Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 144,279 pages of information and 230,174 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

BSA: Motorcycles

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1903. BSA-Minerva motorcycle. Exhibit at the National Motorcycle Museum.
November 1903.
November 1903.
May 1904.
May 1913.
Reg No: RR 7709.
Reg No: RR 7709.
Reg No: RR 7709.
Reg No: RR 7709.
Reg No: RR 7709.
July 1919.
Reg No.MTT 162.
June 1921.
February 1922.
1923. BSA Model H with BSA Type 1 sidecar. 557cc. Reg No: CY 5601.
1923. BSA Model H with BSA Type 1 sidecar. 557cc. Reg No: CY 5601.
BSA Model H. Reg No: BD 7423. Exhibit at Abbey Pumping Station, Leicester.
1923. Exhibit at the Franschhoek Motor Museum.
1924. BSA Roundtank 250cc. Reg No: PSL 422.
1925. 329cc. Exhibit at Glasgow Museum of Transport.
1927. BSA L27 350cc. Reg No: BF 5730.
November 1927.
January 1930.
Reg No: BF 5730.
Reg No: BF 5730.
1947. 250cc. Reg No: YSJ 929.
1947. 250cc. Reg No: YSJ 929.
1961. Trophy Trials.
Reg No: SV 7410.
Reg No: SV 7410.
December 1929.
December 1929.
December 1929.
December 1929.
June 1930.
1930. S30-18 Light combination. 500cc SV engine. Exhibit at Grampian Transport Museum.
1931. Three-Wheeler.
1933. Reg No: AGT 23. Exhibit at Amberley Working Museum.
April 1936. African Police on BSA motorcycles.
1938. Argyle bicycle with BSA Winged Wheel. Exhibit at Glasgow Museum of Transport.
1941. BSA WDM 20. 500cc. Reg No: 662 UXR.
1941. BSA WDM 20. 500cc. Reg No: 662 UXR.
Reg No: SSL 343.
1950. B31.
November 1955.
1956. 650cc Twin Golden Flash.
BSA Winged Wheel.
Reg No: 467 TMT.
Reg No: 467 TMT.
Reg No: LSV 255.
Reg No: OSJ 140.
Reg No: OUY 634.
November 1955.
November 1956.
November 1956.
November 1961.
Reg No: YUC 510.
Winged Wheel. Exhibit at Lakeland Motor Museum.
1955. 250cc.
Reg No: HB 4087.
Reg No: YC 1628.
Reg No: ASV 397.
Reg No: 918 KVX.
Reg No: MCO 981.
Reg No: 689 EWU.

Note: this is a sub-section of BSA


1880 Bicycle manufacture led to the supply of parts to the motorcycle trade.

1904 Parts could be used by other firms to produce machines using Minerva engines.

1910 Entry into market with single model that remained as standard - reflecting quality of materials and design. First model had vertically-mounted 3.5hp engine, chain-driven magneto, sprung forks and excellent finish. Within six months from their launching, BSA’s were selling well. The machines were easily distinguishable among rival makes by their yellow and green painted tanks. A TT rear-hub, two-speed model was soon added. Until well into the 1930s, various models were added, adapted or discontinued.

1913-1917 For a list of the models and prices of motorcycles see the 1917 Red Book

1915 There was a choice between the 85x88 3.5hp model and the 85x98 4.25hp model. This latter machine was offered as being especially suitable for sidecar work. It also had the three-speed BSA gearbox with foot controlled clutch that was introduced in 1914 and a double barrel BSA carburettor. Both models could be had in chain-cum-belt version or in all chain drive with encased chains, which made the machine three pounds and five shillings more expensive.

World War I. During the war, production ceased while BSA pursued their traditional manufacturing, making guns, but returned quickly after the war.

1919 The company made their first V-twins.

Early 1920s. They acquired an engineer and designer from Daimler called Harold Briggs who designed new sporting machines for them, including their popular 493cc ohv Sloper of 1928.

1925 Became private company

1928 They made their first and only two-stroke, a 175cc unit construction bike, for only one season.

1930s BSA's famous Star series started in the 1930s with the Blue Star singles in 250cc, 350cc and 500cc versions. The Empire Stars followed.

1936 Major changes were introduced by Val Page, who was formerly of Ariel and Triumph, and who revised and simplified models that were no longer economical to produce. His work remained in production until the 1960s.

