Birmingham Small Arms Company
The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) was a British manufacturer of military equipment and vehicles.
BSA was founded in 1861 in the Gun Quarter, Birmingham, England by fourteen gunsmiths of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association, who had together supplied arms to the British government during the Crimean War. The company branched out as the gun trade declined; in the 1880s the company began to manufacture bicycles and in 1903 the company’s first experimental motorcycle was constructed. Their first prototype automobile was produced in 1907 and the next year the company sold 150 automobiles. By 1909 they were offering a number of motorcycles for sale and in 1910 BSA purchased the British Daimler Company for its automobile engines.
World War One
During World War I, the company returned to arms manufacture and greatly expanded its operations. BSA produced rifles and Lewis guns, but also shells, motorcycles and other vehicles for the struggle. In 1920, it bought the assets of a short-lived plane builder Airco.
In the 1930’s the board of directors authorised expenditure on bringing their arms-making equipment back to use – it had been stored at company expense since the end of the Great War in the belief that BSA might again be called upon to perform its patriotic duty.
World War Two
By World War II, BSA had 67 factories and was well positioned to meet the demand for guns and ammunition. BSA operations were also dispersed to other companies under licence. During the war it produced over a million Lee-Enfield rifles and half a million Browning machine guns. Wartime demands included motorcycle production. BSA supplied 126,000 M20 motorcycles to the armed forces, from 1937 (and later until 1950) plus military bicycles including the folding paratrooper bicycle. At the same time, the Daimler concern was producing armoured cars.
Post-war, BSA continued to expand the range of metal goods it produced. The BSA Group bought Triumph in 1951, making them the largest producer of motorcycles in the world.
The company made automobiles in 1907 to 1915, 1921 to 1926, 1932 to 1939, and 1960. The Daimler nameplate produced cars for BSA from 1910 to 1915 and 1915 to 1960. Lanchester Motor Company cars also became part of the BSA. There were cars bearing the BSA name itself from 1930 to 1939 . In 1960 Daimler was sold off to Jaguar.
The Group continued to expand and acquire throughout the 1950s but by 1965 competition from Japan (in the shape of companies like Honda) and Germany was eroding BSA’s market share. Some poor marketing decisions and expensive projects contributed to substantial losses. By 1972 BSA was so moribund that it was absorbed into Manganese Bronze in a rescue plan initiated by the Department of Industry and many of the acquisitions were separated or sold. The motorcycle business was hard hit – plans to rescue and combine Norton, BSA and Triumph failed in the face of worker resistance and Norton’s and BSA’s factories were shut down, while Triumph staggered on to fail four years later. Only the limited NVT Motorcycles survived. Enjoying the rights to the BSA marque, it was bought-out by the management and renamed the BSA Company.
The BSA cycle arm was sold off to Raleigh in 1957. Bicycles under the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within India by TI Cycles of India.
The production of guns bearing the BSA name continued. In 1986 BSA Guns was liquidated, the assets bought and renamed BSA Guns (UK) Ltd. The company continues to make air rifles and shotguns, and are still based in Small Heath in Birmingham.
In 1991, the BSA (motorcycle) Company merged with Andover Norton International Ltd., to form a new BSA Group, largely producing spare parts for existing motorcycles. In December 1994, Colquhoun and Jackson’s BSA Group was taken over by a newly formed BSA Regal Group.
The new company, based in Southampton, has a large spares business and has produced a number of limited-edition, retro-styled motorcycles.
Pre World War II
• Empire Star
• Blue Star
• Silver Star
• Gold Star
• M20 as the WD M20 the motorcycle of the British Army in WW2
Post World War II
• A series Twins (four-stroke, parallel twin)
• A7 Shooting Star
• A10 Golden Flash
• A10 Road Rocket
• A10 Super Rocket
• A10 Super Flash
• A10 Rocket Gold Star
• A50R Royal Star
• A50C Cyclone
• A50W Wasp
• A65 Star Twin
• A65L Lightning
• A65R Rocket
• A65T Thunderbolt
• A65H Hornet
• A65S Spitfire
• A65F Firebird Scrambler
• A70L Lightning 750
• Triples – share some engine components and cycle parts with the Triumph Trident (see Triumph Motorcycles)but have BSA “slanted” engine cases, and BSA frame and tinware.
• A75R Rocket3 750
• A75RV Rocket3 750 – 5 speed
• A75V Rocket3 750 – 5 speed
• B series (4 stroke single cylinder)
• B25 Fleet Star
• B25 Starfire
• B25 Barracuda
• B32 Gold Star
• B34 Gold Star
• B40 350 Star
• B40 SS90
• B44 Victor
• B44SS Shooting Star
• B44VS Victor Special
• B50SS Gold Star 500
• B50T Victor Trials
• B50MX Motocross
• C series (Four-stroke unit singles)
• C15 Star
• C15T Trials
• C15S Scrambler
• C15SS80 Sports Star 80
• C15 Sportsman
• D series (Two-stroke single cylinder. See BSA Bantam for details)
• Others (may include some export versions of models listed above)
• BSA Barracuda
• BSA Beagle
• BSA Dandy 70
• BSA Sunbeam (Scooters, also produced as Triumph TS1, TW2 Tigress)
• BSA Starfire
• BSA Rocket Scrambler
• BSA Rocket Gold Star
• BSA Fury
• BSA Hornet
• Winged Wheel (auxiliary power unit for bicycles)
• T65 Thunderbolt (essentially a Triumph TR6P with BSA Badges)
• 1907 to 1914 various forms with capacities ranging from 2.5 to 4.2 litre. The larger cars were based on the 1907 Peking-Paris Itala.
• 1910 BSA purchased the Daimler Company who took over car manufacture.
• 1911 BSA car with Daimler engine.
• 1912 Car production transferred to Coventry, BSA cars became rebadged Daimlers.
• 1914 War stopped car production
• 1921 BSA car production resumed with rear-wheel-drive air-cooled V-twin light car.
• 1929 First BSA three-wheeler
• 1931 TW-5 van version of the three-wheeler
• 1931 BSA acquired Lanchester.
• 1932 T-9 open four seat four-wheeler with a water-cooled four cylinder 9 hp (6.7 kW) engine (1075 cc).
• 1932 V-9 Van version also produced.
• 1932 Another BSA Rear-wheel-drive fluid flywheel 10 hp (7.5 kW) car, sold alongside the T9.
• 1932 FW32 Four wheeled version of the 3-wheeler produced for 1 year
• 1933 T-9 and V-9 production ceased
• 1933 Four-cylinder engine version of the three and four-wheeled car was added to the range.
• 1935 First Scout Series 2/3
• 1936 to 1937 Scout Series 4
• 1936 Three wheeled cars dropped
• 1937 to 1938 Scout Series 5
• 1938 to 1939 Scout Series 6
• 1940 WWII stopped production of BSA cars
• 1960 Jaguar Cars Ltd. acquired The Daimler Co. Ltd. and its subsidiaries from the BSA group.
• BSA Scout armoured car
• “Type G Apparatus”, Folding paratrooper bicycle, 32 1/2 lb (15 kg) with parachute.
• Besa Machine gun