The French Bimota – 1980s Moto Martin M16 1135 EFE Suzuki

In France, Japan, Sport by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

In a nutshell, Moto Martin was something akin to a French Bimota; the boutique firm dropped the latest engines of the day — in Martin’s case primarily from Japanese manufacturers — into bespoke frames, adorned them in unique bodywork, and then tacked on the latest and greatest track-focused running gear. The company is the brainchild of George Martin, who, prior to starting his namesake marque, worked at a design firm as an industrial designer. An avid motorcycle enthusiast, Martin was particularly interested in frame technology, especially as moto-R&D became increasingly hung up on power-output.

Thanks to the open and unrestricted nature of 1970’s race paddocks, Martin was able to rub shoulders with various race engineers and team managers, inspecting the competition machinery, asking questions, and generally getting ideas and inspiration for what later became his own bikes. Starting with small at-home projects, Martin eventually opted to found his own company in 1971 (some sources say 1970) at first producing parts and accessories for the CB750.

In February of 1972 — around the same time the company moved into a larger facility in Les Sables d’Olonnes — Martin released its first bespoke framed scoot at the Bastille show; a beam chassis — reportedly inspired by Fritz Egli’s world-famous frame designs — wrapped around Honda’s iconic 750 Four. According to Martin, his CB-powered model shaved around 90lbs off the three-quarter-liter CB’s stock weight — a weight savings exhibited by pretty much every Moto Martin machine. Over the next decade-and-a-half, Martin developed a more advanced perimeter frame that it applied to a myriad of the era’s best Japanese mills including Big Red’s CBX1000, Kawa’s Z900, and Suzuki’s GSX 1135 EFE.

Unlike many frame kits, Martin’s chassis were able to accommodate a variety of different four-cylinder engines from different marques. Sold assembled or in kits, Martin offered several stages (or specs), with or without suspension, wheels, etc. The French outfit also produced some pretty trick exhaust systems in-house. At the company’s height, 35 full-time staffers churned out frames, bodywork, tanks, wheels, seats, controls, exhausts, and other various components. The French outfit also worked directly with suppliers like Brembo and Marzocchi.

As Martin entered the 1980s, everything began to change. A few years on Suzuki introduced the game-changing GSX-R750 towards the tail-end of ’84, offering a stellar bike with an equally impressive stock frame to rival Martin’s small-batch offerings. On top of the Gixxer’s prowess, larger manufacturers and their dealers were offering financing options that Martin simply couldn’t match with his kit bikes.

So, after producing some 5,800 kits between ’72 and ’86, Martin finally called it quits on the motorcycle operation and applied his connections, facilities, and knowledge of tubular frame design to building replica car kits of the Lotus Seven. But before he pulled the plug on the two-wheeled work, Martin introduced the 16-inch-wheeled M16, one of the firm’s final models.

This particular example features one of Martin’s polished perimeter frames wrapped around Suzuki’s GSX 1135 EFE engine. The trick frame is covered in bodywork — which has been adorned in a wildly tasty, retro-inspired livery — produced in-house by the boutique French operation. Apparently, I’m not alone in my appreciation for the Martin as, despite not being a custom bike (above and beyond its paint job, maybe) this very specimen was just the cover-image for BikeExif’s latest Custom Bikes of the Week (#134).

You can find this Moto Martin M16 1135 EFE Suzuki for sale in Lille, France here at Legend Motors with a price of $19,150 (or €16,800).