Gonzo Moto: Hunter S. Thompson and the Bultaco Matador
“Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba. I’ve always believed this, in spite of the trouble it’s caused me.”
– Hunter S. Thompson, Song of the Sausage Creature
Stories I Tell Myself: Growing Up with Hunter S. Thompson, the new memoir by the gonzo journo’s son Juan Thompson, is not exactly a textbook on responsible parenting. But between the drink, drugs, and large caliber handguns, the larger-than-life writer and his son did bond over at least one thing.
“Sometimes Hunter would crank up his Bultaco Matador trail motorcycle, I would climb on the back and hang on to him as tightly as I could, and we would race down the street,” Juan recalls. “We never talked about it, it was just a quick motorcycle ride, but it was also a private adventure just between us. We didn’t have that many of them, so those memories are precious.”
Thompson, who had gained fame following the Hell’s Angels—among other dangerous exploits—once described the Bultaco in a letter as “a lightweight Spanish bugger, built for dirt-riding instead of freeways”.
It was ideal for one of his favorite pastimes: trespassing through the fields of his Colorado neighbors, for which he would always bring wire-cutters and at least one pistol. The Bultaco, though not as celebrated today as the famous Italian and British makes, did have serious racing chops. The brand was established by Spanish motorcycle racing champion Francisco Xavier Bulto in 1958. In 1962 he raced his own dirt bike design at the International Six-Day Trials (ISDT), and came home with a gold medal.
The Bultaco competed for Thompson’s affections with his other favorite motorbike, a BSA Lightning Rocket, which was “three times the size” of the Matador, Thompson wrote. The BSA is the bike he rode while following the Angels. He picked the BSA over a Triumph Bonneville and a Harley. The BSA so impressed him that in 1967 he wrote to the company inquiring about opening a BSA dealership in Aspen.
There had been a Bultaco dealership in the area where he acquired the Matador, but his experience with them was less than thrilling. “It nearly turned my hair white,” he wrote to BSA.
Alas, the Hunter S. Thompson motorcycle dealership never panned out. And of course, in the end it wasn’t riding one too fast that killed him. He did that himself.
Image via Daily Beats, Huffington Post, Daily Mail, Motorcross Action, Juan Thompson, Youtube, HST Books, Mangot Style