Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Taco Tuesday: 1966 Bultaco Mercurio

Bultaco is best known (if known at all) for their off-road successes in the 1960's.  Bikes like the Sherpa, Pursang, and Alpina are legendary.  Bultaco also tried their hand at on-road bikes.  In 1965 they brought out the Mercurio 175, or Mercury in Spanish, advertising it in the U.S. as the Sassy Devil with "small bike maneuverability in a full size motorcycle."  Find this 1966 Bultaco Mecurio for sale at a vintage car dealer in Seattle, WA for $5,995.


The Mercurio was powered by a 175cc two-stroke single giving 18 horsepowers.  It didn't have the "advanced" oil injection systems that were beginning to show up on Japanese two strokes, so it required the rider to mix their own oil & gas.  It was also one of those 1960's European weirdos with the shifter and brake on the opposite sides of what is done today along with the kickstarter on the opposite side of today's bikes (if today's bikes even have a kickstarter).


With 18 hp and a weight of 198 pounds it could actually hit 80, given enough level road and a 1960's weight rider.  It's pretty cool how they oriented the speedo with zero at the top, with a sweep to the left.  No word on what sort of hill you'd need to hit the ton.  This bike according to the ad was purchased in the local Seattle area an kept there over the last 50 years.  It's original and has had a mechanical rebuild but has not been restored.  It won first place at The Meet - the annual Le May Museum Vintage Motorcycle show and has participated in couple of Isle of Vashon TT's.


In 1965 you could pick up a Mercurio for $499 on the east coast, which works out according to inflation calculators to $3,800 of our debased  2016 dollars.  Is this bike worth another $2,200 for surviving the last 50 years more or less intact? 


See a patina'd survivor commanding less of a pretty premium? Email us here: tips@dailyturismo.com

Gianni is Daily Turismo's Pacific Northwest correspondent.  He likes vintage bikes, but likes vintage prices even more.

3 comments:

  1. I know of this dealer as a teen back in the 70's always seem to have Tri 5 Chevys & Baby Bird T-birds had a few well done car's but alot more that needed work. Always thought they were high on prices but we are talking used car dealer. Had a lot of oddball stuff and plenty of British Bikes.

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  2. I was interested in this bike for several weeks and have discussed it with the very nice owner, Kevin. It was his dad's machine back in the day, sold to his dad's friend, then re-acquired by Kevin decades later. In the intermediate 30+yrs the bike was essentially not used at all. There is a good YouTube video of Kevin blasting up and down his street on this very-functional Bul. Rather than restore it, Kevin has chosen to leave it all original and just rebuild the 175cc engine. The buyer will therefore get a 1966 bike with like-new mechanicals. I was searching for a Model 13 (like I had as a teenager) but this bike is a Model 9. Looks the same, but sadly wouldn't satisfy my nostalgia bug.

    A word about the Mercurio; I have ridden for more than 55yrs and owned dozens of motorcycles during that period, many brands, all sizes. The Bultaco Mercurio Mdl13 was the ONLY bike I never dropped, and I rode it like a demon during my crazy high school years. This bike was nearly gravity-proof. Perfect size for a teen, weighed less than 200lbs, with 18hp ~ more than enough to hit 80 if you laid down over the tank and tucked in. The saddle was very comfy and large enough for Sweet Sue, who limited your top end to 70mph. The Merc would keep up with a lot of the 650 bikes until it ran out of breath at 80 (and actually out-accellerate many of them) and had impeccable road manners. This bike simply never got me into trouble and it sure wasn't due to my riding skills. All in all, for under $500, the Bultaco Mercurio was the best bang-for-the-buck available to a blue-collar kid in the 1960s. Retired now, I can afford almost whatever bike I want to play with (except Vincents or Broughs). I am selectively filling my garage with old Bultacos. Once you ride this bike, you'll fall in love with it, and true love lasts forever.

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  3. And by the way, with all due respect, I must take issue with your statement, "Bultaco also tried their hand at on-road bikes". Bultaco issued several road bikes in the 1960s and each one was a winner ~ literally. The very first Bultaco was a road bike (the Tralla), which won the Spanish GP (taking 5 of the top 6 spots) less than 3 months after it was introduced. Their amazing 30hp Metralla instantly became the world's fastest 250cc bike (2-stroke OR 4-stroke), with a top end well beyond the Ton and race-winning road handling. It took it class at Isle of Man on it's first time out and several years thereafter. Clip-on bars and big racing drum brakes with an air scoop, enclosed chain and auto-oil-injection came standard on the later Metrallas. You could buy a Met' for less than $600 and win races with it right out of the box or ride it on the street. Fairings made it even faster. The Mercurio was introduced in several engine sizes and became the most-practical street bike available during the 1960s. Demand always outstripped supply. They were affordable, lightweight, quick and nimble (and I thought they were very handsome bikes). Every Bultaco was carefully hand-built in Spain and rugged enough to endure lots of abuse. They were so reliable that the entire Spanish government bought and issued a fleet of Mercurios for all their government workers (postmen, police patrols, govt messengers, etc) nationwide. The detuned single-cylinder engine design was so rugged and reliable, it was used for every engine size from 50cc to 350cc. Indeed, you could swap off the upper end of the engine in your driveway for a larger or smaller size, without removing the bottom end from the frame. (My uncle won trophies in several class sizes with the same bike in the same weekend). Bultaco's TSS road racers set 1960s class records which remain unbroken today. Bultaco was always able to get the highest speed out of the smallest engine and remain together until the end of the race. TRUE, their brightest star shone in the dirt, with their many world-class off-road dirt racers (winners of the World Trials Championship 8 times and the Scottish 6 Day Trials 4 times), but it was their wonderful road bikes which touched the common man. The advent of the cheap "disposable" Japanese bikes, which could be run hard for one season and then thrown away, spelled the demise for the carefully hand-made Bultacos. Senior Bulto closed his doors in the early 1980s, leaving the world filled with life-long-dedicated Bultaco fans who will never stop loving these wonderful Spanish machines.

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