Australian Husqvarna Motocross History

Australian Husqvarna Motocross History

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Husqvarna motocross history down under

Don Collins - First Australian to own and ride a Husqvarna motocross bike
1968 - Bunbury's Don Collins 250 and 360 Husqvarna's Photo Tony Forsyth
Don Collins - headshot

Photos: [left] Don Collins in action at Kalgoorlie in WA, the first Australian to own a Husqvarna 250cc motocross bike in 1965: [centre] Collin’s later became the first Australian to own a 360cc Husky too (by Tony Forsythe); and [right] Collins was a three-times WA State 250cc Champion who hailed from Bunbury in WA.

Don Collins - the first to race a Husqvarna motocross bike in Australia

In April 1965, Western Australian Don Collins from Bunbury became the first person in Australia (and the southern hemisphere) to own and race a Husqvarna motocross bike – a brand new two-stroke 250cc machine.

Collins purchased his new Husqvarna from importer John Kirkpatrick, also from Bunbury in the South West of WA, for 500 pounds – around $1,000 dollars.

Then a couple of years later, he also owned the only 360cc Husqvarna motocross bike in Australia, before the Husky became more popular and starting winning big events in this country in all classes.

husqvarna - one of the world's oldest motorcycle manufacturers

The Swedish Husqvarna motorcycle factory – which derived from the Husqvarna Weapons Factory – was founded in the 17th century by King Karl XL, near the town of Husqvarna, manufacturing muskets.

Like many other motorcycle manufacturers, they first produced bicycles, then slowly moved onto motorised vehicles, with the first Husqvarna motorcycle built in 1903.

Still in operation today, Husqvarna is one of the world’s oldest and longest operating motorcycle manufacturers, although in 1962 the company briefly stopped making bikes and ownership has changed hands many times.

But in 1965, the year when Collin’s Husqvarna 250 was imported to Australia, they re-entered the market focusing mostly on motocross, cross-country and enduro bikes.

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Huskies end the domination of the British four stroke machines

Don Collins was a pioneer of the Husqvarna in Australia and hit the local motocross scene by storm winning three Western Australian 250cc Motocross Championships between 1965 to 1968. He also placed twice in the Unlimited class on his 360cc Husqvarna in 1966-67.

In 1965, Collins was selected for the WA team to compete in the National Championships, which were to be held at Clarendon in South Australia on 5 September. He was one of the hot favourites for the 250cc title heading into the Championships, finishing fourth overall behind B.S.A. riders John Mapperson (VIC) and locals Ray Trevena and Ray Christie.

According to the Australian Motorcycle News report covering the event, the fast, smooth, twisting Clarendon circuit better suited the heavier B.S.A. machines, where the Husqvarna would have performed better in the rough, tough and sandy conditions – like many of the courses in the west.

Two years later, New South Wales rider Matt Daley became the first Australian Motocross Champion riding a Husqvarna at Mount Kembla, Woolongong (NSW) on 8 October 1967.

In fact he won two Championships that year aboard a Husky, winning both the 250cc and 350cc classes, beating pre-race favourite Geoff Taylor on his proven Bultaco machinery.  Daley went on to win the New South Wales 250, 350 and 500cc State Championships, winning the 1970 Australian 500cc Championship on a 360cc Husqvarna at Tivoli Park, Ipswich (QLD).

Daley’s breakthrough victories aboard Husqvarna’s two-stroke machines were a contributing factor in the demise of the once-dominant British four-stroke machines down under.

From here on, Husqvarna bikes became more popular and the following year Don Collins’ Bunbury Motorcycle Club member Gordon Renfree won the 1968 Australian 350cc Championship on a Husqvarna, which was held in the South West town of Collie, close to Bunbury.  This was around the time when John Harris became the first official importer for Husqvarna in Australia.

And when New Zealand motocross Champion Ivan Miller rode his Husqvarna’s to victory in both the 500cc and All Powers (Unlimited) classes at the Australian Motocross Championships at Clarendon (SA) on 12 September 1971, Husqvarna had won the manufacturers championships in all classes.

1968 Don Collins 250 Husqvarna (Tony Forsthe)
1967 Matt Daley, Jim Scaysbrook and Daley’s Husqvarna
Ivan Miller NZ in action during the 1971/72 International Motocross Series

Photos: [left] Three-times WA State 250cc Motocross Champion Don Collins in action on his Husqvarna at Rockingham (WA); [centre] In 1967 at Woolongong (NSW), Matt Daley became the first to win an Australian Championship on a Husqvarna, pictured here with Jim Scaysbrook and his Husqvarna bike; and [right] New Zealand Champion Ivan Miller won both the 1971 Unlimited and 500cc Championships aboard a Husky ay Clarendon in South Australia.

Husqvarna’s golden era of in the 1970s across the world

Although Sweden’s Rolf Tibblin rode his 250cc Husqvarna to their first world motocross championship in 1959, it was the “Flying Finn” Heikki Mikkola – Finland’s first World Motocross Champion – who really raised the company’s profile.

Mikkola won his 500cc world championship on a Husqvarna in 1974, taking the title from current world champion Roger De Coster on a Suzuki. 

Then in 1976, he won the 250cc world championship, again riding a Husqvarna, and became the first rider to ever win a world motocross championship in both the 250cc and 500cc classes.

By 1977, dirtbikes had become serious business and one of Sweden’s largest corporations, Electrolux, bought out Husqvarna motorcycles.

