A bit of history and some stories about vintage bikes for sale

Posts tagged “BSA motorcycles

1971 BSA Rocket 3

BDSA Logo 5Ok, lets face it, this was not BSA’s finest hour in some people’s opinion. The Rocket 3 was a rather late answer to Honda’s market changing CB750-4, but still the Rocket 3 is an incredible motorcycle.

By 1971 BSA was trying everything they possibly could to sell bikes, sadly this version of a great bike went over like a fart in church. They painted the frame a dull grey, they made the gas tank smaller (you could only go about 75 miles before you started pushing) and it was kick start only…where’s the magic button? and of course, you always knew where you left your bike parked because it marked its spot with a bit of Castrol. Oh and did I mention the brakes? Think of Fred Flintstone? Ok,enough of the downsides, there is a lot of ups to the Rocket 3.
BSA  Rocket 3Yes, the Honda CB750 had a disc brake up front, yes it had an electric starter, it could go more than 75 miles on a tank of gas, and yeah, it was comfortable. But…the Rocket 3 was faster, handled better and had a soul that the Japanese four couldn’t match. That soul, sadly, didn’t transfer into sales however.

Picture 15Over the course of its production run, the BSA went through the ugliest gas tank every put on a motorbike to the one of the coolest set of mufflers ever put on a motorbike (the”Ray Gun Muffler”) and yet still retained the power and handling that made it great.

Interestingly enough, more people are more familiar with the Triumph Trident than the Rocket 3. Same motorcycle, different badges (Triumph was part of the BSA group at the time). If you believe that, you would be wrong. Here’s what made the BSA better. The frame was fully welded versus the Triumph’s ‘lugged and brazed’ frame (Schwinn bicycles use lug and brazed construction), one reason why the BSA handled better. Number 2; The motor was tilted forward in the frame 15 degrees where the Triumph was straight up, this gave the Beezer better weight balance and more responsive handling.

In 1971 Dick Mann won the Daytona 200 roadrace on a Rocket 3. Interestingly enough, he previously won on a Honda CB750. This was the Rocket 3′s swan song.Picture 21

Given the choice, I would pick a BSA Rocket 3 over a Trident every time (don’t tell my friend Ted…who loves his Trident more than well, more than just about anything?) And, think about this…a motorcycle that I would give up my entire collection for (I’d still have to finance the balance for one…) the Triumph X75 Hurricane, uses the BSA motor.

Picture 16So, I found a really nice ’71 Rocket 3 on ebay today and it is one of those that has the grey frame and the small gas tank, but hey, I like it. The bike is a semi-restored model, which means it still needs a few bits and pieces, but is a good runner. 11,100 miles on the clock and has the usual oil drips but this is a really cool bike that will be great fun to ride for a long time. You would be amazed at how smooth a well sorted triple really is. I would have no problem throwing a tank bag and a set of soft saddle bags on and heading around the country on this bike.

Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

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Picture 121971 BSA Rocket 3


1972 Ossa Yankee Z500

Picture 45Not too many people are familiar with OSSA motorcycles much less Yankee. A quick history here…isn’t that part of the charm of this blog???

Picture 37OSSA actually started out making movie projectors in the 1920′s, motorcycles didn’t come along until after World War Two. At that time a lot of motorcycle companies got into the business of making (or importing) smaller two stroke motorbikes…BSA, Yamaha and even Harley Davidson. It was also a time that Moto-Sport was growing. Europe was the international base for all things motorcycling…Moto-Cross, Enduro’s, Trials and Road Racing. The only Moto-Sport America can lay claim to is Desert Racing.Picture 38

Up until the mid to late 1960′s American Desert Racing was dominated by Triumph, BSA, and Harley Davidson…big, heavy, single and twin cylinder bikes from Britain and here at home, then came the Europeans with their light weight two strokes and literally and figuratively left everybody in a cloud of two stroke smoke and dust.Husqvarna,Bultaco,Montessa,OSSA,DKW,Penton,KTM…the list goes on. The Japanese got into the game as well.

Picture 39OSSA was primarily known for its Trials and Enduro bikes but also had some relative success in both Moto-Cross and Road Racing. In the late 1960′s Eduardo Giro (grandson of the OSSA founder) developed a Monocoque framed road racer that in the hands of Santiago Herrero won four 250GP’s. Sadly Sr. Herrero was killed at the Isle of Man in 1970. After the death of their racer, OSSA withdrew from roadracing and focussed on Trials.

