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Mikkola never let fame affect him. While an ABC Wide World of Sports cameraman tries to get a good angle, he simply goes about the business of getting his bike ready for the first moto.
the mid-1970s in time, and the opportunity to ride the machinery that so enthralled me as a kid became too great a temptation, especially when I met a vintage motocross fan who told me that in his father's garage were two 1975 Husqvarna’s.
I was moved to query further. Two Huskys? "Yep. Two of them in about six different boxes!"
Many months and too many dollars later, one complete and fully operable Husqvarna has risen from the rubble. I found at least one of everything, save for an original gas cap (the previous owner had substituted a Yamaha lid. which I am told seals much better than the standard issue Husky cap). It is not a restoration; I did wire-brush lots of old nuts and bolts, but there are new shocks and the rubber strap that used to keep the gas tank on the motorcycle was tossed aside (Not away! Never throw anything away, ever again! This should be the mantra of motorcyclists everywhere!) It represents many hours of re-reading old magazine tests and studying photos with a magnifying glass.
My childhood lack of respect for Heikki now results in my penance as I frequently replace fork seals, spend hours pondering the mysteries of the Bing carburetor and punch up phone calls to Husqvarna dealers from Illinois to California, and Husky buffs in Iowa, Connecticut and Wisconsin. It is right that I do so.
Mikkola never let fame affect him. While an ABC Wide World of Sports cameraman tries to get a good angle, he simply goes about the business of getting his bike ready for the first moto.
This Husky runs hard, is stable through bumps and isn't difficult to turn. Double jumps are a different story. They did not exist in early 1970s motocross, a fact which also provides a handy excuse for not attempting to clear them. It is a solidly-constructed machine and lightweight at a claimed 206 pounds, an especially impressive figure when you keep in mind that there is only a minimal amount of plastic involved.
Racing the Husqvarna in the Bomber class against other old bikes has given some of us the opportunity to experience motocross' past. Many of the younger riders don't even know what it is; what they know of the Cro-Magnon days of motocross is limited to Roger DeCoster. His legend grows even among the body-pierced, nac-nacking
whippersnappers who are too young to have ever seen him ride.
That is how it should be; sport should pay tribute to its very best. A couple of years ago, the snobs of baseball decided to lift the asterisk which had long cast a shadow on Roger Maris' 61 home runs. It was too late for Maris, a good guy who died in 1985.
Now too, do I remove any 'ifs' and 'buts.' "If only that Suzuki..." no longer matters. The Flying Finn's 1974 greatness may have seemed like a war crime to a twelve-year-old, but I see it today as an incredible feat for the small Swedish factory and an unassuming Finnish automobile mechanic.
Motocross may well be the house that Roger built; on any Sunday however, Heikki Mikkola should be a welcomed guest. ■