’71 BSA Firebird Scrambler
In 1971 I was riding a BSA Lightning 650 and thought I was the king of the world. It was faster than my friends bikes, it handled a whole lot better than anything they were riding and, up on Mulholland Drive late on a Saturday night, it was faster than a lot of cars. Those were the easy money days, but that’s another story for another time.
As was typical of most British bike riders of the time, I spent a fair amount of time at the dealer or the local independent motorcycle service shop. I had my choice of Bud Ekins Triumph, Triumph of Burbank or Jack Hately’s. Ekins’ was a Triumph shop (they carried Honda too but it was Triumph blood running through their veins) and not too fond of BSA…but always helpful anyway because we bought plenty of Triumph stuff from him. Burbank carried both and parts were generally in stock, having a good parts source was very important to a British motorcycle owner. And then there was Jack Hately, tuner and builder extraordinaire. When you wanted that last little bit of horsepower, that little tiny edge in handling or just wanted to talk about racing, Jack was the man. Over the years of owning English motorcycles a fair amount of my income was distributed between those three.
One day while waiting on the parts guy at Burbank Triumph I was wandering through the lot and sitting there all alone was a BSA Firebird Scrambler. It wasn’t what you would call the best looking BSA ever made but for some reason I liked it. The tank was a different shape, more squareish and sort of flat looking, the color was kind of wimpy and the frame was, well…grey? Still for some reason, the Scambler appealed to me. It had been moved from the showroom out to the lot because as the salesman put it, “it might be a BSA, but it’s not a BSA that anybody wants.” Then he tried to sell it to me!? “I’ll get you a sweet deal on the bike and a great trade in on your old one…it’ll cost you so little it’s like your wallet won’t even notice it!” This guy really worked on me, he even got my phone number from the parts department and called me that night with a really great deal. Here’s the scary thing, I almost did it. That BSA Scrambler was just weird enough to be cool.
That was nearly forty years ago and today while hunting through ebay here’s another ’71 Firebird. I haven’t seen one in years. This one is pretty nice actually, even if it is the wrong color and it’s four times as expensive as the one I could have had back then…This particular Firebird has been sitting for years but the owner got it running and a gave a bit of a test run to make sure everything worked. Because it’s been sleeping all these years, you would want to take some time and go through it yourself. And, paint the frame grey! It’s a nice stocker and it would be a lot of fun to ride. Click on the pics for more info and more pictures. Oh, and remember the old adage about older British motorcycles…’ride them for one hour, work on them for two’. They’re really not that bad…sometimes.