Here in the United States, OSSA was popular in Flat Track racing, National Champion and racing legend Dick Mann won the 1969 Santa Fe National ShortTrack aboard an OSSA he helped develop…cool huh?

Now you know enough about OSSA to get you laughed out of any motorcycle trivia game. But this post is about the Yankee Z500, which is basically two OSSA 250′s mated together. The motor was originally developed for European road courses but they were also looking for versatility both on and off road. The Yankee Motorcycle Company was the importer of OSSA Moto Cross and Enduro machines and John Taylor, the head of Yankee in New York wanted to design and build a bike that would compete with the Euro’s but be better by being more powerful,better built, more reliable and faster. OSSA was well known for being reliable, some thing I can’t say about my beloved(?) Bultaco’s. Mr. Taylor enlisted the help of Dick Mann to design the chassis which had some unique features such as a rear disc brake, the first of its kind on a dirt bike. Also, low gear in the standard 6 speed transmission, which wasn’t allowed in AMA racing, could be disabled to comply with the rules. And one more cool thing about the Yankee…the top fork crowns were manufactured by Smith and Wesson. I guess you could shoot somebody if they got ahead of you on the trail? Just kidding, this is non-violent blog.

There were 762 Yankee Z500′s built. A couple of things happened here, first production delays. The first 500′s didn’t come the assembly line until 1971 and by that time the Japanese manufacturers had really stepped up their development and Yankee was now behind the curve. Secondly, no matter how good they rode, they were a bit on the heavy side for serious Enduro riders. So production of the Z model was discontinued after a short run. Picture 13But I have a question, there was a regular street going 500, has anyone seen one here in the U.S? This motorbike looked to have huge potential? Why wasn’t it brought to market? Granted the road going two strokes were starting to fade by that time. Could it have competed with the Suzuki T500? Oh yeah!!. The Kawasaki triples?,Handling yes, performance no. The Yamaha twins? Probably so.Picture 17

Today I found a really nice, I mean really nice 1972 Yankee Z500 on ebay. This bike has only 1880 miles on the odo, it is all original with the exception of the front fender which is a Preston Petty unit which is period correct. It is not a runner but the seller says it has good compression, kicks through and shifts through all the gears. My guess is that getting it running should be pretty easy, it has just been sitting decades. The bike is cosmetically in great condition it appears. So, I think someone should get this bike and make a very unique and cool cafe racer out of it…what else would I think?

Click on the pics below for more pictures and some info.

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Picture 101972 Ossa Yankee Z 500


1968 BSA Thunderbolt

Picture 5“Just as much at home threading its way through slow traffic with two up or ‘Thunderbolting’ up a steep grade”. That is how Motorcyclist magazine described the 1968 BSA A65 Thunderbolt. Some may disagree but I think the A65T was probably BSA’s best twin ever.

The A65 twin was built from 1962 to ’72 in various versions, the high performance Lightning and Spitfire models and the ‘touring’ model Thunderbolt. I rode a ’67 Lightning for years and loved it, but I also rode a Triumph Trophy, which I tended to ride more often (much to my step fathers dismay…it was his bike).

The thing about the Trophy was that it was actually easier to ride than the Lightning. The Lightning was faster no doubt, but the Trophy had better low end power that came on earlier in the powerband, which for me, made it easier to ride fast on the canyon roads near home. The BSA Thunderbolt feels the same way.Picture 3

When comparing the BSA Thunderbolt to the Lightning, it’s ‘the same girl just wearing a different dress’. Same motor (pretty much), same chassis, same brakes but it’s the small details that made the difference, mainly the change to the single carburetor. The bike was tuned to cruise comfortably at 70+mph all day and when your testosterone level is up so is the Thunderbolt…topping ‘the ton’ was easy. With the slight changes to the motor, the Thunderbolt didn’t vibrate as badly as the other BSA twins, nice for touring.Picture 9
In 1968 BSA made some really good changes to the Thunderbolt. A new, longer kickstart lever took some effort out of the starting ritual but the big deal was switching from the Amal Monobloc carb to the Concentric carb. The Concentric was much less prone to flooding and combined with the longer kickstarter, the Thunderbolt became much easier to start…hot or cold.

