From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Birmingham Small Arms
Company (BSA) was a British manufacturer of vehicles,
firearms, and military
equipment, and still exists as an airgun
sport manufacturer and distributor.
At its peak, BSA was the largest
motorcycle producer in the world. Loss of sales and poor investments
in new products in the motorcycle division, which included Triumph
Motorcycles, led to
problems for the whole group.
BSA was founded in 1861 in the Gun Quarter, Birmingham, England by fourteen gunsmiths
of the Birmingham
Small Arms Trade Association, who had together supplied arms to
the British government during the Crimean War. The company branched out
as the gun trade declined; in the 1870s they manufactured the
Otto Dicycle, in the 1880s the company began
to manufacture bicycles
and in 1903 the company's first experimental motorcycle was constructed. Their first
prototype automobile was produced in 1907 and the next year the
company sold 150 automobiles. By 1909 they were offering a number
of motorcycles for sale and in 1910 BSA purchased the British
Company for its automobile engines.
War I, the company returned to arms manufacture and greatly
expanded its operations. BSA produced rifles,
Lewis guns, shells,
motorcycles and other vehicles for the war effort.
1935 magazine advert for the BSA range
of motorcycles and 3-wheeler cars
In 1920, it bought some of the assets of the
Aircraft Manufacturing Company
(Airco), which had built many important aircraft during the
war but had become bankrupt
due to the falloff in orders once hostilities ceased. BSA did
not go into aviation; the chief designer Geoffrey de Havilland
of Airco founded the de
As well as the Daimler car range, BSA re-entered
the car market under their own name in 1921 with a V-twin engined
light car followed by four-cylinder models up to 1926 when the
name was temporarily dropped. In 1929 a new range of 3 and 4 wheel
cars appeared and production of these continued until 1936.
In the 1930s the board of directors authorised
expenditure on bringing their arms-making equipment back to use
- it had been stored at company expense since the end of the Great
War in the belief that BSA might again be called upon to perform
its patriotic duty.
In 1931 the Lanchester Motor Company
was acquired and production of their cars transferred to Daimler's
War II, BSA had 67 factories and was well positioned to meet
the demand for guns and ammunition. BSA
operations were also dispersed to other companies under licence.
During the war it produced over a million Lee-Enfield rifles, Sten sub machine guns and half a million Browning
machine guns. Wartime demands included motorcycle production.
BSA supplied 126,000 M20 motorcycles to the armed forces, from
1937 (and later until 1950) plus military bicycles including the
folding paratrooper bicycle. At the same time, the Daimler concern
was producing armoured cars.
Sir Bernard Docker headed BSA until 1951, after
which Jack Sangster became Managing Director. Post-war, BSA continued
to expand the range of metal goods it produced. The BSA Group
Motorcycles in 1951, making them the largest producer of motorcycles
in the world. The cycle and motor cycle interests of Ariel, Sunbeam and New Hudson were also acquired.
Most of these had belonged to Sangster.
In 1960 Daimler was sold off to Jaguar.
The BSA bicycle arm was sold off to Raleigh in 1957. Bicycles under
the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within
India by TI
Cycles of India.
The production of guns bearing the BSA name
continued beyond the 1957 sale of the bicycle division, but in
1986 BSA Guns was liquidated, the assets bought and renamed BSA
Guns (UK) Ltd. The company continues to make air rifles and
shotguns, and are still based in Small Heath in Birmingham.
The Group continued to expand and acquire throughout
the 1950s but by 1965 competition from Japan (in the shape of companies like Honda) and Germany
was eroding BSA's market share. The BSA (and Triumph range) were
no longer aligned with the markets; mopeds were displacing scooter
sales, superbikes were up at 1000cc and the trials and scrambles
areas were now the preserve of two-strokes. Some poor marketing
decisions and expensive projects contributed to substantial losses.
For example, the development and production investment of the
Ariel 3, an ultrastable 3 wheel scooter, was not recouped by sales;
the loss has been estimated at some 2 million pounds.
Reorganisation in 1971 concentrated motorcycle
production at Meriden, Triumph's site, with production of components
and engines at BSA's Small Heath. At the same time there were
redundancies and the selling of assets. Barclays Bank arranged financial backing
to the tune of 10 million.
