Gear: Gonzo Moto: Hunter S. Thompson and the Bultaco Matador

Gonzo Moto: Hunter S. Thompson and the Bultaco Matador

By Jared Paul Stern
January 7, 2016

“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

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CJ David
CJ David
8 years ago

I will admit that at least a small part of why I bought a ’96 Ducati 900SS/CR was because of HST’s “Song of the Sausage Creature” article for Cycle World. His ride in that story was my bike’s slightly upgraded full fairing brother, the 900SS/SP.

Christopher Gay
Christopher Gay
8 years ago

I went to see Hunter S. Thompson “speak” back in 1986 with my girlfriend at the time. There wasn’t much “speaking” going on as he was slumped over the table with a large bottle while the venue slowly exited and got their money back.

I though it was entertaining and it still makes for a good story, I suppose.

Good times.

Yeah, hanging out is one thing… next door neighbor would be a whole ‘nother animal.

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago

What Hunter S Thompson is best known best for when it comes to motorcycles was his notorious [ and funny ] essay for CW on his exploits on …. yes … someone was crazy enough to loan the man a Ducati …. titled ” Song of the Sausage Creature ” An article not to be missed as he also mentions Vincents in detail and the writing is amongst his best .

As for Bultaco and their place in history a major correction is needed here . Bultaco was very well known and recognized for its Trials Bikes thru out the 60’s 70’s and early 80’s which all but dominated the segment till the likes of Gas Gas etc rose up from Bultaco’s ashes .

As for HST ? Full discloser …. I’ve got a grudging respect for the man … to a point .. and in certain areas … but trust me when I say be glad he was never your neighbor ………. 😉

Guitar Slinger
Guitar Slinger
8 years ago
Reply to  Guitar Slinger

PS; Juan’s book is most definitely worth the read . A bit biased and one sided mind you …. but worth the price of entry never the less

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