Heikki Mikkola – Finland’s first World Motocross Champion aboard a Husqvarna

Photo – Heikki Mikkola, Finland’s first World Motocross Champion aboard a Husqvarna

“Mr Husqvarna” Pelle Granquist down under

To promote the Husqvarna’s down under, Swedish rider Pelle Granquist was brought out to Australia in 1978 by Husqvarna and rode for the new Australian Husqvarna dealer Rick Andrews in Sydney (NSW), also working there part-time.

Coincidently, Granquist was born in the Swedish town of Huskvarna (spelt slightly different and means Mill House), where the bike factory was located and he raced Husqvarna bikes throughout his career.

On 8 October 1978 at the Australian Championships held at Reg Hunt Park in Broadford (VIC), he won both the 250 and 500 classes aboard Husqvarna machines.

Then the following year at the National Championships in Wanneroo (WA) on 9 September 1979 Granquist created history, convincingly winning back-to-back National titles in both the 250 and 500 classes.

That year Shane Kirkpatrick from Bunbury, the son of Husqvarna importer John Kirkpatrick, won the Australian 125cc Championship on a Husqvarna, beating Stephen Gall (Yamaha) on a countback.

AMXH Australian Motocross Champions List - 500cc Class - Pelle Granquist
1979 Australian Championships Wanneroo - Presentations - Pelle Grandquist and Kevin Russell popping champagne
Shane Kirkpatrick at Manjimup

Photos: [left and centre] On 9 September 1979 Husqvarna rider Pelle Granquist (Sweden) created history, convincingly winning back-to-back Australian Motocross Championships in both the 250 and 500 classes at Wanneroo in WA; and [right] That year Shane Kirkpatrick (WA) won the Australian 125cc Championship, also aboard a Husqvarna (By Peter Kitchingman)

Another Swede becomes and advocate for Husqvarna in Australia

1977 Hans Applegren at the 125cc NSW champs held at Karma Gutza in Canberra ACT

Photo: 1977 Hans Applegren at the 125cc NSW championship held at Karma Gutza in Canberra ACT 

Between 1967 and 1979, Husqvarna dominated the Australian Motocross scene – winning 31 National Manufacturer’s Championships.

During this period the likes of Laurie Alderton, Kiwis Ivan Miller and Peter Ploen, Vern Grayson, brothers Gary and Trevor Flood, Phil Lovett, and Swedish expatriates Pelle Granquist and Hans Applegren won more than their share of races on Husqvarna machinery.

In the early to mid-eighties Husqvarna’s motocross success dried up and it was during this time that long-time Husqvarna racer Applegren took over as the Australian importer, in partnership with Phil Georgeff and Roy East.

Applegren earlier raced in Western Australia winning four State WA Championships on Husqvarna 125, 250 and 360cc machines between 1972 and 1974.  

In 1974, he was the Runner-up Australian 125 and Unlimited Champion at Manjimup (WA), then moved to New South Wales, finishing second again at Tivoli, Ipswich in 1976.

Things picked up for Applegren’s Husky Imports when the TE610 enduro bike turned up in 1990 and the Cunningham brothers, Ian and Jamie started winning events on Husqvarna bikes, including the 1997 and 1998 Australian 500cc Motocross Championships, respectively.

More Husqvarna company takeovers

In 1987 the Husqvarna motorcycle division was sold to Italian motorcycle manufacturer Cagiva and became part of MV Agusta Motor S.p.A, with the Husqvarna motorcycles produced in Varese, Italy.

Australian road racer turned Gold Coast motorcycle retailer Paul Feeney became the Australian Husqvarna distributor in April 2004, already a Cagiva distributor.

The Husqvarna brand got another boost in 2007, when BMW purchasing the company, with all production remaining in Varese. 

Then in 2013, BMW sold Husqvarna to Pierer Mobility – the parent company of KTM with Husqvarna’s motorcycle production moving to Mattighofen in Austria.

In 2019, when Italian Mattia Guadagnini won the FIM 125cc Junior Motocross World Championship, it earned Husqvarna Motorcycles their 100th motorcycle world title. 

That same year, Pierer Mobility acquired GasGas motorcycles.

Husqvarna motocross bikes are once again popular down under with many riders racing this bike in the Penrite AMX Pro Championship series.

Husqvarna rider Todd Waters won the Australian MX1 Championship in 2019 and currently sits in third place in this series, just three points behind Regan Duffy (KTM) and six point behind the series leader Luke Clout (Yamaha).

Husqvarna Motocross bike at start - By Moto Snaps Media

Photo – Husqvarna motocross bikes are  still popular and competitive in motocross down under (By Moto Media Mart)

2021 AMX Championship - Round 2 Canberra - Reigning MX1 Champion Todd Waters Husqvarna

Photo – Reigning Pro MX1 Champion Todd Waters Husqvarna (By Karl Phillipson/Optikal)

Bill Watson with son Brian at a VMX meeting

Vintage Husqvarna

Husqvarna’s are one of the most popular motocross bikes restored and raced at Vintage Motocross events across Australia.

In fact, Matt Daley’s historic winning Australian Championship Husqvarna machines have been restored to their original condition, as have Don Collins’ 250cc and 360cc Huskies, back in Western Australia.

Photo:  Western Australian father and son combination Bill (left) and  Brian Watson are great Husqvarna advocates at Vintage Motocross events across WA and Australia

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