BSA Motorcycles - An Historical Overview
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
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.
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
World War I. During the war, production ceased while they pursued their
traditional manufacturing, making guns, but returned quickly after the
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.
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
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. They took over Sunbeam
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
1944 The company acquired Ariel,
and by the end of the war BSA also acquired New
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 carburetion and Wipac electrics.
1950s Scooters were gaining popularity. Two models were announced but neither
1961 Employs 4,300 persons.
1968 Queen's Award to Industry for Export Achievement.
1971 Company reorganisation centred production at the Triumph
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. BSA was bought by Norton
(owned by Manganese Bronze) and absorbed into the Norton-Villiers-Triumph
group in 1971, which managed to design an uncomfortably tall A65 Lightning
at Umberslade Hall before BSA collapsed.
1972 BSA had to make major cut-backs, soon to be followed by the
demolition of the factory at Small Heath.
1973 The name was finally abandoned and production ended.
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.