Jim Winterer sent this email out to a few UMTA club members last week. My comments follow:
Dear friends, neighbors, partners in crime, evil doers etc.
Thought you might like to see this recent photo of my sons’ first motorcycle. I’m still working on confirming the date, but it is a ’74 or ’75 Montesa Cota 25. Now considered somewhat rare, it has a 49cc two-stroke motor and I think it makes just under 400 horsepower. Or maybe a little less than that. However, on the cute-as-a-bug scale, it has been scientifically verified to be off the charts.
We have terrific memories associated with the little Cota. It was the first motorcycle Ben ever rode, he was four and he rode it right into a picket fence. Will brought it to grade school for show and tell. They used to keep it up in their bedroom over the winter when we lived on Stewart Avenue. But the last time I saw it, the bike was in rough shape.
I bought it used in 1981 following one of our Minnesota trials events near Faribault. Two of us wanted to buy it; I won a coin flip and $100 later it was in the back of the Pinto station wagon. When Ben (on the right) and Will (on the left) outgrew it in the 1980s, the Cota found its way to the Wigley family (it was my longtime friend Griff Wigley who lost the coin toss) and we more or less lost track of it under the “possession is nine-tenths of the law” theory. Actually, I never had asked for it back and was under the impression that it had been professionally restored and shipped to a museum in Spain, home of the Montesa factory. I always kind of missed it, but felt good that it was well cared for and where people could enjoy seeing it.
Ha! Some sneaky friends of mine (ie: Steve Ahlers and Co. from Duluth) rescued it and secretly (at least to me) spent the past five years conducting a total restoration, inside and out. Steve’s an expert restorer and I think this is his best work yet. He had people in Europe and the United States looking for parts, and a master fiberglass artist in Texas did the fuel tank and seat assembly. Steve soaked the tiny drive chain in solvent for a full year and spent 50 hours on just the wheels before sending them to the chrome shop. The pictures don’t do it justice, it is that perfect. There were some parts that couldn’t be found anywhere so our master-machinist trials buddy in Thunder Bay, Stuart McLuckie, made them (like brass swing-arm bushings). Anything Steve didn’t chrome, he powdercoated, or metal-polished. The thing is a jewel.
On Saturday, quite a little crowd showed up unexpectedly at my house before noon. I was expecting a couple of these characters to come later in the afternoon and we were going to watch Supercross races in the Metrodome that night. Anyway, they said they decided to come early and have lunch first, and not to worry because they brought a buffet along with them. Well ok then. Diane Ahlers spread out the feast and it was like an instant party and I was in the living room visiting and telling lies when someone snuck out to Stewart’s van, carried the restored Montesa into the house, and wheeled it into the living room.
I think they were hoping to see me faint and fall over because they had their cameras ready; I didn’t pass out but came close. It was like the greatest surprise ever … like seeing an old buddy again, but not old and beat up but all sparkly and perfect. So I started asking how they fixed this part, and where did the new piston come from, and how they chromed that part and where did you find that little thingee. I still wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen to the Cota, however, so I asked Steve what he planned to do with it. He smiled and said, “It’s home, Jim. It’s home now.”
So how cool is that: owning a piece of motorcycle history and family history all rolled into one. The three Winterers are now the Cota’s keepers, so to speak, but dang, it sure looks nice in my living room.
A little more background:
The Cota 25 came to the UMTA via Northfielder Dudley Flamm whose two sons rode it in the 70s. When they outgrew it, Dudley put it up for sale and Jim and I both wanted it for our sons. Jim won the coin toss with me to buy it. Right photo: That’s Dudley at the UMTA 35th Anniversary in June, 2004, with Ron Hampe, Ed Hampe, and Al Gohlike.
My memory is as hazy as Jim’s but we think that he gave the Cota back to me at some point where it ended up languishing in my garage/basement/attic for years. I still have both the Cota 25 brochure and owner’s manual which will soon be on their way to Jim. I’ve included page 1 of the manual above for its, um, unique English.
In 2006, I decided to put it up for sale. When Steve Ahlers heard I was going to sell it, he told me his scheme to restore it and give it to Jim who’d spent thousands of hours working with Steve on the World Trials Championships held in Duluth in 2002, 2004, and 2005. I gladly donated the bike and I’m thrilled that it’s found its way to a proper home.
Right photo: Jim and Steve at the 2004 World Round.
Update Jan. 23, 2014 - Jim Winterer wrote in an email:
So are these cool or what? Our St. Thomas photographers took them in their studio last Thursday, when the Cota 25 was on its way to the International Motorcycle Show in Minneapolis.