BSA Motorcycle History

Despite being bombed heavily during WWII the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) company became the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles worldwide at one point in time. BSA was a strong influence on the classic look of old café racers with models like the Gold Star, Super Flash, and Road Rocket.

BSA produced a lot more than just motorcycles. Planes, taxis, guns, and much more. Of course, motorcycles were a huge part of the company’s activities, which by the 1950s accounted for more than 75,000 bikes sold.

BSA started operations in 1863, and it’s bikes division started in 1880. The engine powered bicycle was launched in 1905 with a small Minerva engine attached.

BSA’s strong reputation for reliable bikes meant success came quickly with the introduction of the S27 (also known as the sloper model). It was produced for 10 years and was available in a 350cc, 500cc and later a 595cc engine. Throughout its production little was changed to its original popular design.

During the Second World War BSA was hit badly by German forces and bomb attacks made production difficult. Nevertheless, BSA kept producing huge amounts of bikes and guns. After the Second World War, BSA was the largest manufacturer of motorcycles.

In 1937 Walter Handley raced a BSA empire star over 100mph (160 k/h) around a curved race track. This achievement earned him a gold star, later adopted by BSA as it’s next model was named Gold Star. The Gold Star became a very popular roadster and racing bike. It remained in production up until 1963.

The end of the 1950s saw the introduction of the A7 (500cc) and later the A10 (650cc). Many different types of A models were produced with exciting names like Super Flash or Road Rocket. The A models were very simple in look and nothing extravagant. However, their reliability, oil tightness, and price was a major reason for thier staying power. The A models became a trademark design of BSA. In 1962 they were replaced by the A50 (500cc) and the A65 (650cc).

BSA produced a 750cc Rocket Three Triple which was developed and produced during difficult financial times. Due to great losses at the company, BSA was bought by the Norton Villiers Triumph company.

The last bikes left the factory in 1973.