Ossa is a Spanish motorcycle manufacturer which was active from 1924 to 1982 and reborn in 2010. Founded by Manuel Giró, an industrialist from Barcelona, Ossa was best known for lightweight, two-stroke-engined bikes used in observed trials, motocross and enduro. The company was known originally as Orpheo Sincronic Sociedad Anónima (O.S.S.A.) and was later renamed Maquinaria Cinematográfica, S.A.. In 2010, the Ossa brand was reborn when the trademark was purchased and a new company began producing motorcycles.
The original Ossa company got its start in 1924 making movie projectors for its home market in Spain. After World War II, Ossa, like several other manufacturers from BSA to Harley-Davidson to Yamaha, began producing two-stroke engined motorcycles, with their first mass-produced model being introduced in 1949. Ossa reached its highest production levels in the motorcycle boom of the 1960s, exporting large numbers of exports to other European countries, but also significantly, to North American markets. In the United States and Canada, off-road motorcycling – and particularly the newly imported sport of motocross to which the light-weight and powerful Ossa was well suited – enjoyed a surging popularity.
The Ossa firm was a strong supporter of all forms of motorcycle sport including: road racing, motocross, enduro and observed trials. Their first success came at the 1967 24 Hours of Montjuich on the streets of Barcelona. Against all the major Spanish factories, Ossa motorcycles finished a surprising first and second. Inspired by this success, the factory decided to compete abroad in order to make inroads into the international market. They achieved some success in the AMA Grand National Championship, with rider Dick Mann helping them develop a 250cc dirt track bike on which he won the 1969 Santa Fe Grand National short track event, held on a quarter-mile dirt track oval.They also achieved early success in Grand Prix road racing, competing with an innovative magnesium monocoque-framed bike designed by Giró’s son, Eduardo and ridden by Santiago Herrero. Herrero won four 250 cc Grands Prix with Ossa before he died while competing at the 1970 Isle of Man TT. The loss of their star rider affected the Ossa team so much that they withdrew from road racing altogether.However, Ossa redirected their competitive efforts into the sport of Observed Trials in Europe and the United States alongside such other famous Spanish makes as Bultaco and Montesa. Ossa hired British rider Mick Andrews to help design and ride their trials bike, and they went on to capture the 1971 and 1972 European Trials Championship, the forerunner to the FIM World Championship. Andrews won the grueling Scottish Six Days Trial three consecutive years between 1970 and 1972 for the Ossa factory.
In addition to their suitability for racing, in terms of power-to-weight, Ossa motorcycles soon gained a reputation for reliability on and off the track. Despite this growing enthusiasm for the beautifully crafted and rugged bikes themselves, the firm suffered from a disorganized and sparse dealer network in the important American market. Ironically, the motorcycle boom that created a new market and allowed the European makers to reap great financial rewards, was also the seed of their own demise, and that of the numerous smaller firms, such as Ossa. With so many choices for both buyers and dealers, sales and service networks were not sustainable, and attempts to improve manufacturing by investing in new factories back home put Ossa, like virtually every other European firm, deep into the red.
In the declining years of the Franco Era, in 1975, the Spanish government steadily converted Spain’s economic structure into one more closely resembling a free-market economy. The arrival of cheaper Japanese motorcycles into the local economy as well as a crippling employee strike in 1977 spurred the downfall of the Ossa company. By 1984 Ossa was under the control of a labor cooperative, and the following year its name was changed to Ossamoto. Nonetheless, as a Vintage make, the Ossa still enjoys a significant following among home hobbyists and amateur racers.
In 2010, a group of Spanish businessmen purchased the rights to the Ossa trademark and began producing Ossa branded motorcycles once again. The new firm produces trials and enduro models. The factory team competed in the 2011 FIM Trials world championship, with factory sponsored rider Jeroni Fajardo finishing the season in fifth place.