Picture 11BSA made some really good improvements to the motorcycles but had one glaring problem…poor workmanship. And truthfully, at this period in time, this is what killed the British motorcycle industry. That aside, the Thunderbolt is a wonderful motorbike. It is smooth, comfortable, fast enough for fun, excellent handling (of course, it’s a BSA!) and absolutely beautiful. As Cycle Magazine said, “One of the best designed motorcycles we have had the pleasure of testing”.

I found a beautiful 1968 Thunderbolt on ebay this morning that with some new tyres (english spelling) is ready to go. The motorbike has just 1763 miles on the clock, it is a bike that has aged quite gracefully and honestly is one of the better values I have found lately.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. And as BSA once said, “Move up to a mans motorcycle, move up to BSA”

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1968 BSA Thunderbolt


1969 BSA 441 Victor

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Picture 11There is something about a single cylinder motorcycle that just brings the true essence of motorcycling out. It is a simple machine, especially if it is a kickstart only model. Singles are a motorcycle that you actually ‘feel’, they haven’t been built to sewing machine smoothness that separate you from its soul. A single doesn’t have a high RPM whine, it has a bark!

Pushing a button on the handlebar while you finish your latte’ doesn’t come close to finishing your basic black coffee in a heavy, white diner style mug then throwing a leg over your motorbike, swing the kickstart lever out, slowly rotate the lever until the piston comes up to TDC, then…one strong swift kick on the lever and the bike wakes up with a bark…and so do your neighbors.

British singles generally define what a single is. It is a bit cobby, it is powerful and it is a pain in the ass to start…until you learn the secret handshake. Over the years more races have won on British singles than any other motorcycle (that is a statement that I cannot verify, but I think is probably quite true). British singles ruled off-road racing up into the 1970′s when the Japanese and European two strokes took over. British singles ruled road racing as well from the beginning of the century until the 1960′s.

The BSA singles are actually a development of the original Edward Turner designed 150cc Triumph Terrier, which soon later became the 200cc Triumph Cub, a great selling, solid reliable little motorcycle. I imagine that more than one great British racer cut his teeth on a Cub. In 1958 BSA brought the C15 250cc then bumped it up to 343cc. The C15 Scrambler was the basis for the bike that Jeff Smith eventually won two 500cc World Championships on in 1964 and 1965 (at that time it been bumped up again to 441cc).

The BSA single did have its flaws as it grew but by 1969 BSA had sorted out most of them. Early problems with lower end bearings and the transmission/clutch and electronics (even though they were still Lucas..aka the ‘Price of Darkness) were somewhat solved. The ignition went to a battery and coil system, which was blasphemy to purists but much better for everyday riders, and the compression ratio was lowered to take the strain off the bearings and make the bike easier to start. again, all to make the bike a better bike for the general public.Picture 9

I have owned a BSA single (a C15), ridden quite a few Gold Stars (my absolute favorite) and my good friend Tad still rides his B50 (quasi) Cafe Racer on a regular basis. BSA singles, to me, are the epitome of the British motorcycle industry through the ‘Golden Age’.

I found a ‘diamond in the rough’ BSA single on ebay today that with a bit of love could be a true treasure. This 1969 B44 Victor has been sitting for decades and it shows. But…that is not necessarily a bad thing. The seat is way wrong and the gas tank seems to be from maybe a Triumph Trident? Wherever it came from, I think it’s wrong, but it may work if you get the right seat. The seller says it kicks through with good compression and most all the parts are there. This would be a great winter project that will provide huge riding rewards come spring time.

Singles are without a doubt the most fun motorcycles to ride. A single is light, narrow and they almost know where to go before you do. A single has a soul that was born before your great, great grand daddy. This one I found on ebay may not be perfect today, but it can be without too much investment of time or money. Just make sure you paint it properly (it’s pretty damn ugly right now).

Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

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Picture 51969 BSA 441 Victor


1968 Cheney Triumph 500

Picture 10Starting a racing career in the California deserts in the 1960′s was great! These were the days that on the starting line were legendary names…Bultaco, CZ, Maico, Husqvarna, Ossa, Penton, Sachs, DKW, Zundapp and probably a half dozen others that I can’t remember right now. But, also were the heavy weights…Triumph, BSA, Norton, even Harley Davidson (yes, the big motors, not the little Italian jobs, even though there were plenty of them as well) and believe it or not once in a while a BMW?! The Japanese were making serious inroads into off-road competition as well, I rode a Honda SL350 for two years in Enduro’s and desert races. And then to add even more fun to these event were the ‘sidehack’ racers. Talk about nutballs!?Picture 14

This was a period in time where innovation and experimentation ruled in motorcycling. Off-road racing had the Rickman brothers and Eric Cheney building better chassis’ than the OEM, Flat Track had Champion and Track Master, Road racing had their fair share of custom builders as well. This was a time to take a good motor and make it handle better. This may not be considered the ‘Golden Age’ of motorcycling to some, but to my generation, yeah, it was.

Picture 15I found a cool Cheney Racing framed Triumph on ebay today and it got me to thinking and remembering…and doing a bit of research. My step-dad’s best friend Stan Hughes had a really cool Cheney/BSA single that I thought was the hardest motorcycle in the world to start, I think I’m still right on that one (but I did learn the secret to easier starting…a few years later). I never got to ride the bike very far but I do remember how good it felt. Everything seemed to just fall into place (ergonomics) and the bike steered with almost no effort. And, on top of all that it was beautiful.

There is a good amount of Eric Cheney’s history on the web, he built the frame for British MX Champ John Banks’ BSA, he developed ISDT (International Six Day Trials) for Triumph from 1968-71 and many other racers. Most of his frames were built around the BSA Singles of the time but also built kits for the Triumph twins. A Cheney framed bike was a prized possession.

Picture 9Eric passed away a few years ago and his son took over the business. You can still get a Cheney frame built to your specs! How cool is that!

The bike I found on ebay is in very good condition, I don’t think it runs but the seller believes it’s an easy fix to get it going (weak spark…Lucas electrics?). If you want an interesting vintage off roader this is a good choice. And the Triumph 500 motor is a blast to ride!

Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.

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Picture 71968 Cheney Triumph 500


1969 BSA A65 Racer

Picture 32Picture 22In 1969 BSA commanded 80% of all the Brit bikes sold here in the USA. Eighty Percent! Who woulda thunk? I, and I think most of us, would have pegged Triumph as the leader but not so say the statistics. What was it about BSA that made it that strong a seller in a time when the Japanese manufacturers were dominating the market? Was it styling? No. Was it performance? No. Was it reliability? Certainly not. So what was it?

Let’s find a bit of perspective here. BSA may have had 80% of the British bike sales here in the states but ‘Made in England’ motorcycles constituted a very small percentage of the total bikes sold here. So small that within a decade, they were all gone from the US market.

From the late 1950’s through the mid 60’s, the British were competing with the very popular Harley Davidson Sportster in the performance category. The Sportster was Harley’s ‘sportbike’, it had a slight horsepower advantage, it had a new look (the peanut tank was quite stylish then), it had the Harley sound and, of course, it had the advantage of being made in the USA. BSA, Triumph and Norton all were better handling motorcycles but back then, straight line speed was king, not the ability to go around corners fast.Picture 26

Each of the big three from the UK tried styling mods to attract the American market, Triumph with the X75 Hurricane, Norton tried (and miserably failed) with their Hi-Rider chopper model and BSA tried with…well, nothing. Sure, BSA tried a few styling changes like a smaller slimmer tank, the oil in the frame design (which nobody was really happy about), and of course the ray-gun mufflers of the Rocket 3. Personally, I love the ray-gun mufflers but at the time they went over like a fart in church. Anyway, the Brits just faded away into the sunset. Today, Triumph is back in a big way and Norton is getting set to comeback this year with a new Commando and it is beautiful. I hope it succeeds.

Picture 19I started my street bike life aboard a BSA so the brand has a certain spot in my heart that will never go away. Yes, it stranded me more than once with faulty electric’s, and yes, it leaked more oil in a month than any Japanese bike I’ve ever owned did in a lifetime. It could be a bit (?) temperamental when it came to starting in the morning (or when it was hot and the bike didn’t feel like going anywhere), and it could vibrate the fillings out of my teeth if the carbs weren’t balanced properly, but…when everything was working as it was supposed to, what a joy it was to ride that Beezer. I was raised to ride the canyon roads, to believe in handling over horsepower, and the sound coming from a parallel twin was the sweetest sound in motorcycling.

