The Conquistador: Celia Petrie's Busch & Busch Bultaco Matador

Words: Nigel Petrie & Geoff Baldwin Photography: Luke Ray

I’ve been a fan of the work of Nevada-based Busch & Busch for a few years now. Brothers Lance and Danny have incredible fabrication skills and their skill with alloy just keep getting better. I’d seen their Bultaco build come together in 2011 and hinted I was interested in buying it on Instagram when they mentioned it would eventually be going up for sale.

In mid-2014 they announced that the bike was going to be available for a bargain price at a fundraising exhibition in LA. Having never imported a bike from the States before I hesitated to make an offer, but eventually my desire to own it overcame my fears and I got in touch with Lance. He informed me that the gallery was managing the sale and that it would have to be done directly with them. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t take email or phone orders so I worked with Lance to try and find a way to make it happen. Emails went back and forth for a week or so and just as we thought we’d figured out how to make it happen the bike sold.

Lance broke the news to me via email and I was disappointed but glad to know the funds from the sale were going towards a good cause. When he mentioned that the bike was actually bought by a Victorian I joked that I probably knew them, which would be the perfect insult to injury. Well, wouldn’t you know it I do know them and if he and his wife weren’t such great people I’d probably be pissed off. The new owners of the Bultaco ‘Conquistador’ turned out to be Nigel and Celia Petrie of Engineered to Slide. I’ve featured Nigel’s work in Tank Moto before and when he broke the news to me I had a few colourful words to say, but nothing that’d leave a scar. Nigel’s story of stumbling across the bike was a great one and he agreed to let us shoot the bike and share his story of how they managed to buy MY BULTACO!

NP: Like a lot of other bikes I first saw this Bultaco on Instagram, I was following the Busch brothers who put it together and had an old Dice magazine that it was featured in, the bike was beautiful and I had been searching in Australia for a late ‘60s round case Bultaco to build up for years.

My wife to be Celia had a KTM 85cc that I put together for her. The revvy little two stroke was fun and we had some good times riding the trails together, but we were always chasing a clean spark plug. I guess that’s one of the drawbacks of riding a small capacity race bike slow.

We got married early last year and took a trip to America for our honeymoon. I bought a 1965 Econoline van in Boston and we drove it across America. We had the time of our lives and it was a journey that dreams are made of. I had planned to pick up a few bikes while in America and ship them home in the van, I didn’t find much until we got to California. It was the night before the Born Free show that I found a ‘67 XLCH hardtail Sportster that I fell in love with. Then a week later I found another hardtail Sportster, this time a ‘68 XLCH modified in a ‘70s style for my father. With both bikes in the van we toured California and rode the Harleys every chance we could. I had dreamed of riding a chopper along the coast of California and I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Back in LA while doing some shopping on Melrose Avenue we stumbled upon a store that had some interesting pieces in the window. As I walked in the doors of the Scion Installation Gallery all my Instagram stars aligned. You see this was Cody Mcelroy’s Dirty Needle Sewn to the Bone show, a very talented guy who freehand stitches some of the most amazing designs you’ll see. I followed Cody on Insta because of his brother Drake Mcelroy an all-round legend in freestyle MX and custom motorcycles, Cody was friends with the Busch brothers and they agreed to have the Bultaco in the Gallery for sale along with everything else in the store to raise money for Cody’s wife Tierra’s kidney transplant.

When I saw the Bultaco in the flesh I was blown away, we spoke with the store assistant and he told us the bike was for sale and that Scion would match the price of the sale to assist in Tierra’s transplant. For a lot less than what we could sell Celia’s KTM for at home we could buy and import this little Bultaco. We had to have it so $2,500USD later it was ours, along with a matching helmet, jacket and the rug it was displayed on. We had a ‘65 Econoline with a ‘69 Bultaco sandwiched between a ‘67 and ‘68 Harley. We had the whole set! I can tell you it was a nervous five days of parking all of this on the streets of LA before we were able to load it all in a shipping container headed for home. 

It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. The Australian Government refused my application for import approval under the off road motorcycles pre-1989 rule. Senior engineers deemed it to be a road vehicle and refused the application. Months of deliberation for all three bikes (as they were modified) resulted in me applying for discretion from the administrator and then being given the option to either sell all three bikes in America and import the van or import all the bikes and van then be banned from ever importing anything ever again. I took the latter option and we love having these bikes in Australia to ride. Celia loves the Bultaco and rides it often, it runs perfectly and looks great at the same time. We have so many fond memories of our time in the USA and every time we fire up the Harley, drive the van or mix up some two-stroke for the Bultaco the memories all come flooding back.

GB: So there you have it, heart-warming right? Well maybe not for me, but hey, you win some you lose some…

The ‘Conquistador’ was based on a late ‘60s Bultaco Matador Mark III. The Spanish manufacturer dominated off-road style events from the early fifties through to the end of the seventies and the two-stroke, 250cc Matador was a popular model with trail riders and enduro enthusiasts. This particular Matador’s original fiberglass bodywork had seen its last days so the boys put together a simple seat pan out of alloy, which they mounted the pearlescent white seat pads too. The gallon tank is also hand made by the brothers from steel which they mounted super low and designed to fit the original filler cap complete with the classic Bultaco thumbs up emblem. Danny rolled the fenders out of more aluminium along with a trick racing number style front plate that houses the tiny LED powered headlight.

The engine was honed for a new lease of life and a Mikuni 28mm carb added to give it a bit more bite. Although it may detract from its off-road ability the boys reduced the Conquistadors overall height by a few inches and added trials tires so it would be practical on asphalt as well as dirt.

Lance went to town with his drill set on the cooling fins, chain guard, heat shield and anything else he thought looked plain. The alloy parts were split up and either polished or bead blasted and the pinstriped paint was added to give the bike a distinctly ‘60s appearance. Along with being metal magicians the brothers have a penchant for leather so they tooled up some fork covers, a tank strap and a nifty little frame-mounted pouch that holds a spare plug and wrench. Of all the details on the bike though I have to make a special mention of the thumbs up chain adjusters, well done gentlemen.

This article first appeared in Tank Moto issue 07.

Follow Nigel: @engineeredtoslide.