1954 BSA Daytona Replica
Recalling a classic battle on the beach
The 1954 Daytona 200, run on the old beach course, proved to be a historic event, not only for winner Bobby Hill, but for the BSA motorcycle brand.
BSA had a reputation in the U.S. for producing utilitarian, rather than performance, machines. The British company knew it had to change that thinking to make major inroads into the American motorcycle market.
So BSA decided to mount an assault on Daytona in 1954 with eight factory machines and a slew of talented riders, including Hill, Dick Klamfoth, Al Gunter, Tommy McDermott and Ken Eggers.
Hill had won the AMA Grand National Championship in 1951 and ’52, but he’d never finished better than second at Daytona. Klamfoth, meanwhile, had won Daytona in 1949, ’51 and ’52 aboard Nortons, but had never claimed the Grand National title.
The 1954 race would prove to be a battle between those two premier riders, both aboard twin-cylinder BSA Shooting Stars.
At the start, 107 racers charged down the beach toward the banked sand of the north turn, two miles away. Harley’s Paul Goldsmith, the defending Daytona winner, took the lead, with Ed Kretz on a Triumph in second. But by the 11th lap on the 4.1-mile course, Hill took his No. 71 machine to the front, followed by Klamfoth.
On lap 22, two laps short of halfway in the 48-lap race, Hill made his sole pit stop for gas, giving Klamfoth the lead. Klamfoth pitted on lap 26, and managed to get back on the track slightly ahead of Hill.
Four laps later, Hill retook the lead and started to stretch it out. By the end, he took the checkered flag 29 seconds ahead of Klamfoth.
McDermott finished third, Gunter fourth and Eggers fifth, giving BSA not only its first win at Daytona, but also the first top-five sweep by a single brand in Daytona history—just the kind of recognition the company was looking for.
A half-century later, not one of the bikes ridden that day remains intact. But an exhibit called “BSA’s Greatest Daytona,” open in 2004 at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, featured machines that replicate the Daytona bikes as closely as possible. This Shooting Star, for instance, is built on the actual frame Gunter used.