By Kenneth Olausson
He’s famous for being Mr. Motocross. Why Husqvarna’s four-time world champion Torsten Hallman played an important role in the MX history…
The exhaust fumes are visible as he selects a lower gear. Going around the bend the roar of the engine can be heard all over. RRRRRrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr… The world's MX fans know it as the Sound of Music. Experts, of course, never fail to recognize the peppered voice of 35 horsepower dominance in a Husky engine. Seeing the tall Swede ride is a one of a kind experience. What Torsten Hallman is lacking in muscles is well compensated in his intelligent master style. Physical excellence, determination and swift reactions in combination, with years of experience makes all the difference in his riding. No surprise that this Swedish wonderboy left the motocross scene with nine world scalps under his belt, including five team titles.
Torsten grew up on a farm in Skyttorp near Uppsala in mid-Sweden, where his father had a mechanical shop. "My early world consisted of pistons, cylinders and chains", says Torsten with a broad smile. In my hometown 80 km north of Stockholm, there was a motorcycle shop where they had spent a fortune for racing activities. The "Nyman" company had some 30 sponsored riders and I passed this place every day going to school. Thirteen years old, "Totte" stole the bike of his older brother Hans in order to get cross-country experience.
In the beginning Hans was furious, but seeing younger Torsten develop, he soon became an admirer and was proud of his progress. In fact, Hans soon followed his brother to races acting as mechanic and cheerleader - in that order! Torsten's first bike was a 98cc DKW, which according to him "was the best bike available then". But it broke down after treatment from Torsten and it was exchanged for a 125cc Royal Enfield. It did not take long before "Totte" was discovered by opposition and admirers. In 1957 he had his first racing license and Torsten won his class in his debut enduro, coming in 5th overall at this major Swedish race.
Torsten was often mixed up with Hans: "it was good for my career", says Torsten, "I could develop as a rider without people noticing". This became evident in a 1957 MX race in northern Sweden where Torsten battled newborn star Rolf Tibblin: "We changed places several times before and Rolf was determined to overtake me in a steep hill on the last lap. But I closed the door so he finished behind me". After the race Tibblin went to Hans and complained. Hans was 6th in the race and did not understand what Tibblin talked about. "You must speak to my little brother, Torsten", he finally answered. Rolf went to Torsten and said: "I didn't know Hans had a little brother who is so fast ... "
After ten years of motocross with factory support from Husqvarna Torsten Hallman won his first world championship title in 1962 in the 250 cc class. He doubled his efforts and repeated his world victory in 1963. I met him in the mid-60s for the first time. Our path crossed at a national championship race and he welcomed me to his yard. Torsten was restrictive in words, but never wasted time on small talk. After a while we were good friends with the common interest of attending races; him racing, me writing and taking photographs. I was fortunate to see Torsten win the 250-title again in 1966 and 1967. One of the most thrilling moments, however, came in 1968 during the deciding race held in Klagenfurt, Austria. Torsten came close to winning his 5th individual title but lost it in the last moment with a rear wheel puncture. "Coming second is like being the first loser", he sighed after the race...