|Founded||Barcelona, Spain (1924 )|
|Manuel Giró, Eduardo Giró|
Ossa is a Spanish motorcycle manufacturer which was active from 1924 to 1982 and reborn in 2010. Founded by Manuel Giró, an industrialist from Barcelona, Ossa was best known for lightweight, two-stroke-engined bikes used in observed trials, motocross and enduro. The company was known originally as Orpheo Sincronic Sociedad Anónima (O.S.S.A.) and was later renamed Maquinaria Cinematográfica, S.A.. In 2010, the Ossa brand was reborn when the trademark was purchased and a new company began producing motorcycles. In 2014 Ossa merged with the motorcycle manufacturer Gas Gas which is also located near Barcelona.
The original Ossa company got its start in 1924 making movie projectors for its home market in Spain. After World War II, Ossa, like several other manufacturers from BSA to Harley-Davidson to Yamaha, began producing two-stroke engined motorcycles, with their first mass-produced model being introduced in 1949. Ossa reached its highest production levels in the motorcycle boom of the 1960s, exporting large numbers of exports to other European countries, but also significantly, to North American markets. In the United States and Canada, off-road motorcycling - and particularly the newly imported sport of motocross to which the light-weight and powerful Ossa was well suited - enjoyed a surging popularity. In addition to their suitability for racing, in terms of power-to-weight, Ossa motorcycles gained a reputation for reliability on and off the race track.
Initial competition success
The Ossa firm was a strong supporter of all forms of motorcycle sport including: road racing, motocross, enduro and observed trials. Their first success came at the 1967 24 Hours of Montjuich on the streets of Barcelona. Against all the major Spanish factories, Ossa motorcycles finished a surprising first and second. Inspired by this success, the factory decided to compete abroad in order to make inroads into the international market.
Monocoque Grand Prix racer
Ossa achieved early success in the 250cc class of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, competing with an innovative chassis designed by Giró's son, Eduardo that was unique for the era. Eduardo Giró designed a motorcycle that compensated for its power deficit by following a philosophy of lightweight, a small frontal area and engine reliability combined with outstanding handling. The motorcycle featured a welded monocoque construction of magnesium and aluminium sheets that incorporated the fuel tank and weighed a full 20 kg (44 lb) less than the Japanese competition. The monocoque's superior chassis stiffness and weight imbued it with exceptional cornering and braking abilities which, in turn allowed for faster cornering speeds than the competition.
Although Ossa's 249cc single cylinder two stroke engine produced 20 horsepower less than that of the class-leading Yamaha RD05 with its impressive V4 engine, Spanish rider Santiago Herrero was able to take advantage of the Ossa's light weight and superior handling characteristics to remain competitive, especially on tighter race tracks.
Grand Prix success ends in tragedy
After having won the 250cc Spanish national championship in 1967 and 1968, Ossa and Herrero moved up to the world championships where, they finished seventh 1968 250cc world championship including an impressive third place finish behind the factory-backed Yamahas of Phil Read and Bill Ivy at the season-ending Nations Grand Prix held at the high speed Monza circuit.
In 1969, the FIM changed its regulations in an effort to reduce spiraling costs in motorcycle racing. 125cc and 250cc machines would be limited to two cylinders and 6-speed transmissions. This regulation change caused the dominant Yamaha and Suzuki factories to withdraw their teams from Grand Prix racing.
The 1969 Grand Prix season would be even more successful for the Ossa factory as, Herrero won three races and, held a one point lead in the 250cc world championship going into the last race of the season in Yugoslavia. Herrero started the race in the lead but, crashed on the seventh lap ending his championship hopes. He would finish third in the world championship. Ossa and Herrero repeated as Spanish 250cc national champion for a third consecutive year.
After a promising start to the 1970 season in which Herrero won his fourth 250cc Grand Prix, he died after crashing on melted tar during the 1970 Isle of Man TT. Herrero's death affected the Ossa team so much that they withdrew from road racing competitions altogether.
Off-road racing successes
Ossa also achieved some success in the AMA Grand National Championship, with rider Dick Mann helping them develop a 250cc dirt track bike on which he won the 1969 Santa Fe Grand National short track event, held on a quarter-mile dirt track oval.
After withdrawing from Grand Prix motorcycle racing, Ossa redirected their competitive efforts into the sport of Observed Trials in Europe and the United States alongside such other famous Spanish makes as Bultaco and Montesa. Ossa hired British rider Mick Andrews to help design and ride their trials bike, and they went on to capture the 1971 and 1972 European Trials Championship, the forerunner to the FIM World Championship. Andrews won the grueling Scottish Six Days Trial three consecutive years between 1970 and 1972 for the Ossa factory.
Despite success in racing competitions, the firm suffered from a disorganized and sparse dealer network in the important American market. Ironically, the motorcycle boom that created a new market and allowed the European makers to reap great financial rewards, was also the seed of their own demise, and that of the numerous smaller firms, such as Ossa. With so many choices for both buyers and dealers, sales and service networks were not sustainable, and attempts to improve manufacturing by investing in new factories back home put Ossa, like virtually every other European firm, deep into the red.
In the declining years of the Franco Era, in 1975, the Spanish government steadily converted Spain's economic structure into one more closely resembling a free-market economy. The arrival of cheaper Japanese motorcycles into the local economy as well as a crippling employee strike in 1977 spurred the downfall of the Ossa company. By 1984 Ossa was under the control of a labor cooperative, and the following year its name was changed to Ossamoto. Nonetheless, as a Vintage make, the Ossa still enjoys a significant following among home hobbyists and amateur racers.
In 2010, a group of Spanish businessmen purchased the rights to the Ossa trademark and began producing Ossa branded motorcycles once again. The new firm produces trials and enduro models. The factory team competed in the 2011 FIM Trials world championship, with factory sponsored rider Jeroni Fajardo finishing the season in fifth place. In 2014 Ossa merged with the motorcycle manufacturer Gas Gas.
- Ossa SPQ, OSSA Seurat Piron Queyrel. Produced in France in the 1970s, the SPQ was an air-cooled 250 cc road racing motorcycle with a light frame and an OSSA engine. The SPQ excelled in French hillclimbing and criterium races in the decade, but was no match for the Yamaha TD2 in circuit competition.
- Yankee 500, a large off-road motorcycle produced in Schenectady, New York by the Yankee Motor Company. The Yankee, also known as "Ossa Yankee", had a 500 cc air-cooled Ossa twin-cylinder two-stroke engine, designed by Eduard Giró.
- Ossa BYRA 1000, a 977 cc four-cylinder two-stroke air-cooled road racing motorcycle built in Barcelona by engineer Fernando Batlló. The motor was based on two Yankee engines. This bike took part in the 24 hours of Montjuich races in 1972 and 1973. Only one was built as a road racing prototype and another as a street bike. This bike survives at the Bassella Motorcycle Museum, Alt Urgell.
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- "FIM Trial World Championship classifications". fim-live.com. Archived from the original on 25 February 2012. Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- Ossa SPQ Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine
- The 1000cc OSSA (BYRA)
- Modelos Ossa asfalto Archived 2009-02-26 at the Wayback Machine (in Spanish)
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