Up until the early 1960s, BSA was the largest producer of motorcycles in the world. The 1950s had been a good decade for the marque, with the success of the Gold Star as well as the development of two well-respected pre-unit (separate gearbox and engine), vertical twin-engine series: the A7 and A10. Not only was BSA a giant in producing motorcycles, the company also manufactured other goods such as buses, agricultural equipment, bicycles and, of course, weapons. Flush with cash generated from this diversified business, BSA also bought up other motorcycle marques—Triumph and Ariel, among others—making it a true empire.
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I rode Nortons well into the 90's before giving up riding all together after too many close calls and having young children and a wife depending on my paycheque . I knew a couple guys with BSA's and they always seemed willing to part with them in favour of one of my Commandos. I still have a neighbor with about a dozen 60's Beezers in his barn that is " going to get them going again someday soon ". Perhaps they will afford him some retierment income if the brand does indeed make a comeback. No doubt they will be nothing like the original bikes like the Truimphs of today.
It's a pity BSA's new engine didn't incorporate horizontally-split cases; they may not have gone bankrupt. My buddy had a BSA Lightning; I rode it but it seemed heavy and rough (not to mention the usual issues). I bought a 350 Yamaha and cleaned his clock. Then he bought a 500 Kawasaki, but that's another story...
I still have my 69 Lightning though I haven't really ridden it in a number of years.
A beautiful looking bike that sadly was never as reliable it's Japanese counterpart.
A British friend of mine says BSA stands for "Bits Strewn All over....."
I strongly disagree.
Just some of the bits fall off.
In 1971 I bought an H1 Kawasaki 500 Triple through PACEX that darn near killed me. Next bike was a BSA A10 which I built into a beautiful little hardtail chopper. Sold it and bought a 1951 Harley Panhead which is still in the family to this day. Seems that I graduated backwards from very fast to slower to very slow...
Owning an early British bike meant you had to become a first class wrench bender and required a total commitment to the Prince of Darkness, (headlight always quit in the middle of a night ride). Lucas also did Jaguar's wiring, requiring an owner to have two mechanics and an electrician who all spoke with a Cockney accent.
I have owned three BSAs. Two A10s when I was a kid and an A65 that I purchased in 1990. My 1972 Lightning had to be the very worst motorcycle that I have ever owned. I spent countless hours and thousands of dollars trying to make it dependable. The A65 engine is a terrible design that was badly constructed. BSA deserved to die.
I sold the Lightning to a guy for a fraction of what I had invested, but still felt sorry for him when he trailered it down my driveway.
But I would still walk across the street to look at a Triumph.
Just put on a couple of Mikuni 32 Flatslides to my 69 Firebird Scrambler. Along with new Avons, Pazon ignition, and Lucas Racing 20/50 (lots of zinc) very reliable. Also sounds extra nice!
My young next-door neighbor, a motorcycle enthusiast, was talking to my dad. Dad mentioned he had several motorcycles, one of which was a BSA (in this case a 1970 441 Victor). The neighbor asked Do you work on the BSA? Dad answered, straight-faced, sure, i work on it all the time....once a month, i take the full can of oil out from under the bike, add it to the top and place the empty can back under the bike.
The redeeming feature is that it is one of the coolest looking bikes.
First Beezer was a new 1967 A50 Royal Star. Lots of mods before I sold it. I now have a 69 Lightning, 69 Starfire, 71 Lightning and 72 Rocket 750 Triple. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they get in your blood.