Malcolm Smith's 1970 Husky eight-speed
Enough Gears to Win
Remember the scene from “On Any Sunday” where a bunch of racers get bogged down in a huge mudhole during the Elsinore Grand Prix, and Malcolm Smith goes flying by?
This is the bike he was riding.
The scene in which Malcolm zagged right through a gap in a fence on the course, then zigged left through another opening to leave the floundering masses behind, perfectly illustrates the difference between great riders and the rest of us.
Of course, Smith’s finely honed racing instincts had a lot to do with that seemingly effortless move, but this 1970 Husqvarna 250 eight-speed, previously on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum as part of the “Malcolm!” exhibit, presented by Tucker Rocky Distributing, also played a part.
Back then, about 1,500 off-road riders participated in the annual Elsinore Grand Prix, a race that led through the streets of the Southern California town, then onto dirt roads and trails nearby. Against them, Malcolm had his usual advantage—natural ability—plus the Husky’s transmission.
The rest of the field didn’t stand a chance.
“The Elsinore Grand Prix was such a fun event, and the Husky 250 eight-speed was just a really easy bike to ride,” Smith recalls. “It wasn’t super powerful, but on the fast roads of Elsinore, I could go over 100 mph. And because of the eight-speed gearbox, I could easily negotiate the tight stuff.”
The magic that turned the four-speed Husky into an eight-speed involved an extra gear on the output end of the crankshaft. A lever on the left handlebar, above the clutch lever, controlled which final-drive gear was engaged, making it easy to shift between the high and low ranges.
As chronicled by filmmaker Bruce Brown in “On Any Sunday,” Malcolm won the Elsinore race handily. Since then, both Malcolm and the movie have become motorcycling legends.