In this country, when we think of a motorcycle company’s war effort we often think of G.I.s riding on the battlefields of WWII on Harley-Davidsons. The company had an immeasurable effect on the battlefields in Europe. In England, another motorcycle company had arguably an even more significant impact in military conflicts, but in a very different way. BSA didn’t start its life as a motorcycle company. The name stands for Birmingham Small Arms Company, and they produced (as the name suggests) firearms for the British military as well as sporting guns for civilians. There are many notable events in the firearm producing years of BSA, but the one bit of gunsmithing that really stands out to me is that they made the machine guns fitted on the Spitfire. Enough said. Wars start and end, and the company needed to supplement its finances during the years without conflict. For that they turned to bicycles. Their bicycles were built with the exacting principles of gunsmithing, as were the motorcycles that followed, until manufacturing issues slowly degraded the company’s reputation in the early 1970’s.
The BSA Thunderbolt was built from 1962 to 1972. In many ways it emulated the Triumph Bonneville as a British standard motorcycle. It was equipped with a 654cc parallel twin, with a single large carburetor feeding both cylinders that produced 46hp. It was capable of crossing over the 100mph mark, topping off at 104mph in tests. More notable however, the bike cruised comfortably at 70mph with little of the vibrations that plagued earlier BSAs. It was also something of an early parts-bin bike, borrowing a number of parts from other BSA models. The front single sided drum brake came off the Gold Star, and the camshaft was taken from the Lightning. The bike also had a pretty impressive range, fitted with a 4-gallon fuel tank that kept you from stopping for gas until about the 200-mile mark.
This 1967 BSA Thunderbolt is a beautifully restored example. It is a frame off restoration that, according to the seller, starts and shifts like new. The work was done at a credited but not specifically named British bike restorer in Phoenix. The seller can also provide over 200 photos of the restoration and all paperwork to go with it. The contrarian inside of me loves the idea of owning a British bike that isn’t a Triumph or a Norton, made by a company that might just be brought back from the dead.
Find this 1967 BSA Thunderbolt in Cottonwood Arizona for $7,900 here on Craigslist.