as my Holy Grail, the iconic “one that got away.” Despite three prime chances to buy a perfectly preserved Streaker, I’ve never owned one (and quite possibly never will).

When I was but a wee hoon of seventeen, only a few months after getting my motorcycle endorsement, I read this great column in Rider magazine all about Spanish motorcycles in general and the fading Bultaco brand specifically [You can read the whole thing online at ]. One passage mentioned, “…you can, for a price, get one of their exquisite little 125cc ‘Streaker’ minicafe bikes as a collector’s item, if you know the right dealer.” It got me all excited about finding one of these obscure bikes.

Almost a year later, I bought Motorcyclist Magazine’s 1982 Buyer’s Guide, which had photos and descriptions of two Bultaco street bikes: The Metralla 250 GTS, and the aforementioned 125 Streaker. The Streaker was the ultimate expression of all that column had lauded about Bultacos: light weight, narrowness, simplicity. I wanted one.

The Streaker was available overseas from 1978-80 in both 74cc and 124cc versions. Only a handful of 125s (28, to be exact) made it to the U.S. before the EPA slammed the door shut on two-stroke highway vehicles in 1979 with new emissions regulations. It was the only Bultaco road bike to ever come to our shores with cast wheels and modern hydraulic disc brakes. The frame was designed in conjunction with Aérospatiale, using the aerospace manufacturer’s then-remarkable stress-modeling software. Despite its spindly looks and meager 10 HP output, it was widely commended by those who rode it as a remarkably competent motorcycle. By 1982, Bultaco had developed a more advanced 125 version with a new a gear-drive primary and white-and-yellow graphics.

I went with my parents one Saturday morning visit to the nearest Bultaco shop (actually a dune buggy fabrication shop about an hour outside of town). There was one old, dusty Bultaco Alpina in the corner. I asked to buy a new Bultaco street bike. I told them I wasn’t picky; I’d take a Metralla or Streaker, whichever they could get. “They’re pretty expensive,” the guy behind the counter unenthusiastically responded. I held out a $200 cash deposit. He wouldn’t take it. “Well, we’ll call ya’ if we can get somethin’ for ya’, but I don’t know when that might be,” he said. I went back home and eagerly awaited a phone call that never came. The Spanish economy was in shambles and the Bultaco factory was struggling in the midst of nearly continuous labor strikes and work stoppages. It soon closed forever.

By the fall of 1983 I was an Army SP4 stationed at Ft. Lewis, Washington. On my way to watch the club races at Seattle International Raceway (Now Pacific Raceways) I steered my little Honda MB5 over to the Bultaco dealer in the town of Auburn to look around. There it sat, in the flesh, on a little elevated pedestal: a brand-new, zero-mile, black-and-gold ’78 Streaker. I turns out that Lane Campbell, the author of that Rider column, was from the local area (He was track announcer for the bike races at SIR). This dealer and this same exact bike were the ones he had spoken of in the article. The dealer had it tagged at $1495, but quickly said he’d be willing to take $1200 cash.

I was living in the barracks, with only uncovered, unsecured parking; I had no garage, no real tools, and my bike was my sole means transportation. A rare, unmolested Spanish bike just didn’t make sense; I bought a new ’83 Honda XL600R for transportation and a well-worn $300 ’76 Bultaco Pursang 250 motocrosser for fun on the post’s nearby tank trails.

A few more years passed. After my discharge and getting my degree, the Pursang was lovingly converted into a Formula IV roadracer and I joined SMOG, the Spanish Motorcycle Owners’ Group. As it turns out, A classified ad n one of their newsletters: 78 Streaker for sale, zero miles, never been started. As I recall, the price was somewhere in the $1700–$1900 range: stiff, but not outside the realm of possibility for a 30-year-old single guy. I ed the seller, who sent me photos and offered to crate the bike for $300, or I could drive from Idaho to California to get it. Hmmm…. I was still making payments on my truck, and I had just bought a condo. Maybe he’d still have it a little later on…

Fast foward again to around 2003 or 2004. A zero-mile Streaker shows up on Ebay. The bidding is around $2100 dollars. I desperately want to click the “bid” button and join the fray. I’ve got the garage, I’ve got the tools. But I’m now married, with a house that sits on 1/2 acre and $38.50 in my checking account. I watched the bike eventually sell for something near $3K.

Evidently, Bultaco dealers recognized the Streaker’s potential as a collector’s item back in 1978, and a goodly percentage of them were squirreled away without so much as a prod on the kickstarter. So there are still pristine examples out there.