By 1972, BSA was so moribund that with bankruptcy imminent,
and with government backing its motorcycle businesses were absorbed
into the Manganese
Bronze company, Norton-Villiers,
which became Norton-Villiers-Triumph
with the intention of producing and marketing Norton and Triumph
motorcycles. The shareholders of BSA confirmed the deal. Although
the BSA name was left out of the new company's name, a few products
continued to be made carrying it until 1973. The final range was
just four models: Gold Star 500, 650 Thunderbolt/Lightning and
the 750cc Rocket
However, the plan involved the axing of some
brands, large redundancies and consolidation of production at
two sites. This scheme to rescue and combine Norton, BSA and Triumph
failed in the face of worker resistance. Norton's and BSA's factories
were eventually shut down, while Triumph staggered on to fail
four years later.
Out of the ashes of receivership, the NVT Motorcycles
Ltd company which owned the rights to the BSA marque, was bought-out
by the management and renamed the BSA Company.
The BSA bicycle arm had been sold to Raleigh in 1956 and the BSA
Winged-B logo was still seen for a while on up-market bicycles.
The BSA company produced military motorcycles
(with Rotax engines) and
motorcycles for developing countries (with Yamaha engines) under
the BSA name. In the later case the old "Bushman" name
was recalled to duty - it had been previously used on high ground
clearance Bantams sold for the likes of Australian sheep farmers.
In 1991, the BSA (motorcycle) Company merged
with Andover Norton International Ltd., to form a new BSA Group,
largely producing spare parts for existing motorcycles. In December
1994, BSA Group was taken over by a newly formed BSA Regal Group.
The new company, based in Southampton,
has a large spares business and has produced a number of limited-edition,
Bicycle manufacture was what led BSA into motorcycles.
The subsidiary business BSA Bicycles Ltd was sold to Raleigh
Industries in 1956.
The first wholly BSA motorcycles were built
in 1910, before then engines had come from other manufacturers.
BSA Motorcycles Ltd was set up as a subsidiary in 1919.
BSA motorcycles were sold as affordable motorcycles
with reasonable performance for the average user. BSA stressed
the reliability of their machines, the availability of spares
and dealer support. The motorcycles were a mixture of sidevalve
and OHV engines offering different performance for different roles,
e.g. hauling a sidecar.
The bulk of use would be for commuting. BSA motorcycles were also
popular with "fleet buyers" in Britain, who (for example)
used the Bantams for telegram delivery for the Post Office or motorcycle/sidecar
combinations for AA patrols Automobile Association (AA)
breakdown help services. This mass market appeal meant they could
claim "one in four is a BSA" on advertising.
Machines with better specifications were available
for those who wanted more performance or for competition work.
Initially, after World War II, BSA motorcycles
were not generally seen as racing machines, compared to the likes
In the immediate post war period few were entered in races such
as the TT races, though this changed dramatically in the Junior
Clubman event (smaller engine motorcycles racing over some 3 or
4 laps around one of the Isle of Man courses). In 1947 there were
but a couple of BSA mounted riders, but by 1952 BSA were in the
majority and in 1956 the makeup was 53 BSA, 1 Norton and 1 Velocette.
To improve US sales, in 1954, for example,
BSA entered a team of riders in the 200 mile Daytona beach race with a mixture
of single cylinder Gold
Stars and twin cylinder Shooting Stars assembled
by Roland Pike. The BSA team riders amazingly took first, second,
third, fourth, and fifth places with two more riders finishing
at 8th and 16th. This was the first case of a one brand sweep.
The BSA factory experienced success in the
sport of motocross
Smith riding a B40 to capture the 1964
and 1965 FIM
500cc Motocross World Championships. It would be the last year
the title would be won by a four-stroke
machine until the mid-1990s.