At one point in time (actually a couple of times) the Japanese manufactures realized that there was something about the British bikes that still captivated the American buyer. Yamaha did great with the XS650, designed to compete with the Triumph, Kawasaki brought out the W650 to head to head with the BSA and Honda tried with the GB500 single. The only one that succeeded over the long run was the Yamaha. Today, the Triumph Bonneville is a huge success because it looks like a proper English motorbike without the oil puddle underneath it.Picture 30

Lately I have been thinning the herd of bikes in my barn and am starting to look for a new adventure…once I have finished the other four projects I have going, and am being drawn towards a BSA 650. I’m actually looking for one of the last designs more than the old chrome tank styles, mainly because I think they are probably going to be cheaper on the market(?). Today on ebay I found one that might just fit the bill.

On ebay today, there is a 1969 BSA A65 that has been set up for vintage roadracing. Remember, the A65 was BSA’s ‘roadracer for the street’. The A65 put out a very respectable 54HP and would top out at around 105MPH. This particular bike has been upgraded with Marzocchi forks, more modern rear shocks, and a Suzuki twin leading shoe front brake, which was a very good upgrade from the standard brake the BSA had at the time. The motor has been given some extra muscle by way of a 750cc kit But, here is the cool thing about this bike, it can easily be retrofitted with the electric’s to power a headlight, tail light and blinkers so you have a perfect cafe racer with almost no effort! The seller says that it does need some carb work but that’s no big deal. This could be a very sweet Sunday rider. Oh yeah, you may want to add some sort of small mufflers on, JC Whitney has a couple of styles that would look just fine and still let you have that sweet English parallel Twin sound.

Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info.

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Picture 181969 BSA A65 Racer


1956 BSA B33 500cc Single

Picture 6British singles, I love ‘em. I’m not talking about the ones on match.com.uk, well, some of those are quite attractive as well but I’m talking about motorcycles. I have owned one that was stolen out of my garage, I have ridden a few that I was loaned and I believe that the British Single cylinder racing motorcycle is truly the epitome ‘Golden Era’ of motorbike racing.

Picture 5As I look back on my years of riding and racing, most of the memories that are truly embedded in my brain are on big singles. Desert racing on a BSA 441, vintage roadracing on a BSA Gold Star and a Honda Ascot. I have a Yamaha SRX 600 in my shop waiting for its turn.

Single cylinder motorbikes have a look, sound and feel that can’t be matched by any other bike. You feel and hear everything. Singles handle like no other…light steering, low center of gravity, narrow enough for you to just tuck into, and because of all that, you and your motorbike become one. The engine vibrates enough to let that it’s alive, and the sound is pure music. I love singles.Picture 1

Today on ebay I found a really nice 1956 B33. It’s a 500 single bred out of the very successful B31 350. These are not the high-bred Gold Stars, these are the more pedestrian ride it to work, take the wife for a Sunday morning ride or even attach a sidecar to it kind of bike. The B33 was just a good solid reliable motorbike…Cycle Magazine called it, “the poor mans ‘Gold Star’”. Good handling, easy starting and smooth riding. When magazines tested the B33 it was good for about 90mph. Truth be told, I would feel very uneasy riding one of these at those speeds…I have been on a Gold Star at about that speed and had to check my underwear when I stopped.

Picture 2The bike I found today is a very nice example of a bike you could buy and go riding this weekend. This B33 has a bit over 43K miles on the clock but is a solid runner according to the seller. The bike looks its age and that’s just fine. This will be a wonderful bike to have and ride, classic style and sound. Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures. Owning a classic British single cylinder motorbike is something every true motorcyclist should do at least once.

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Picture 111956 BSA B33


1972 BSA B50 MX

Picture 6Getting thrown over the handlebars while trying to kick start your motorcycle is never fun. Kicking and kicking and kicking until all you can do is either fall down in exhaustion and frustration or hoping a willing (but no so smart) friend will take over the kicking. Welcome the world of big BSA single cylinder motorbikes. OK, I’m exaggerating a little, but not by much. The big BSA’s are tough to start, until you learn the trick and then one, maybe two kicks and you are off riding one the most fun big bore bikes ever made.

