At its peak, Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (BSA) was the largest motorcycle producer in the world. The major British industrial combine was a group of businesses that manufactured military and sporting firearms, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, iron castings, power machine tools, and more into the mid-twentieth century. Triumph bikes were included in the company, but BSA Motorcycles Ltd manufactured their own line of branded British motorcycles.
Unfortunately, by 1973 the company had essentially become bankrupt and soon went defunct – a shame, as BSA motorcycles are remembered fondly as prime 2-wheeled British manufacturing. 50 years later, it isn’t likely you’ll see too many out of the street. But every so often a collector might turn up to a motorcycle show with a piece of history waiting to show it off.
The MPN team was lucky enough to take a closer look at a customized BSA V-twin at Fuel Cleveland this summer, thanks to a walk around tour from owner and builder Brandon Cooper. Cooper has been building bikes since he was 16, now residing in Michigan, him and his son pump out two to three bikes a year in their garage King Bee Customs then take them down to Daytona to show them off.
The shop does everything from Harley-Davidsons to Triumphs to Nortons, and obviously a few BSAs in between.
“People didn’t like these bikes when they first came out,” Cooper said. “They didn’t have the look or the sound of other British bikes of the time so they’re kind of forlorn, I’m just trying to take one and make it cool.”
The bike is built around a 1968 V-twin base, which has been almost completely rebuilt. It’s been modified from a single-carburetor head to a twin-carb mono block, which wasn’t available in factory form. It adds more horsepower in addition to the large race valves, cylinder heads, and pistons that have been added on.
Cooper says that he’s seen the 650cc engine modified as high as 1,000cc. Apparently this generation of BSAs are still a popular race platform in Australia, where builders are making titanium valves and bronze guides for the platform.
The motorcycle also features a ton of cosmetic touches that make it look clean-cut and distinguished. It features a Bob Newby belt-drive system which is common for the era, and since it doesn’t require oiling, Cooper decided to make it cutaway. What stands out is the gold BSA logo that Cooper’s son had the idea of mounting directly in front of the belt drive with custom brackets.
“The frame comes from an earlier non-unit construction BSA model that was heavily modified to get its current shape. I angled back the bars and rebuilt it into a hardtail because it came off of a springer with a flat seat like normal British bikes do. I purposely raised the bottom rear bars so that I could hide the suspension, so from a distance it looks like it’s a floating rear end.”
Another standout feature are the beautiful amber colored epoxy handgrips on the end of the rabbit ear handlebars. On the tips, Cooper had Indian head nickels set into them as a final touch.
If you have a motorcycle, ATV, UTV, snowmobile or jet ski you’d like to feature in MPN’s Ride of the Week series, please email MPN Content Director Greg Jones at [email protected].