En Svensk CROSSHISTORIA
A Swedish cross-story
by L-E Gustafsson translated by Magnus Gustafsson 12/29/96
Lindström’s motorshop Limhamn
Motocross was at it’s peak during the 60’s. There was a great supply of different brands, something that made it a bit more interesting for the audience. The Swedish Husqvarna was together with the Czech CZ the dominating force in motocross but they were not the only brands at the top. There were also a lot of different brands that could win races with good riders aboard. BSA, Greeves, Maico and Bultaco are just a few examples of those hi-class machines.
A brand that often could be seen in the starting-lists was Lindström, or HVA-Lindström as many organizers put it. In the following text, we’ll try to get a bit deeper into what was behind the Lindström-name. Clearly a very interesting chapter in Swedish motocross-history.
We’ll travel back to the late ‘40s and the place is Limhamn. Here, or rather at Järnvägsgatan (railwaystreet), Göte Lindström started a bicycle-/ motorcycle-shop. Paralell with the sales, a lot of repairs were made too. Göte Lindström soon became famous for his wrenching-ability. Among Lindströms customers were a couple of young riders competing in enduros. Göte Lindström was very interested in motorcycle-races and started to help those young riders working on their bikes. That’s how it all started.
Business was very good for Lindström’s motorshop and after a couple of years, their shop became too small. The solution became an old house at Ankarsmedsgatan (anchorsmith’s- street) that Göte Lindström bought. The building had to house both shop and family. With the help of a few friends, a basement was dug out under the house. The basement was turned into a 100 squaremetres workshop. (Later the shop was turned into two floors of 100 sq.m. each).
At this time, Lindström’s friend and co-worker, Ronnie Nerbring had started to work for him. Ronnie soon became "the second half" of the Lindström-team. He was a motocrosser and together he and Göte started to build motocross-bikes out of roadbikes. Husqvarna was at the time a very popular brand and Lindströms sold a lot of them. In 1955, Husqvarna released their model 282, more known as Silverpilen (silver-arrow). A lightweight, sporty 175 cc with great abilities (at this time).
Silverpilen became a challenge för Lindström.
With only minor mods, the bike could easily be made to fit in the smallest
of the motocross-classes. As early as 1956, the first Silverpil-engine
was bored out to 236 cc by Lindström. They had some problems with
cylinder- overheating and the tests had to be cancelled. Lindström
built a new cylinder which was tested by Ronnie and it worked now and they
could start to sell the cylinders to other
Riders on Lindström-equipment soon started to score good results. A great example was the young talented Anders Fransén. He tried a cylinder on his bike, free of charge, and repayed them by winning nine out of ten races. Unfortunately, Fransén suffered a back-injury and had to give up his promising motocross career.
1960 was a very good sales-year for Lindström, the standard Silverpil-sales were great and a lot of young riders needed help tuning their bikes. Specialparts for motocross-use became more. Cylinders, heads, intakes, exhausts, forks and frames were availablefor those who wanted to build a motocross-bike of their own. All parts had been thoroughly tested by Ronnie at the motocross tracks since it was important to get a good reputation.
Easy to rebuild
To convert a standard Silverpil into a racing-bike, extensive modifications were needed. The simple construction of the bike made it easy to work on and parts were easily changed since one of Lindström’s goals was to create "bolt-on"-modifications.
The frame had to be reinforced, a special conversion-kit for the rear sub-frame was available. Girling shocks were used by almost all riders. The forks were rebuilt into an Earls-type fork. A bit more expensive model was also available for the fast and demanding riders. This was a telscope-type fork with forklegs from the English Norton. The engine could be tuned just the way the riders wanted it. Different cylinders, exhaust-pipes and different-size carburettors decided the powerband of the bike. The 236 cc displacement became very popular, the nice price and the reliability made it popular. A 246 cc engine was also available for those who wanted "wilder" bikes. This engine had a crankshaft with longer stroke in the crankcases.
1962 became a great year for Lindström. Only hubs and crankcases remained Husqvarna’s so the bikes got their own Lindström tank-decals. The bikes were also signed-up as "Lindström" at the races. Contacts were made with several new riders. In motocross, fast man Janne Johansson rode Lindströms. In enduros, the names were Erland Andersson and Hasse Hansson (worked at Husky R&D until the factory moved to Italy). The race team with the new riders was very good. At the end of the ‘62 season, Hasse Hansson had won the Swedish enduro championships over 175 cc and Janne Johansson finished 2nd in the Swedish 250 cc motocross championships.
Göte Lindström and Ronnie Nerbring had already started experimenting with an engine for the 500 cc-class. Urged on by their success with the 250 they also wanted to take part in the big class. In this class, the fourstrokes were dominating. The downside of the fourstrokes was the heavy weight. By using a twostroke-engine, a lot of important kilos could be saved. This is very important on a tricky motocrosstrack. Lindström’s new engine had an displacement of 351 cc (class limit at 350-500cc). The relatively small crankcases of the Silverpil started to become really narrow but Lindström solved this with a very nice solution. Between the cases, they put a 20 mm spacer, simple but genius. The same solution was used for the cylinder. They put a spacer between the cylinder and the crank in order to get room for the longer stroke of the engine.