I haven’t seen a Streaker in the flesh in over 25 years, and my relationship with the Bultaco Streaker still consists only of some industrial grade self-hiney-kicking. Someday, after the house is paid off and I’m ready to retire, I’ll use a few IRA disbursements to buy a rotted, non-running carcass of a derelict Streaker for several times the cost that I could have bought one for way back when. And then I’ll probably dump thousands more trying to restore it, only to find that several needed parts no longer exist. And I’ll still be kicking myself in the hiney.

I’ve personally met only one man who’s actually ridden a Streaker. I asked him what it was like. He pondered my question silently for a long moment, then described the experience in one word: “inspiring.” I hope to someday be similarly inspired.


 


2018 UPDATE — 8 YEARS LATER

Almost exactly eight years after I wrote this, A member of the posted these two photos, taken March 28, 2018 inside . These pictures show the exact same ’78 Streaker I mention in this article, and proof of its provenance. I even remember looking at that floor tag! From the sales receipt, it appears that it sat on the showroom floor for another three years after I left Washington state, and remains in pristine, unused condition. —Tanshanomi

  • Al Navarro

    Tanshanomi…though we didn't always agree on matters automotive, I have always enjoyed and respected your POV and expertise over on the Jalop (which I visit now about as regularly as I go to the dentist). Good to see you over here. Nice write up on your personal Eleanor.

    I hope you get a Streaker before the world ends in 2012.

  • I just wanted to stop in and say that I am fully supportive of two-wheeled coverage on the 'Verse. I trust this bunch to not degenerate into the Hawgoverse.

    Plus, I'd love to see an article on a Thunderdog.

  • Good pick for your unobtainium. And a good read also!

  • That's a cool little bike and a very touching tale, Tanshanomi. Were I a wealthy person, I woul be compelled to ship one of these beauties to Lee's Summit today. Keep telling this story and someday, it will be yours.

  • Wow, great story. I remember reading about the Metralla, and saw them raced in 1999 at the vintage bike races in Park City, UT. Lovely bikes. This is the first time I've heard of the Streaker. I hope Tanshanomi manages to get his hands on one.

    Yeah, I look forward to seeing more bike stuff here. Motorcycles are just pure fun, and that's what this is all about.

  • Great story! I wanted a GSXR 600 several years ago. A buddy of mine at work had one and was ready to sell it to me so he could upgrade to something with more ponies. Well, a week after he said he'd be willing to sell it to me it was stolen. When it was recovered it was pretty well trashed and the exhaust was gone. His insurance company totalled it and he got his big boy bike.

    I bought a house, got married and figure my wife doesn't want to be a widow. So, I'll stick with 4 wheels and look longingly at the guys on sportbikes…until someone cuts them off.

  • RetroRCR

    Thanks for sharing. Great story! For me, the one that got away was a 500cc Kawasaki Triple. Was moving and gave it to a friend. He wrecked it on the first day. Should have left the clothes behind and kept the bike:( Also had a 750, but that is another story. Someday I'll take up smoking again, while I can still find them.

    • I hear you. I wish I'd never gotten rid of my Suzuki GT550. I haven't seen another one since I sold it and moved. It wasn't nearly as cool as an H1, but it was still a two stroke triple and it was a real blast to ride.

  • Nice article, and that's a beautiful little machine. I hope you get your wish someday.

  • Matchmann

    Jeff great story. Living in Seattle back in the 70's Tommy Hines was the Bull dealer in north seattle, there was a streaker and a metralla on the floor for sale, really wanted one but alas, passed on the street bike and ended up buying a Pursang from University Honda Bultaco, still have it. So here it is 33 years later, I still have the pursang along with a bunch of others which include 2 125 streakers, and a late model Metralla GTSA (yes the one with mag wheels and disk brakes, 6 speed, 250cc). I really don't need 2 streakers but I couldn't pass up the second one at the price, one of these days I'll probable sell it off, maybe we should connect up if your still interested. Again great story.

  • That is very helpful. It provided me several ideas and I’ll be placing them on my blog shortly. I’m bookmarking your website and I’ll be back again. Thank you again!

  • One of the best articles I have read in a while. Thanks and keep up the good work.

  • James Dean Meyer

    Similar lust/same bike?
    I went to High School in Kent, Washington in the mid '90's and vividly remember a Bultaco Streaker in the showroom of Renton Motorcycle. It was in pristine shape. The sales guy said that it had never been registered and maybe never even ridden. They wouldn't sell it due to no title and that it couldn't be registered. I wanted it bad, but they wouldn't budge. Maybe it is still around. I have not been back in over a decade, so I'm not even sure if Renton Motorcycle is still in business. I eventually got a Suzuki GT250 and converted it to a cafe racer. It wasn't the Streaker that I wanted, but it was pretty great for a 17 year old new to street bikes.

    I hope you find one, Tanshanomi.

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