World War II
- G14 1000cc V-twin
- Empire Star
- Blue Star
- Silver Star
- Gold Star
- as the WD M20 the motorcycle of the British Army in WW2
World War II
1957 BSA Golden Flash 650
- A series Twins
(four-stroke, parallel twin)
- A10 Golden Flash
- A10 Road Rocket
- A10 Super Rocket
- A10 Super Flash
- A10 Rocket Gold Star
- A50R Royal Star
- A50C Cyclone
- A50W Wasp
- A65 Star Twin
- A65L Lightning
- A65R Rocket
- A65T Thunderbolt
- A65H Hornet
- A65S Spitfire
- A65F Firebird Scrambler
- A70L Lightning 750
- Triples - the
Rocket 3/Triumph Trident were co-developed, and resultantly
the Rocket3 shares some engine components and cycle parts with
the Triumph Trident (see Triumph Motorcycles), but has
BSA "slanted" engine cases, and BSA frame and tinware.
- A75R Rocket3 750
- A75RV Rocket3 750 - 5 speed
- A75V Rocket3 750 - 5 speed
- B series (4 stroke single cylinder)
- B25 Fleet Star
- B25 Starfire
- B25 Barracuda
- B25 SS Gold Star
- B32 Gold Star
- B34 Gold Star
- B40 350 Star
- B40 SS90
- B44 Victor
- B44SS Shooting Star
- B44VS Victor Special
- B50SS Gold Star 500
- B50T Victor Trials
- B50MX Motocross
- C series (Four-stroke unit singles).
- C11/C11G: 12hp - 70mph - 85mpg - weight 250lbs.
The C11 used a C10 motor fitted with OHV top
end. The frame on the C11 was almost unchanged until 1951 when
BSA fitted a plunger rear end making only a little improvement
to the quality of the ride. Early gearboxes were weak and were
know to explode. The C11G was available as a 3 speed with rigid
frame or 4 speed with the plunger frame version. Both models had
better front brakes than earlier models. This model was a popular
all round commuter motorcycle, and many can still be seen around
(1956 - 1958). 249cc OHV
- C15 Star
- C15T Trials
- C15S Scrambler
- C15SS80 Sports Star 80
- C15 Sportsman
Others (may include some export versions of
models listed above)
- D series (Two-stroke single cylinder. See
- BSA Barracuda
- BSA Beagle
- BSA Brigand - late 70s moto-cross style product
by NVT with imported 50 cc 2 stroke engine.
- BSA Dandy 70
Sunbeam (Scooters, also produced
as Triumph TS1, TW2 Tigress)
- BSA Starfire
- BSA Rocket Scrambler
- BSA Rocket Gold Star
- BSA Fury
- BSA Hornet
- Winged Wheel (auxiliary power unit for bicycles)
- T65 Thunderbolt (essentially a Triumph TR6P
with BSA Badges)
- 1907 to 1914 various forms with capacities
ranging from 2.5 to 4.2 litre. The larger cars were based on
the 1907 Peking-Paris Itala.
- 1910 BSA purchased the Daimler Company who took over
- 1911 BSA car with Daimler engine.
- 1912 Car production transferred to Coventry, BSA cars became rebadged Daimlers.
- 1914 War stopped car production
- 1921 BSA car production resumed with rear-wheel-drive
air-cooled V-twin light car.
- 1929 First BSA three-wheeler
- 1931 TW-5 van version of the three-wheeler
- 1931 BSA acquired Lanchester.
- 1932 T-9 open four seat four-wheeler with
a water-cooled four cylinder 9 hp (6.7 kW) engine (1075 cc).
- 1932 V-9 Van version also produced.
- 1932 Another BSA Rear-wheel-drive fluid flywheel
10 hp (7.5 kW) car, sold alongside the T9.
- 1932 FW32 Four wheeled version of the 3-wheeler
produced for 1 year
- 1933 T-9 and V-9 production ceased
- 1933 Four-cylinder engine version of the
three and four-wheeled car was added to the range.
- 1935 First Scout Series 2/3
- 1936 to 1937 Scout Series 4
- 1936 Three wheeled cars dropped
- 1937 to 1938 Scout Series 5
- 1938 to 1939 Scout Series 6
- 1940 WWII stopped production of BSA cars
- 1960 Jaguar
Cars Ltd. acquired The Daimler Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries
from the BSA group.
- BSA Scout armoured car.
- "Type G Apparatus", Folding paratrooper
bicycle, 32½ lb (15 kg) with parachute.
 Air Pistols