Ake Jonsson’s 1972 Maico MC400 Grand Prix Bike

1972 was perhaps the seminal year for grand prix motocross. Factory involvement was higher than ever, rules were less restrictive and the number of former and future champions competing resulted in ferocious competition. Exotics materials were commonly used, factory built “specials” were almost a requirement and ultra-light weight bikes had become the norm. A regular on the 500 grand prix circuit for five years, Ake Jonsson finished runner up in 1971. Maico mounted since 1969, Ake would switch to Yamaha in 1973. His 1972 grand prix bike, featured here was the mount he used in all but two rounds of the championship. The bike was retained by Ake after the season and displayed in his Yamaha dealership in Sweden for many years. After its recent acquisition by the MXworksbikes.com collection we can see how remarkably original and well preserved it is.

According to Ake, the Maico MC400 is as he rode it. Tell tail evidence is easy to find. The aluminum swing arm is a special Maico factory piece designed to save weight. Special alloy body Koni shocks were state of the art in 1972. The bodies were made by Maico and housed Koni mechanisms. Titanium nuts and bolts abound, including both axles, not something your average production Maico would have. The seat was custom crafted for Ake’s derriere. Cylinder, head and ignition cover are cast magnesium. The left side engine clutch cover was modified by the factory to accommodate a smaller clutch. The old style smaller clutch reacted faster than the new larger clutch. Willy Bauer and Adolf Weil retrofitted the smaller clutch to the new engine cases and in so doing, had to modify the old style clutch cover by extending a mounting bolt hole slightly upwards. Only a handful of works bikes had this unique combination of old and new engine parts. The engine was carefully blueprinted by Ake’s mechanic Curt Oberg. A Tomasalli throttle was fitted because it provided quicker acceleration than the would-have-been-standard Magura. Production bikes came with a compression release to facilitate starting but the works riders removed this device for fear it would malfunction. Ake’s old GP bike has a Champion L-77J plug filling the hole yet the bracket remains on the handlebar!

At the penultimate round of the 1972 championship at Namur, Ake’s Maico suffered a crack in one of the welds at the steering stem. The crack was gas welded at the track and after the race, in preparation for the final round in Luxembourg, the frame was replaced. Throughout the season works frames were painted silver but there was no time for a custom paint job and a standard black production frame was used. Pictures from the grid at Luxembourg confirm the dark frame. That’s what the bike has today.

When received in early 2014, the 500 grand prix bike was in excellent condition. All fluids had long since been drained. The paint on the gas tank was obviously original. Seat, controls, engine, pipe, carb, pegs, wheels and forks all appear to be period and unrestored. The fibreglass parts look to have been repainted and were well done. A Yamaha silencer had been fitted for a local Swedish show in the mid-1970s. This was removed and the original way-to-long-stinger reinstalled. The bike looks like a classic racer. The patina of the tank, engine and seat set the tone. Maicos have a distinctive shape defined by the angular gas tank, slab sided seat and air box, radial fined engine, down pipe and fork boots. There is something almost agricultural about them. German precision mixed with crude finishes. You see the same thing on racing Porsches where fit and finish give way to pure function.

The process of cleaning and modest restoration was greatly aided by Ake Jonsson himself. When posed with a question, Ake responded quickly. He contacted his 1972 team mechanic and tracked down details. The race-by-race summary of the 1972 grand prix season came from Ake’s web site. A pleasure to deal with through the acquisition, packing, shipping and clean up processes, Ake’s Jonsson remains a gentleman and a champion!

1972 Maico MC400 Photos

1972 500 Grand Prix Results:
  • April 23, Sittendorf, Austria; 6-2 for 3rd overall

  • April 30, Payerne, Switzerland; 6-5 for 4th overall

  • May 4, Vasteras, Sweden; DNS due to injuries

  • May 24; Corseul, France: DNS due to injuries

  • June 4, Poltava, Russia; 6th overall

  • June 11, Prerov, Czechoslovakia; 13-2 for 4th overall

  • July 9, Farleigh Castle, England; 3-1 for 2nd overall

  • July 16, Beuern, West Germany; 4-3 for 3rd overall

  • July 23, Apolda, East Germany; DNF (front wheel collapsed)-2

  • August 6, Namur, Belgium; 2-2 for 2nd overall

  • August 13, Ettelbruck, Luxembourg; 1-DNF (ran out of fuel while leading) #28

  • Final Standings: 4th overall