I have owned a couple of the BSA singles, a C15 and a 441 Victor. The C15 was a project bike that got stolen out of my garage and the 441 was sold after a short time because I was told I had too many motorcycles (wife at the time was unhappy that she couldn’t park her car in the garage?). I got the Victor in good shape and it took very little to get it into great riding shape…however, I couldn’t ride it until I learned to start it! After suffering a nearly broken ankle, a really sore foot, a throbbing knee and a lifetimes worth of frustration, I got my next door neighbor to help me bump start it.Picture 5

Running start,2nd gear, dump the clutch…nothing except a short skid mark on the street. Try again, this time in 3rd gear…same skid mark. Ok, one last time…running start, 4th gear, pop the clutch…BOOM!!! I was so shocked it started I almost stalled it! I rode up the street and back laughing all the time, I LOVED IT!! Out of common courtesy, and a sense of obligation, I let my neighbor, who pushed me up and down the street many times, take the bike for a ride…he stalled it a block and a half away. He leaned up against a tree and walked back. We were back to pushing the bike, this time a block and a half. It was time to learn how to start this beast.

My next day off, I made a trip over to my friendly Brit Bike mechanic with the bike in the back of the truck hoping to get a lesson on how to start the B50. When I arrived and told Jack my story he chuckled for a moment, climbed up into the truck bed, onto the bike and two kicks later had the B50 barking happily. “How in the hell did he do that?” A five minute lesson later and I could start the big single with no problem. But could I do it at home when the bike is cold? A couple of hours later I tried ‘the technique’ and the BSA fired up on the second kick!

Picture 7The next Sunday I had off I headed to Texas Canyon with my friend Tim, he on his CZ and me on the BSA. We rode through two tanks of gas each and I had so much fun on that Beezer. It has the torque of a locomotive, it actually handled well, and the sounds that big single made, well, set me off on a lifetime of loving big single cylinder motorcycles.

There is a lot of great history with the BSA B50 MX, it was the last of the big bore singles from England, it actually grew out of the C15 250, as a matter of fact, the chassis was the 250 chassis and they just stuffed the 500 in there…that’s why it is as light and nimble as it is for a big bike. Then there are the Cheney designs.

Eric Cheney, a successful racer in his own right, designed a chassis to work better than the BSA stocker for the British ISDT team, and the race winning B50 for John Banks and the BSA B50 that held the record for its class at the Isle of Mann TT. Interesting little tid bit here regarding Eric Cheney, he had no formal engineering education, he used to design frames in chalk on his workshop wall, ingenuity at it’s best. In 1973 production of the B50 ended, there were a few left overs that were rebadged as Triumphs and sold as 1974 models.Picture 8

Today I found a really nice B50MX that if you are interested in vintage motocross on a classic four stroke this a perfect motorcycle for you. This particular bike was stored for a long time, it looks great, was serviced just this last October. It is a good runner and if you want to learn the secret to starting this beast without getting tossed over the handlebars, there is a great video on YouTube…the bike is well worth learning how to start…it is a blast to ride. Whack open the throttle in any gear and the front end comes up and the rooster tail you’re throwing…I pity the guy behind you!

Click on the pics below for more info about this bike and more pictures.

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Picture 41972 BSA B50 MX


1947 Norton International

I have a very good friend who lives and breathes Norton motorcycles, well, he lives and breathes all kinds of motorcycles but Norton’s are his first love. He has taken a 1959 Norton to the Bonneville Salt Flats and set a land speed record, built a Bonneville Streamliner powered by a Norton motor and has roadraced Norton’s for the past three decades. In his work shop are the aforementioned Norton’s plus a couple more, one being a 350cc International (it happens to be in a variety of boxes at this time however). He does have plans to get it all back together someday but in reality, he has about a half-dozen other project bikes that are little higher on the list, so the International sits lonely and looking for some love. Sigh.

