1976 Husqvarna CR360
The bike that put Husky in the MX record books
Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna is famous for helping ignite the motocross revolution in America. But, amazingly, the brand has earned only a single AMA national motocross title.
And this was the bike that won it.
It was 1976, and Kent Howerton was two years into what would become one of the most successful careers in AMA motocross. After finishing second in the 250 Nationals the year before, Howerton focused on the 500cc class, racing this Husky CR360 against stars like Honda’s Pierre Karsmakers and Kawasaki’s Gary Semics.
The bike looks like a period piece today, but Howerton remembers that even back then, his Husky was considered a bit dated. The Japanese manufacturers had gotten into motocross in a big way a couple of years earlier, and they brought with them a level of technological sophistication that quickly eclipsed the European companies.
"At the Lake Sugartree round in Texas, Karsmakers came by after the first moto and said, 'You really don’t get it, do you?' " Howerton says. "I asked him what he was talking about, and he asked if I really thought I could win on that thing."
As a matter of fact, he did, because he knew he had master mechanic Eric Crippa in his corner. Crippa improved the bike with several custom parts, including chain guides, engine internals and a Pro-Fab chromoly swingarm mated with large-diameter Fox Airshox. With high- and low-pressure air bladders that soaked up the roughest tracks on the mid-’70s MX circuit, Howerton says the shocks far outclassed the stock front end.
The 1976 500cc championship became one of the most exciting in AMA Motocross history. Howerton battled all year with Semics, carrying a 3-point lead into the final round in New Orleans. Although Semics won that battle, Howerton won the war with a second-place overall finish to clinch the title.
Today, Howerton recalls 1976 as a difficult year. But he credits his championship to hard work, a master mechanic, self-described "youthful ignorance" and a prayer.