To handle the tests of these big bikes, Lindström invested in a dyno-meter, built to handle output up to 60 hp and 10 000 rpm. Ronnie rode a few minor races on the 351 cc-bike in the spring of ‘63. The bike worked so well that they started to sell 351s to other riders. Lindströms got a lot of great results in ‘63. Hasse Hansson repeated his victory in the Swedish enduro-championships, Janne Johansson finished 3rd in the Swedish 250 championships as well as finishing 5th overall in the 250 worldchampionships. Lindström also got a silver-medal through Bengt Olsson’s 2nd in the Swedish 500 cc juniorchampionships. In the fall of ‘63, also the "big" riders tried the 360. Erland Andersson rode it in Novemberkåsan and Hasse Hansson rode a few minor races on the bike. Of course, Janne Johansson also tried the bike. He rode three races in Eksjö, Kristianstad and Norrköping and won all three of them. Lindströms had a lot of news on their ‘64s. A new narrower tank, better seat and Ceriani-forks. Engine-wise, the 250 had become faster and a specialmagneto by Stefa had been mounted.
Lindström’s success on the motocross-tracks had also been noticed abroad. They started exporting to several countries, among them, Holland and Belgium. Especially the Belgians were interested in Lindström-bikes. This country also had a special shop for Lindströms. No-one less than Sylvain Geboers rode Lindströms for a while and the bikes soon became very popular abroad. The work-principle at Lindströms’ was simple but very effective. First, Ronnie rode some minor races at home to try the new parts, maybe this was the most important of all. If the parts worked, they were mounted on the bikes of the "big" riders the next week. Lindströms worked like this during all of their motocross-years.
1964 wasn’t the greatest of years for Lindström. Janne Johansson fought his way to a 4th place in the Swedish 250-championships. The one who saved the Lindström-honours was Christer Hammargren who won the Swedish 500 cc juniorchampionships. At the start of the ‘65 championship-series in Norrköping, Janne Johansson rode a 360. The bike was different from earlier bikes with it’s "tubes-below-engine-frame", just another example of Göte’s and Ronnie’s tests of new ideas. After some problems, Janne got a 2nd at the race. He liked the bike so much he only chose to ride in the 500-class from there on.
At the Swedish GP in Knutstorp, Janne almost shocked the world. He led the first heat until the penultimate lap when the gearbox failed. Janne and the bike showed that they were a force to be reckoned with. Hasse Hansson defended the Lindström honours by taking 3rd overall at that GP. Very strong of Hasse considering the competition. The greatest result for Lindström at the end of ‘65 was Sven-Åke Engström’s gold medal in the Swedish 500 cc juniorchampionships. Of course we haven’t forgotten the great results by other Lindström riders at minor races, but due to a lack of space we only mention the championships.
The 1966-range of Lindström-bikes saw a lot of changes. A whole new frame with silent block mountings for the swingarm, 21" front wheel as well as new bearings for the steering head. Both 250 and 360-engines were more powerful than before. This came in handy as races became tougher every season. 1966 has to be considered the best year ever for Lindström. Janne Johansson was really on a charge and won the Swedish 500 cc-championships in front of Hallman and Åberg as well as finishing 6th overall in the 500 GPs. Janne even won the Swedish 500 GP in Hedemora that year. During the work with this article we contact- ed Janne who tells us: " Motocross have given me some great memories, the sport was rock-hard even in the 60's and you got nothing for free. The Lindström team was only a few people and fighting the big teams gave us a tremendous kick. The big teams had a lot more money to spend than the small Lindström team had."
Janne was at the time an employee at the Husqvarna factory and of course management knew what bike he was riding. Janne tells us: "Ruben Helmin once told me that we would never get those 360-pistons to stay together.We had a lot of blown pistons at the start but we cured that". Lindström was the first brand to offer a twostroke for the 500-class. The fourstroke-riders protested wildly when the bikes first appeared at a race. We all know what happened from there on. Both Husqvarna and CZ soon had twostrokes for the 500-class. Finally Janne says: "Göte and Ronnie were both fantastic guys to work with, the question is how far they could have gotten had they continued with their motocross-bikes". Lindström continued their race efforts in 1967 and Janne finished 11th overall in the 500 worldchampionships and 6th over all in the Swedish 500-championships.
Downscaling after 1968
The Lindström bikes weren’t changed that much from ‘66 to ‘67. Only minor details had changed. Of course, we shouldn’t forget the three-speed kit that was available for the 360 (could also be bought in ‘66). First gear had been removed so you started in 2nd. The great torque of the engine made this possible and you got a very wide first gear. By removing first gear, the remaining gears could be made a lot thicker. The story about the Lindström buyer who wanted to return his bike because he only found three gears is well known. Everything was OK though and the customer became very pleased with his bike. We have now reached 1968, the year which was the last for Lindström on the motocross circuit. They started downscalingafter ‘68. Janne Johansson had a bad season in the GPs, only finishing 25th. However, he managed to salvage some of the Lindström-honours by his 5th in the Swedish championships. 1968 was the last year for Janne on a Lindström. In 1969 he moved on to become part of the Husqvarna-team (the same year Husqvarna released its’ famous 400).
The reason for downscaling at Lindström was that they had gotten a request from USA about a large shipment of motocross bikes for the US-market. The demand for motocross bikes in the US, at the time, was great. The great efforts it would take Lindström to handle production of this size was too big for the small Lindström company to manage. Instead, they chose to withdraw from the "circus of motocross". The US order went to Husqvarna instead.
Göte Lindström died in 1978 and Ronnie Nerbring died in 1994. They leave behind them a very interesting chapter of Swedish motorsport history. Thanks to Janne Johansson and Kenneth Nerbring for their help on this article.
1. Picture at top shows Janne Johansson on a 360cc Lindstrom competing for 500cc World Championship at 1966 British GP.
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