If BSA is in your DNA, then the new book, “BSA Motorcycles-the final evolution” by Brad Jones belongs on your bookshelf.
It is about one of the most storied Brit bike brands ever, but it is not the usual kind of book that focuses on the brand’s greatness and success. Rather, Jones focuses on the final years of BSA that saw it go from being the marque that captured the first three places at the 1971 Daytona 200 to extinction by the end of 1973.
Despite the fact that the book does not have a happy ending, Jones does a superb job telling a compelling story about the people, the machines, the company, and the events that shaped the final days of BSA. The book includes nearly 250 period images, engineering drawings, reproduction images of promotional posters and brochures and images of the key people at BSA who shaped events in those fateful years.
The story includes rare inside information about exactly how the company was structured and operated in those final years, right down to the management team and facility operations. That includes an even rarer and fascinating look inside the BSA product development unit located at Umberslade Hall.
It was there that everything from logo designs to engine and chassis components were conceived on the BSA drawing boards and prototypes fabricated. The center also housed the development staff that worked on BSA weapons (BSA stands for Birmingham Small Arms, after all), and tooling and fixtures designed for the Ucan subsidiary.
Jones explains that Umberslade Hall became the target of criticism — not entirely fairly — as a major contributor to the demise of BSA. With remarkable insight, however, he does reveal the role of interfactional rivalries and friction caused by the recruitment of a substantial number of engineering and design staff from outside the motorcycle industry from such aeronautics companies as Rolls-Royce Aero Engines and Vickers Armstrong.
It is in this chapter of the book that Jones relates extensive previously little-known history about the workings inside Umberslade provided by BSA Chief Stylist, Stephen Mettam.
While Jones does explain that some of the problems attributed to the design group were overblown, he goes on to reveal that some jaw-dropping failures did occur as the result of mismanagement, miscommunication and internal politics. For example, he tells of how the new oil-in-frame designed chassis got all the way to actual engine fitment only to find the T120 engine would not fit! The irony of this particular SNAFU is heightened by the fact that the oil-in-frame chassis was the first in BSA history designed with the use of a CAD (computer assisted design) system.
The bulk of the book from there on is devoted to detailed discussion of specific models in the early seventies product range including the off-beat P22 trike scooter, officially designated the Ariel 3 and the much-anticipated but still-born P30 350cc DOHC twin that was to have hit the road as the Triumph Bandit SS and BSA Fury.
Full chapters cover promotional and racing efforts as well as the reorganization of operations in North America in amazing detail and with more first-person material.
If you were a biker interested in racing during the years when Dick Mann, Mike Hailwood, Gene Romero, Don Castro, Tommy Rockwood, Gary Nixon, Dave Aldana, Jim Rice and Paul Smart were campaigning BSA machines, you will linger long over the images in the chapter on competition and you’ll read and re-read the narrative.
Like BSA and all good things—the book has to come to an end and its final chapter, “Into the Abyss” details the death throes of that once proud marque.
- Title: BSA Motorcycles-the final evolution
- Author: Brad Jones
- Published: 2014 hardcover, 144 pages.
- Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
- ISBN: 978-1-845846-47-3
- MSRP: U.S. $49.95 U.K. £30.00 CAN $54.95