1972 Aspes Hopi 125MX
1972 Aspes Hopi 125MX
"Speaks Winning Fluently"
There is little available public information on the Italian motorcycle brand Aspes (As’-Peas). Founded by the Sorrentino brothers in the late 1950s, they manufactured bicycles in the small town of Gallarate. In the early sixties, Aspes transitioned into moped development.
Their first 125 scrambler was the Apache, which utilized a Maico two-stroke rotary valve engine. In 1972 Aspes introduced the Hopi 125MX, the successor to the Apache. However, rather than rely on Maico or Sachs for the Hopi engines, Aspes made the bold decision to develop their own 125 engines in-house. They were immediately successful, with Felice Agostini winning the class in the 1973 Italian Motocross Championship.
The uniquely designed production engine produced 24hp with horizontally split cases and a massive cylinder head featuring 21 fins on the top of the head and another 14 fins underneath. In fact, their advertising claimed, "Run full bore for an hour or more, and you can still hold your hand on the head comfortably!" As it turns out, that wasn't necessarily a good thing, as it was reported that the engine couldn't reach optimal operating temperature, requiring fins to be manually trimmed off. Visually, when looking at the bike from the front, you would swear it's a twin-cylinder.
To their credit, Aspes attempted to manufacture as many components on the bike as possible. Those parts that they didn't manufacture, they tried to acquire from Italian vendors: Domino grips and levers, Pirelli tires (when they were still made in Italy), Del Orto carbs, Borrani rims, and Grimeca brakes.
Engine Specialties, the Cosmopolitan Motors regional distributor in Pennsylvania (see Provenance section), created a beautiful poster/literature piece for the Aspes 125 MX and Enduro (see Literature section). This is the only known piece of American literature on this bike, and the information it provides is invaluable (thank you, Ron Carbaugh). Need an example? When we began cleaning this bike, we noticed that a clean but very old fram paper air filter was installed. I thought there was no way that an American air filter would be used on a brand that went out of its way to utilize all Italian components. This had to be a replacement. Guess what? One of the images in the literature shows the air box with the seat removed, and sure enough, the exact same fram paper air filter was a stock component. The only other non-Italian components were the English non-progressive Girling shocks and the German Mahle pistons.
Only a handful of these bikes were ever imported into the US (see Provenance section), and in the late 70s, business deteriorated, likely due in part to the success of the Japanese brands. In 1980 Aspes was acquired by Unimoto, who ultimately shut down the brand for good in 1986.
In 2008, Menzaghi Motors purchased the rights to the Aspes brand and have come full circle once again, marketing mopeds and bicycles (this time e-bikes) and claiming to have a motocross bike in the pipeline!
1972 Aspes Hopi 125MX (right-side shifter)
The provenance of this bike is a work in progress, and the history of the Aspes brand in America is limited at best. To my knowledge, a total of eleven of these bikes were imported into the US, and I'm only aware of three, including this one, that survived. When I first started my collection, I wasn't even aware that this brand existed (another reason collecting early year 125's is so interesting).
The Aspes 125s came into the US via Cosmopolitan Motors, the famous importer of Italian motorcycle brands. Based in Philadelphia, PA, Cosmopolitan imported Parilla, Benelli, and Capriolo motorcycles and accessories, such as Baruffaldi goggles and Pirelli tires. Why were eleven Aspes brought into the US? I have no idea. Possibly Cosmopolitan chose that quantity because they had eleven regional distributors across the US and shipped one to each to garner interest amongst their respective dealers.
This Aspes was sold to Fisher's Cycle Shop in Parkesburg, PA. The person I acquired it from purchased it in a multi-bike deal directly from Ed Fisher, the original owner of Fisher's Cycles. Although I hope to someday speak with Ed, it's my understanding that Fisher's Cycles was never able to sell this bike and that it had remained in his possession for the last 40 years.
This bike was completely original and appeared to be ridden once or twice in the dealer parking lot for demonstration. The only parts that were replaced were the natural rubber grips and vinyl fuel lines, as the originals had significantly deteriorated over the years. I'm not sure if tank decals were an afterthought for Aspes or if they decided not to utilize them because they would likely fall or wear off the fiberglass tank very quickly. From what I understand, they weren't on the stock bikes, but they were prevalent in every advertising photo of someone riding the bike. Possibly they were provided to the dealers to include with the bike at purchase. This is an extremely rare bike not only due to the fact that less than a dozen came into the US but because it's nearly 100% original, down to the nubs on the original Pirelli tires. Today this Aspes Hopi 125MX looks just as it did 40 years ago in Ed Fisher's showroom.