10 Legendary Dirt Bikes That Shaped Modern Off-Road Motorcycling

Swedish brand Husqvarna had been working with two-stroke engines for a long time by 1969, as a major manufacturer of chainsaws and motorcycles. The brand had secured its first European MX Championship 10 years previously, winning a total of nine World Motocross Championship titles before 1970, leaving it well-poised to rival the two-stroke machines of the Japanese “Big Four.”

The 400 Cross was Husqvarna’s 396cc two-stroke MX machine that took the early 1970s by storm. It was popular with the public, thanks in part to the motorcycle’s famous use in the 1971 movie “On Any Sunday,” ridden by Steve McQueen. By the following year, Husqvarna had ironed out some creases, altering the frame geometry for better handling and adding a fifth gear.

Cycle World ran a review of the 400 Cross in 1972, which was surprisingly in-depth and showed a good understanding of the requirements of motocross machines, even when they were in their relative infancy. It praised the motorcycle’s off-road stability and handling, its positive transmission, and its aesthetics, with its recognizable orange and chrome gas tank.

The bike became a motocross and enduro racing icon, helped by McQueen posing with one on the cover of a 1971 Sports Illustrated magazine. Even without its Hollywood association, the Husqvarna 400 Cross is still one of the most coveted and collectible motorcycles within its segment, and McQueen’s personal model recently sold at auction for a staggering $230,500.

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