Formerly defunct motorcycle manufacturer BSA returns with a re-creation of one of the most iconic bikes in its history
By Joy Burgess
Dec. 13, 2021
BSA motorcycles. That name and those three letters are truly legendary, though it’s true that the BSA name and brand have pretty much flown under the radar these last several decades, except, of course, to its most devoted fans.
All of which made the tweet from a newly formed Twitter account — @bsamotorcycles_ — on November 24, 2021 especially buzz-generating: “Return of a Legend. #BSAisBack. We’ve evolved, but our DNA remains unaltered.”
The DNA referred to traces all the way back to 1863 when the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) Company was created, although the bike division didn’t start until 1880. The company’s first engine-powered bicycle was released in 1905 and featured a small Minerva engine.
While continuing to produce motorcycles, BSA had 67 factories in place by World War II, and worked hard to meet the nation’s requirements for ammunitions and firearms. While it produced large quantities of Lee-Enfield riffles, Browning machine guns and Sten machine guns, motorcycles were also in demand. BSA supplied more than 126,000 M20 bikes to the armed forces from 1937 on, along with a variety of military bicycles. At that point, BSA was the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world.
BSA expanded post-war, and in 1951 purchased Triumph motorcycles. Success followed, for a time. But by the middle 1960s, the Japanese manufacturers — and a handful of European makers — began to seriously erode BSA’s market share, and things began a downhill slide that ended in bankruptcy in the early 1970s. Old-school manufacturing, even older technology and losing that vital connection with what new customers wanted (Honda’s “You Meet The Nicest People” campaign had it right) didn’t help.
For years, all was quiet after the brand went defunct. But then in October 2016, Mahindra & Mahindra — a tractor giant in India, who also purchased legendary Jawa — bought the BSA brand, paying $5.4 million. BSA lovers rejoiced, but then all went quiet…for years.
Until that November tweet, that is, which lead to an announcement that BSA’s new motorcycle would be showcased at Motorcycle Live 2021 in Birmingham, UK, on December 4. What the company unveiled was the 2022 Gold Star, an obvious throwback to the Gold Stars BSA was so known for in the past. Look at the new bike and you’ll feel like you’ve time-traveled back to the glory days of BSA, though the new 652cc, single-cylinder Gold Star features plenty of modern technology.
Mahindra engineers haven’t reinvented the wheel with this tribute to the original, though there’s plenty of emotion there. “For us,” said a company Director, “the new BSA Gold Star is not just a motorcycle, but an emotion, and we pursued the journey to bring BSA back with the utmost passion.”
“The next chapter in the brand’s history is going to be an exciting ride,” added Anand Mahindra, Chairman of the Mahindra Group.
To celebrate the return of BSA and the rich history of the one-time largest manufacturer in the world, the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame just debuted a brand-new BSA exhibit. The new exhibit features bikes you might not have seen before in the museum, as some have been in the museum archives. The exhibit includes a 1962 BSA A10 Super Rocket, 1956 BSA Catalina Scrambler, 1963 BSA Gold Star, and a 1969 BSA Starfire, along with some BSA artifacts you won’t want to miss. And the adjoining Vetter Hurricane exhibit features a 1970 BSA Rocket II, 1969 BSA/Vetter Rocket 3 (prototype), and a 1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane.