A Wilcomoto from the early 1980s must be one of the rarest motocross machines you could possibly find, some say that only 30 of these big bore 2-strokes were ever produced, others say it was nearer 100, who knows but rather than make a frame & then like so many other people do, just slot in a warmed over engine from another manufacturer such as Honda or Yamaha, the Wilcox boys took things to the next level, they designed & manufactured a motor using high quality steel & magnesium components cast to their own specifications, all the final facing up & machining work they did themselves, the fact that it was all made in little old England makes it an even rarer item !
When in March 2016 that well know man from the north Rod Spry, vintage motorcycle restorer extraordinaire, posted up images on facebook of a Wilcomoto a friend of his wanted to sell, like a tramp on chips Mr J quickly got in touch & asked if I could use the photos for an article he has been waiting to write for quite some time, as I explained to Rod, due to their rarity you just don`t get the chance to photograph these machines.
By the time the bike you see here had been built in Hereford by Tom Wilcox & his three sons, Steve, Mike & Brian, the guys had amassed quite a few years of experience in the fast moving world of motocross, not only were they good riders but they had already built several other big bore engines & were quite capable of carrying out tasks such as machining new wider & stronger gears to replace standard items that were not up to the job of handling all the extra power their bigger motors were putting out. When they decided to design, manufacture & market their own machine a close eye was cast over what the Japanese & other European factories were offering, they took note of any parts that were quickly wearing out or failing & decided to make their stuff better, this is why a lot of the components on the Wilcomoto are made from super strong & lightweight magnesium.
Its quite amazing just how much stuff the Wilcox crew produced themselves or had specially cast / made to their own specifications. Even when you discount the components brought in like handle bars, throttle, levers, control cables, brake reservoir, tyres, chain, wheel rims, carb & ignition system, it still leaves one hell of a lot of parts to make. First of all you have the frame & swing arm, both were made using higher grade & thicker materials than most other manufactures used, the rear shock with it`s 13 inches of movement was specifically design for the machine & extensively bench tested in-house, Wilco also manufactured their own magnesium yokes & front 42mm forks with 13 inches of travel & yes you guest it the lower half of the forks were magnesium. The front aluminium wheel hub / brake disc is quite unusual as it was cast as one item, the disc later being given a coating of hard chrome, the front brake caliper is another unique item, yet again cast in magnesium. As a finishing touch the frame was dressed in plastics that were originally sourced locally but then later on made by the Wilcox boys themselves.
Their seems to be quite a bit of chitter chatter on the internet saying that the motor used or was based on a Yamaha YZ465 item, this seems to be totally wrong, as you can see from the images the kick start & final drive are on the opposite side to the big Yam, I think the confusion comes from Wilco using a similar spec piston. Virtually all of the totally unique magnesium motor was cast by a company based in Sittingbourne, Wilco themselves then machined all the rough castings in-house, the transmission gears, flywheel, main-shaft & internal straight cut drive gears were also machined in-house from steel blanks. All these high quality components added up to a very strong & reliable air cooled motor that pumped out over 50 bhp on the dyno, the holes on each side of the barrel would suggest that at some point the company intended to fit an exhaust power valve, a lot of the early testing & development work on the bikes was carried out by that well known 1980s 500GP racer Mr Lawrence Spence. All this attention to detail & use of light weight materials added up to a 498cc, 4 speed machine that weighted in at a reasonable 103kg & cost £1750 in 1982.
Sadly & all to quickly this unique machine disappeared from the motocross landscape, there seems to be quite a few mysteries & rumours attached to the Wilcomoto story, how many 500cc machines were actually made & sold no one seems to know for sure but jugging by their rarity It can`t be a lot, an enduro version & a 250 were planned but whether they made it to market & in what numbers I just don`t know. The company invested heavily in all sorts of cutting edge engineering equipment including what must have been been one of the first generation computer guided CNC milling machines, some say the huge financial outlay eventually caught up with them & forced the business to close down, other rumours suggest a large fire at the factory put an end to the company. All I know is it would be fantastic to see one or two of these wonderful bikes out & about racing again & doing what they were built to do, rubbing plastic & banging bars for Britain…..Mr J