The Norton International has a great history. Built from 1931 to 1957, with a short break during a little thing called World War 2. When production resumed in 1947 they went back to the iron head motor instead of the pre war alloy ‘race’ model, but they did make a slight change to the suspension. The rear end was still using the older type ‘plunger’ suspenders but the front got Norton’s new hydraulic ‘Roadholder’ forks to replace the girder front end. The bike handled so much better.

The International had a great racing history throughout the 1930′s but by time the late 1940′s and early 1950′s the International was being out paced by the BSA Gold Star’s and Norton’s own Manx. Though the engine did get the pre-war upgrade back to the alloy head and barrel in the early 50′s, the biggest improvement was the ‘Featherbed’ frame in 1953. Sadly, this is one of those cases of too little, too late. The bigger faster twins were leading in every aspect of the motorcycling marketplace and the simple single cylinder motorbikes were becoming dinosaurs.

Being a lover of singles, I have a couple buried somewhere in the barn…actually one is on the lift being brought back from the dead at this time, I am always on the look out for parts and bikes. Today on ebay I found a very nice 1947 (the first year back in production after the war) Norton International 350 in good condition. Yeah it needs a little love, but what bike this old that hasn’t been totally restored doesn’t.

The great thing about vintage motorcycles is seeing their life in the oil mist on the frame, the shoddy electrics and then spending time making back to what it was and then riding it. The seller says that all it needs is a battery? You might want to put a bit more effort into it. The price is a little up there but you know what, if you would like to own a great piece of British motorcycling history this is a great bike to have.

Click on the pic’s below for more pictures and a little info.



1947 Norton International


1970 BSA 650 Thunderbolt Scrambler

First and foremost, any bike that Dick Mann has touched is worth its weight in..gold?, titanium?, chromoly? Doesn’t matter, its going to be a great bike.

In 1970 something, I had a father in law that loved Yamaha’s. In his garage sat an RD350, an R5, a DT1, and an XS650. He never rode the R5 or the XS650, but truly loved his RD350 and the DT1. The XS was too heavy and the R5 wasn’t the RD. Ah well, there is no training some people.

One day while working as a lot monkey at Bobby J’s Yamaha in Albuquerque, this guy rides in on a Yamaha TT500 that didn’t look like any TT500 I had seen. Tank was right, seat was right, side panels right, it was a TT motor but something was different. I called my father in law (never a pleasant experience) and asked him to swing by the shop, if he was coming into town, and take a look at this bike.

Jay showed up a couple of hours later, looked at the bike, talked to the shop service guy and then left. Didn’t say a word to me…OK, he never liked me anyway because of a ride we took a year or so earlier and I left him in a cloud of Kawasaki H2 two stroke exhaust. Actually, I was so far gone, he only got the slightest whiff of Castrol, but that is an entirely different story for another time.

The TT got its new tires and off it went. Nobody really noticed anything about the bike so I just forgot about it as well.

A month or two later, under great duress, I went over to the outlaws, I mean in-laws, for dinner and was shown the new treasure…a Dick Mann framed Yamaha TT500. It was beautiful. In a moment of lunacy, father in law Jay asked me if I would like to ride it. Let me think about this…I couldn’t grab my helmet fast enough.

The TT was set up dirt only. Fine by me, we lived right next to about five million acres of desert, mountains and riverbeds. I had ridden his old TT500 before and thought it was a street bike dressed up to be an almost dirt bike. Riding the DMS TT500 was a whole new experience. A full tank of gas later I showed up for dinner with a huge grin on my face and looking for a pen and paper to get Mr. Mann’s phone number.

So, what has this got to do with the BSA Scrambler on e-bay? Almost everything…I’ll go back to the opening line here…”Anything Dick Mann touches is worth it’s weight in gold”. There are very few motorcyclists left that so intimately know how any type of motorcycle be it flat tracker, road racer, moto-crosser, trials or everyday street bike, will ride, Dick Mann is one of those very few.

This BSA is beautiful. The 650 motor is perfect in so many ways and when set into a Dick Mann frame, you now have a motorcycle that will do whatever you want it to do, when you want it to do it and, how you want to it to do it. These motorcycles are truly a riders motorcycle.

This is a motorcycle that right now is a bike that is under valued and I wish I had the money to go get it. Click on the pic’s below for more info.




1970 BSA Dick Mann Thunderbolt Scrambler


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