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US Montesa History (1962 - 1974)

 
 

Kim Kimball-later known as "Mr. Montesa" founded Montesa Motors Inc. and brought Montesa motorcycles into the United States, as exclusive USA Montesa Distributor.

 

Kim once wrote a small "history" that was incorporated in an salesman's manual:

 

"With my sister over a kitchen table, we planned to form a company and import these motorcycles and parts for the same. She made phone calls, pretending to be a college student writing a thesis- to find out what would be entailed to do this in way of licences, etc.

 

In 1963, I went East to the Laconia, New Hampshire motorcycle show, taking the 175cc Scrambler and a 175cc Impala (10hp)-of which we only imported 5. I pushed the 12,000 mile road test that the factory had given the Impala and also the winning ways of the 175cc Scrambler (Bill Messer and I had competed in southern California desert races and finished as high as 5th.) I succeeded in setting up three dealers, drove back to LA, went to Oregon and Washington and set up four or five dealers in that area, and from this nucleus, we have expanded.

 

"I have made two trips to the factory in Barcelona, Spain. they have become very interested in the American market and they are very interested in building the world's best lightweight motorcycle." (end of his quoted words)

 

Montesa Motors started as a Limited Partnership for the first year-later incorporated into Montesa Motors, Inc. The original limited partners were Kim's sister and brother-in law, Harold and Renee Wooley; brother and sister-in-law Harold and Marianne Kimball; sister and brother-in-law, Richard and Nada Eastwood; Milton and Betty Page.

 

However, it was always a family business. Over the course of years, Kim had his father, both sisters, one brother-in law, brother, son, daughter, nieces and nephews involved in the business. His sister, Renee Wooley was supervising bookkeeper, his sister Nada Eastwood was the Parts Department bookkeeper, his brother-in-law, richard Eastwood was Sales Manager and active in the business from the beginning.

 

Kim's brother, Harold Kimball, came to work as General Manager and handled all the business end of the corporation, supervision of employees, devising the contracts for dealers, the racers contracts, later salesman's contracts and overseeing their activities, and handling the problems of shipping to the dealers. Later Dan Gurney, famous race car driver, became interested; became a stockholder in the corporation; and he later brought in John Klug; and these two were primarily instrumental in obtaining large-scale financing from Orange County Bank in order to make large orders from Permanyer, Inc. in Spain. (Immediate factory contacts were Modesto Sole and Javier Jordi.) Also, Ritchie Ginther, Phil Hill were stockholders and later Mickey Thompson.

 

Kim first started the business in a garage then in a small shop on Western Ave. in Los Angeles. Later graduated to a larger facility on Beverly Blvd. with a full parts department.

 

A nation-wide dealership network of over 350 dealers was built up. . A great many of these dealers were set up by Kim Kimball personally on road trips, many by mail; and later some by a sales network (salesmen travelling the country) Many came in as a result of promotional events and advertising.

 

Kim originated the slogan "Viva Montesa" He also originated the "Wheeler Dealer" slogan for Newsletters to Dealers on Montesa happenings. Richard Eastwood wrote a great many of these Newsletters and also contributed to much of the advertising and collaborated with ad agencies that were later employed.

 

Kim was gifted in promotion and advertising. He was directly responsible for the first double-page centerfold color ads in Cycle World Magazine, and using radical graphic black background and color. Also had "Viva Montesa" tee shirts and sweat shirts, decals, etc. manufactured and sold thousands of them.

 

In promotional events, he and his Montesa were featured in the first two or three minutes of the Smothers Bros. Television show; rode into town, down hallways and up to the microphone and stopped onstage with Dickie Smothers. he also arranged for the Montesa Cota to be featured in the movie: "On Any Sunday" Producer: Bruce Brown.

 

In competition events such as the Mint 400-where Steve Kirk took third in the 360cc class. Eddie Mulder rode Montesa's for many events; also John DeSoto, Mike Runyard, Ron Nelson, Tim Hart. Swede Savage rode at Ascot, as well as a newcomer Kenny Roberts in his junior year.

 

Montesa motorcycles were used in the John Wayne movie "Big Jake" and in "Freebie and the Bean" starring James Caan. Steve McQueen bought a Montesa. Baseball legend Hank Aaron, movie star Bill Shatner and many other celebrities purchased Montesa's. A Montesa was given to Neil Armstrong! Permanyer and Modesto Sole wanted to do this. Harold Kimball wrote a letter to Mr. Armstrong and received a phone call back from him. It was confirmed that if he accepted, it was not an endorsement of the product and could not be used for promotion. Under those terms, he was happy to accept; and Kim Kimball presented him with the motorcycle.

 

Kim Kimball and Montesa Motors were also first in "sponsoring" these young motorcycle racers such as John DeSoto and Ron Nelson who won everything in the 250cc and 360cc class. He also sponsored Peter Lampuu thru Competition Cycle Center in Willimington, Massachusetts and he became the East Coast champion (Kim had a company called "Racers Infinity")

 

Kim, in partners with Dan Gurney and Joe Parkhurst, editor of Cycle World Magazine, formed the American Moto-Cross Team (AMXT) to put an "American Team" in participation in European moto-cross. this was financed by public donations. They sent Ron Nelson, John Desoto to Europe to compete.

 

Steve Kirk and Kim Kimball later raced Baja and Kim established the record from Tijuana to la Paz with no support team!

 

(Thanks to Renee Wooley for supplying the above history)

 

 
 
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