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 http://www.tanshanomi.com/bultaco]. 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 contacted 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 Bultaco Facebook Group posted these two photos, taken March 28, 2018 inside The Derby at The Shop Seattle. 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