Scott Sinclair restores a rare Husqvarna Baja racer to full glory…
Back in the 1970s and early 80s, if you stood along the Baja 1000 race course in the dead of night, waiting for the first race machines to come rip-blazing through the darkness, the first sound you would hear would be the two-stroke wail of the Swedish Huskies that ruled the desert. Their twin Cibie lights would come leaping and ripping across the moonlit chaparral at speeds of 100+ mph, screaming past in a roar of dust and silt.
Between 1970 and 1983, Husqvarna took home nine Baja 1000 victories, and the Swedish company’s supremacy wasn’t confined only the open class, as typified in the ’79 Baja 1000:
“Husqvarna domination of Baja races continued in the 1979 Baja 1000, with the Swedish make taking all five motorcycle classes and the overall win as well. Larry Roeseler and Jack Johnson teamed up on a Husqvarna 390 to take the overall win, finishing one hour, 21 minutes ahead of the next bike, another 390 Husky ridden by Scot Harden and Brent Wallingsford. Husqvarna also won the 250cc class 21 with Rick Finger and Jeff Kaplan and the 125cc class 20 with Scott Coutts and Scott Pfeiffer.” —Cycle World, 1980
That year, Huskies also finished first in class 30 (riders age 30+, any displacement) and class 38 (riders age 38+, any displacement).
As you might imagine, it’s rare to come across these open-class factory Baja machines, and this Baja Husky might be the rarest of the rare. It comes to us from Scott Sinclair, a California native who’s been riding and racing motorcycles for more than 50 years:
“Rode Huskys in AMA Dist 36 MX, Enduro, and Cross Country categories, eventually pulling down the #2 plate. Now retired, I ride the desert in AZ and Baja.”
The bike you see here is a one-off 1985 Baja Husky originally built at the Husqvarna West racing facility in San Diego, intended for the SCORE Baja series. Says Scott:
“Race shop leader Niles Ussery chose to use the ’85 250CR platform for its floating rear brake setup and first-gen WP USD front suspension, then coupled that with the proven watercooled open-class 430, 6-speed WRX engine.”
The bike has prototype WP forks, a weld-on full-length belly plate, rubber-mounted exhaust, longer right side radiator, long-range Acerbis tank, and many other custom features. Unfortunately, Cagiva purchased Husqvarna before the build was finished and the San Diego facility was shut down and the race teams disbanded.
This lonely 430 went home with shop manager Niles Ussery, who intended to finish it. Unfortunately, he passed, but the late Baja expert Ron Bishop of Ron Bishop Cycles bought Niles’s stable of bikes and brought them back on line. Later, after Bishop’s passing, it found its way into the hands of our friend Scott Sinclair, who helped to restore the machine.
Though it never got to compete in the 1985 Baja 1000, this Baja Husky has been let loose in the desert:
“This bike was raced at the Tecate Enduro and Hare Scrambles put on by the Los Ancianos MC. It was also used to pre-ride the Baja 1000 and the San Felipe Baja 250.”
As you can imagine, the riding experience is singular, with an exceptional blend of low and top end performance:
“It starts second kick and settles to a nice idle. Great 430 low end and yet revs out to top end of 105 or so.”
Below, we talk to Scott for the full backstory on this one-of-a-kind Husky.
Husky Baja Racer: Owner Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I’ve been riding and racing for over 50 years, starting out on a Honda 305 Scrambler while going to college in N CA. Rode Huskys in AMA Dist 36 MX, Enduro, and Cross Country categories, eventually pulling down the #2 plate. Now retired, I ride the desert in AZ and Baja.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the bike?
ONE-OFF ’85 Husqvarna 250 — CR framed, ’87 watercooled 430WR engine.
• Why was this bike built?
Originally built by the Husqvarna West racing facility in San Diego, CA for the SCORE Baja series.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Husqvarna was the most successful Baja race team in the 80’s with riders like Larry Roseler, Dan Smith, Dan Ashcraft, Brent Wollingsford, and Scott Harden bringing many victories. This bike was an extension of that history and experience.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
Race shop leader Niles Ussery chose to use the ’85 250CR platform for its floating rear brake setup and first-gen WP USD front suspension, then coupled that with the proven watercooled open-class 430, 6-speed WRX engine.
Custom frame work involved a welded-on full belly plate and mounts welded to frame to rubber-mount the exhaust. In addition, a longer right side radiator was mounted for extra cooling.
A 4.6 gal Acerbis gas tank was added for range. The WP USD forks were prototypes sent to the race shop and they used KTM clamps and mounts as well as a two-piston KTM-style front disc caliper. Rear shock was factory Ohlins. Ignition was 240 W euro-spec SEM in order to power the twin Cibie 9-inch Super Oscar lights.
• What’s the competitive history? Did it ever race?
Unfortunately, before the build was finished, Cagiva purchased Husqvarna from parent company Eectrolux and the San Diego facility was closed and race teams disbanded. So this bike is literally the last 430 from Sweden. The bike was taken home by shop manager Niles Ussery to finish, along with two 500cc Baja builds.
Unfortunately, Niles passed on and noted Baja expert Ron Bishop bought all the bikes that Niles had and brought them back on line. This bike was raced at the Tecate Enduro and Hare Scrambles put on by the Los Ancianos MC. It was also used to pre-ride the Baja 1000 and the San Felipe Baja 250.
• Can you tell us what the riding experience is like?
It starts second kick and settles to a nice idle. Great 430 low end and yet revs out to top end of 105 or so.
• Is there anyone you’d like to thank?
John Nelson of Nelson Bros MC for finding a virginal, lightly used unobtanium 4.6 Acerbis tank. Charles Halcomb, retired factory Husky rider, for all his help. George Earl of Uptite for his guidance and help. Ron Bishop (RIP) of Ron Bishop Cycles, his riding buddy Bill Rogers, who sold me the project, and all the Husqvarna vintage suppliers in the UK, EU, and USA.
Photos courtesy of Scott Sinclair.