Motocross was just so Good Back in the Day – Golden Era of Motocross

In Husqvarna’s Golden Era of motocross, Bror Jaurén was the primary person responsible for handling the factory’s tactics in their quest for success. Working as competition manager for the racing department, Jaurén’s leadership led to 14 motocross world championship titles from six different riders during his 33 years at Husqvarna. I met him in the late 70s.

Talking to Jaurén, you hardly noticed him as being an influential man. He was quiet and reserved without big words or gestures. Bror had an eye for talent scouting and there was nothing wrong with his intellect or plans for future laurels. His calm manners often helped him make the correct decisions under difficult circumstances, for example when negotiating deals with factory riders. In 1953, Bror Jaurén came to the Husqvarna motorcycle company when sales took off as the two-wheeler became popular. However, he then already had experience with the company. After the war, he had ridden the company’s new 118cc two-stroke machine in some races. But Bror Jaurén’s everyday work was in Husqvarna’s sewing machine division from 1946. While there, he carried on with his studies and eventually graduated with a technical engineer’s degree.

“My first task in the motorcycle division was to establish routines for the factory’s competition agenda. It was first limited to enduro events such as the famous ‘Novemberkasan’, but later also included scrambling,” Jaurén remembered when I interviewed him during the late 70s. Bror was always accommodating to press people and never refrained from publicity.

In August 1955, manager Bror Jaurén met with race rookie Bengt-Olov Wessman, when they both were attending an enduro event in Stockholm. Bengt brought a Silverpilen to race and Jaurén also had a Silver Arrow, which was raced by an unknown rider. “I told Jaurén about my machine and complained about the front forks’ rubber, which was too soft to give any good suspension,” said Wessman. Jaurén promised to get improved parts that would enhance the front suspension. A few weeks later, the Husqvarna engineer Ruben Helmin brought new rubber, but said, “If you’re going to race with this machine, you have to blame yourself. The Silver Arrow is not made for racing.”  Consequently, in the middle of the 50s, people at Husqvarna did not realize what potential they had in the Silverpilen to be a competitive racer.

“Our first title came in 1959 when Rolf Tibblin won the European championship (later world championship as of 1962) with our 250cc machine,” said Jaurén. “It was a proud moment. Then we had constant success for more than 20 years until Hakan Carlqvist won the 250 world title in 1979. Between these two remarkable achievements, there were another twelve titles from riders like the Swedes Bill Nilsson, Torsten Hallman, Bengt Aberg and the Finn Heikki Mikkola who all won several titles, as did Tibblin.”

Husqvarna’s success resulted in good sales. In 1961, 10,500cc four-strokes were made in the factory workshop, intended for sale. They immediately caught the eye of customers. The first 250cc mx replicas came in 1962 when the factory churned out 10 machines. Then, in 1963, a further 100 replicas were manufactured for sale. A little over 60% of these 250s went to domestic riders, while 40% of this batch mostly went to Finland and Norway. Bror Jaurén was an emotional man. It happened that he would support a rider with spare parts because he liked him, rather than considering his talent. Jaurén’s favourite machine over his mx career was no doubt the 500cc four stroke in the beginning of the 60s.

“It was a wonderful masterpiece of engineering,” marvelled Bror. “And also, a winning concept as we captured three world titles with Bill Nilsson and Rolf Tibblin.” The bike was state of the art and he kept one factory 500 for the Husqvarna museum, where it still can be observed today.

In the old Golden Era, most riders were also skilful mechanics and understood well the technical side of the sport. There was a tremendous will to conquer and win at a time when money only played a supporting role.

“Unfortunately, in the modern days, this fact has changed,” said Jaurén. The riders wouldn’t go near their machines when they didn’t race and suddenly contracts, money and fame became time’s ruling order. He was formally elected Sales & Competition Manager in 1961, a position Bror held until 1971.

“Contract figures weren’t nearly as steep as they are in modern days,” Jaurén told me. “Riders weren’t well paid and only a few had the benefit from our factory support then. You had to have one hell of a talent in order for me to take out the cheque book.”

In the 70s, Husqvarna developed a light-frame for motocross constructed from aluminium. It broke at the Swiss 250cc GP with much negative publicity after Jaurén had rejected an American-made frame of titanium, which was banned by a FIM technical committee where Jaurén also was a member. “Not so much to brag about,” were his shy comments.

After 33 years in the saddle at Husqvarna, Bror J decided to call it a day in 1979 and he withdrew from the paddock at the age of 61. “Things started to get complicated with the involvement of the Swedish conglomerate Electrolux and the future for motorcycles was uncertain.” Bror Jaurén proved to be right yet another time as the company was sold to the Italians eight years after he left for retirement.

“Any regrets?” I asked him.
“Oh, yes,” Jaurén stated. “I’d give anything to undo the fact that we let the Japanese technicians come close to our machines. Without scruples, they photographed every detail there was to copy. So, some years later, the big factories overtook the dominance in the motocross field. But we didn’t understand that at the time of the Japanese arrival in motocross. Try taking a shot at their factory bikes today and you’ll see what happens!”

Otherwise, there is not much that Bror Jaurén missed at Husqvarna in his three decades. Unfortunately, Bror Jaurén passed away in 1985 at the young age of 69 years.

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