1939 BSA became the largest motorcycle company in the world between the wars. In 1939, the company owned 67 factories across the UK. During the war, they made 126,000 M20 motorcycles - among their other war production.

1943/4 BSA took over Sunbeam from AMC.

1944 The company acquired Ariel Motors (J.S.) Ltd, and by the end of the war BSA also acquired New Hudson.

1946 Post-war production saw expansion of the company, models using off-road tyres and much more chrome-plating. They announced a new competition model, the 350cc B31.

1947 Famous (and perhaps most successful) model Bantam introduced, using Amal carburretion and Wipac electrics.

1950s Scooters were gaining popularity. Two models were announced but neither did well.

1951 The company bought Triumph.

1961 Employs 4,300 persons.

1961 Manufacturers of motor cycles, including the Bantam, Super Rocket, Road Rocket, Gold Flash, Gold Star and 250 Star motor cycles, B.S.A. Sunbeam scooters and B.S.A. Dandy light scooters. 4,300 employees

1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement.

1971 Company reorganisation centred production at the Triumph Meriden site and together BSA and Triumph launched ranges which included many new models using common parts, such as forks and wheels. By this time the company was in deep financial trouble as, although an industrial giant, the company proved unable to compete well against the Japanese. The 1971 lineup saw major makeovers, including oil-in-frame 650cc twins.

1972 BSA had to make major cut-backs, soon to be followed by the ceasing of production at the factory at Small Heath; production was switched to Triumph at Meriden.

1972 in a last attempt to extend the brand life a new frame was developed for the A65L. As well raising the seat height to an impractical 33 inches (840 mm), it actually broke during testing at the MIRA test track, marking the end of one of the most successful range of British twin cylinder motorcycles. The BSA name was finally abandoned and production ended[1].

1973 After the collapse of BSA's shares in the Stock Market, the company was sold to a new company Norton-Villiers-Triumph, financed by the government and Manganese Bronze Holdings) who would also put their own motorcycle company Norton-Villiers into the new entity. The non-motorcycle parts of BSA were acquired by Manganese Bronze Holdings)[2]. One of NVT's first actions was to close Meriden and switch production back to Small Heath but this was met by a sit in by the workers at Meriden who eventually formed themselves into a cooperative[3].

1974 The Meriden cooperative received government support which meant that machine tools were not transferred to Small Heath and the rationalisation of the motorcycle industry could not proceed to the extent expected on formation of NVT[4].

1979 The name of BSA survived as mopeds and small motorcycles were assembled from imported components. Many of these machines were built for third-world countries and the services. For purists, the end of the line had come in 1972.

Note: The UK rights to the BSA name was acquired by the Canadian Aquilini family. BSA Co. was sold and a US company (Bill Colquhuon's BSA Co.) used the name for Rotax-engined military bikes and Yamaha-based Bushman machines for developing nations. In 1991, Andover Norton and BSA Co. merged to create BSA Group, which was taken over in 1994 to form BSA Regal. They announced a new Gold SR using a Yamaha SR400 engine in a Gold Star styled chassis.

National Motorcycle Museum exhibits:-

  • 1921 BSA 499cc TT Racing machine BSA 1921
  • 1937 BSA 1000cc Model G4 Combination BSA 1937
  • 1924 BSA Taxi BSA 1924
  • 1948/49 B.S.A. STAR TWIN 500cc BSA 1948
  • 1960 BSA GOLD STAR 499cc DBD 34 BSA 1960
  • 1971 Formula 750 works BSA BSA 1971
  • 1972 BSA B50SS Gold Star BSA 1972
  • 750cc T160 ‘Gold Star 3’ BSA 1975
  • 1970 750cc BSA Daytona racer, ex-Mike Hailwood BSA 1970
  • 1953 BSA’s prototype 250cc MC 1 BSA 1953
  • 1938 B.S.A Model M24 Gold Star 496cc. BSA 1938
  • 1971 500cc BSA racer

List of Models

  • BSA: A7
  • BSA: A10 1950-63 Gold Flash, Super Flash, Gold Rocket, Super Rocket and Rocket Gold Star.

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. Wikipedia [1]
  2. The Times, 20 March 1973
  3. The Times, 9 April 1974
  4. The Times, 30 July 1974
  • [2] Wikipedia
  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • [3] Ian Chadwick's motorcycle web site
  • [4] Yesterday's Antique Motorcycles web site
  • [5] Made in Birmingham web site
  • Miller’s Price Guide to Classic Motorcycles