Which bike, which issue?

Carabela in Issue 36 Revisited

Our article on the Carabela Marquesa 125 in Issue 36 (pp40-43, Words by Mark Firkin, Photos by Ken Smith) drew some correspondence from Paul Parkinson from the USA.  Paul is an avid Carabela collector and historian and owns a variety of Carabela models, such as a 1970 Caliente with the original street bike based forks and Dellorto plus various Marquesa models from 1975 to 1977.  Paul also owns a ‘77 and ‘78 250cc Centuaro as well as a later ‘81 factory special prototype built for racing by Cycle Karts.  He also has several Indian motors and parts to verify interchangeablity and common original design source.  Finally, he owns several Moto Villa units, which were purchased in Europe to substantiate the common heritage between the brands.

Paul commented that the article contained a number of inaccuracies and provided some clarification (which he can back up with first hand supporting documents).  So, we’re happy to stand corrected and Paul’s comments are as follows –

1) Carabela's first MX model was the 125cc Caliente. It was introduced in 1969. The 200cc Carrera model was introduced later. I believe 1971.

2) The engine in both the 125 and 200 was a Minarelli licensed design. None of Carabela's engines were there own design. They were licensed design built using Carabela manufacturing.  The companies claim to develop their own engines was probablly limited to confirmation of the transfer of the design and model specific chnages such as port timing & Carburation. The companies 100 - 200cc based products up until 1978 were all Minarelli designs. They never used a 100, 125 or 200cc Moto Morini design. The only Moto Morini licensed design may have been used in moped products. The 250cc and higher single cylinder designs were all Moto Villa and after 1978 the 125cc was a Moto Villa design as well. They also did make a street bike using a CZ licensed 2 cylinder 350cc engine. For their line of Mopeds and small bore engines the used Minarelli and possibly a Moto Morini design. (Sorry I have done were little to document designs under 100cc)

3) The front forks were a licensed design as well as the I imagine the hubs. It was not unusual at the time for companies to license various parts of designs to countries with restrictive import barriers. In fact it still happens today in various industries. Witness the Enfields made in India as another example.

4) The Caliente originally came with Carabela street forks presumaly designed by them however they also offered optional Ceriani units. The company then licensed the Betor design. The use of U-bolts to hold the handlebars in place was a standard design used by Bultaco.

5) The use of the square slide Dellorto and Marelli (Ducati) ignition owe their use to the original Minareill Italian based design. Carabela did switch to Mikunis after the first couple of years as well as using Motoplat ignitions. 

6) The 200cc Carrera was a 200cc design in the European mold of 200cc motorcycles common in the market at the time.

7) The company did not leave the US marketplace in 1973 or 1974. The company may have switch over to using distributors instead of running it's own sales office but the Carabela products were available in the US and other foreign markets like the UK until the demise of the company in the early 80s.

8) The 1975 Marquesa 125 is an evolutionary version of the previous 125 VAR-5 racer. The big change for the Marquesa was the new plastics.  The engine is not a 6-speed Moto Morini design. It is the classical 5-speed Minarelli engine used by Carabela since 1973. The engine is in fact the same as used by Indian in their line of products, the Indian products being made partially in Taiwan as well as Italy. The 6 speed gear box did not appear until 1976 and there are in fact two 6-speed designs. One is clearly a Japanese design and was used in the 1977 Marquesa II motors.

9) The Boge shocks used are virtually identical to a Betor internally. The relationship between Boge products and Betor remains an unsolved mystery.

10) To the best of my knowledge Acer-Mex did not merge with Moto Islo. The company continued to produce new products until into 1982. After 1977 the company really became a licensed manufacturer of the Moto Villa MX bikes. The product designs are virtually identical between the companies. It should be noted that our own Billi Grossi rode a 1978 production Carabela 250cc modified only with Fox rear shocks to a 6th place finish at the opening round of the 78 outdoor championship. Sadly the lack of spare parts doomed the attempt at other races to failure. However not many manufactures can claim that level of stock motorcyle success at a AMA National. Now to be far the bike was actually a Moto Villa with the Carabela tank and plastics. But at this stage the Carabela products did become quite good due to the involvement of Moto Villa. This does include the manufacture of a water-cooled 125cc in 1981.

11) There is no historical information that connects Honda to Carabela. At one stage I believed that Yamaha had become involved with the ownership of Carabela however this is not a fact that can be documented. It should be noted to readers that Yamaha did purchase Minarelli and there are certainly signs of Japanese engineering in the 1977 Carabela Minarelli based designs. (Clutch and 6-speed gearbox)

12) Today Carabela exists but again there is no apparent connection to any Japanese manufacturer. The last research I did showed the company’s trademark was owned an International company and the motorcycles sold by the company appear to be Chinese in origin.

13) Nothing with Carabela's product history is very date specific. They used the typical small manufacturers approach of phasing in new designs when inventory on the old design was used up. Or worse making new models using parts no longer used by the main product. 

Bill Cappel's bike looks like a very nicely done restoration. However it should be noted that the bike is missing the Marquessa's trademark YZ copy straps that held the gas tank in place (The straps were in fact added after the shots were taken - Ed). As the engine is a Minareilli design you can use Indian engine parts and pistons are generally available with some looking on EBay. Parts or complete engines are also available on eBay. I have even been able to track the original piston moulds down to the original manufacturer in Taiwan who is still in business today. Gasket sets are available from Cometic. It should be noted that the 1977 version of the Engine uses a different piston crown and head. SO be careful there are flat top designs and domed designs with the domed design being the newer more rare design. All the engines that I have worked on have had Motoplat ignitions. It is possible a previous owner had stuck in a early ignition to fix the bike. Old Carabelas tend to be either stripped of parts as a donor for a working model or as frankenstein bike fixed with parts from various years and models.