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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). 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.
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.
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:-