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Template:Infobox Company The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) is a British based airgun and shotgun manufacturer and former manufacturer of military and sporting firearms, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses and bodies, steel, iron castings, machine and small tools, coal cleaning and handling plants, sintered metals and hard chrome process.

At its peak, BSA was the largest motorcycle producer in the world. Loss of sales and poor investments in new products in the motorcycle division, which included Triumph Motorcycles, led to problems for the whole group.

HistoryEdit

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 1870s they manufactured the Otto Dicycle, in the 1880s the company began to manufacture bicycles and in 1905 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. In 1912, BSA would be one of two automakers pioneering the use of all-steel bodies, joining Hupmobile in the U.S.[1]

World War OneEdit

During World War I, the company returned to arms manufacture and greatly expanded its operations. BSA produced rifles, Lewis guns, shells, motorcycles and other vehicles for the war effort.

Inter-War yearsEdit

File:1935-BSA-Motorbikes-.jpg

In 1920, it bought some of the assets of the Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco), which had built many important aircraft during the war but had become bankrupt due to the falloff in orders once hostilities ceased. BSA did not go into aviation; the chief designer Geoffrey de Havilland of Airco founded the de Havilland company.

In 1921 they produced and successfully marketed their first side-valve V-twin of 770cc.[2]

As well as the Daimler car range, BSA re-entered the car market under their own name in 1921 with a V-twin engined light car followed by four-cylinder models up to 1926 when the name was temporarily dropped. In 1929 a new range of 3 and 4 wheel cars appeared and production of these continued until 1936.

In the 1930s 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.

In 1931 the Lanchester Motor Company was acquired and production of their cars transferred to Daimler's Coventry works.

World War TwoEdit

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, Sten sub machine guns and half a million Browning machine guns. Wartime demands included motorcycle production. 126,000 BSA M20 motorcycles were supplied 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 warEdit

Sir Bernard Docker was chairman of BSA until 1956 with James Leek CBE Managing Director from 1939 until his retirement on ill health grounds in 1956, after which Jack Sangster became Managing Director [3]

Post-war, BSA continued to expand the range of metal goods it produced. The BSA Group bought Triumph Motorcycles in 1951, making them the largest producer of motorcycles in the world. The cycle and motor cycle interests of Ariel, Sunbeam and New Hudson were also acquired. Most of these had belonged to Sangster.

In 1960 Daimler was sold off to Jaguar.

The BSA bicycle division, BSA Cycles Ltd., was sold to Raleigh in 1957. Bicycles bearing the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within India by TI Cycles of India.

The production of guns bearing the BSA name continued beyond the 1957 sale of the bicycle division, but 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.

Norton-Villiers-TriumphEdit

The Group continued to expand and acquire throughout the 1950s, but by 1965 competition from Japan (in the shape of companies like Honda, Yamaha and Suzuki) and Europe from Jawa / CZ, Bultaco and Husqvarna was eroding BSA's market share. The BSA (and Triumph range) were no longer aligned with the markets; mopeds were displacing scooter sales; superbike engine capacity had risen to 1000 cc, and the trials and scrambles areas were now the preserve of European two-strokes. Some poor marketing decisions and expensive projects contributed to substantial losses. For example, the development and production investment of the Ariel 3, an ultra stable 3 wheel moped, was not recouped by sales; the loss has been estimated at some 2 million pounds.

In 1968 BSA announced many changes to its product line of singles, twins and the new three cylinder machine named the "Rocket three" for the 1969 model year. It now concentrated on the more promising USA, and to a lesser extent, Canadian, markets. However, despite the adding of modern accessories, for example, turn signals and even differing versions of the A65 twins for home and export sale, the damage had been done and the end was near.

Reorganisation in 1971 concentrated motorcycle production at Meriden, Triumph's site, with production of components and engines at BSA's Small Heath. At the same time there were redundancies and the selling of assets. Barclays Bank arranged financial backing to the tune of 10 million.

Upgrades and service bulletins continued until 1972, but the less service intensive Japanese bikes had by then flooded the market on both sides of the Atlantic. The merger to Norton Villers was started in late 1972 and for a brief time a Norton 500 single was built with the B50 based unit-single engine but few if any were sold publicly. The BSA unit single B50's 500 cc enjoyed much improvement in the hands of the CCM motorcycle company allowing the basic BSA design to continue until the mid to late 1970s in a competitive form all over Europe.

By 1972, BSA was so moribund that, with bankruptcy imminent, its motorcycle businesses were merged (as part of a government-initiated rescue plan) with the Manganese Bronze company, Norton-Villiers, to become Norton-Villiers-Triumph with the intention of producing and marketing Norton and Triumph motorcycles at home and abroad. In exchange for its motorcycle businesses, Manganese Bronze received BSA Group's non-motorcycle-related divisions—namely, Carbodies. Although the BSA name was left out of the new company's name, a few products continued to be made carrying it until 1973. The final range was just four models: Gold Star 500, 650 Thunderbolt/Lightning and the 750 cc Rocket Three.

However, the plan involved the axing of some brands, large redundancies and consolidation of production at two sites. This scheme to rescue and combine Norton, BSA and Triumph failed in the face of worker resistance. Norton's and BSA's factories were eventually shut down, while Triumph staggered on to fail four years later.

Out of the ashes of receivership, the NVT Motorcycles Ltd company which owned the rights to the BSA marque, was bought-out by the management and renamed the BSA Company.

The BSA bicycle arm had been sold to Raleigh in 1956 and the BSA Winged-B logo was still seen for a while on up-market bicycles.

Limited revivalEdit

The BSA company produced military motorcycles (with Rotax engines) and motorcycles for developing countries (with Yamaha engines) under the BSA name. In the later case the old "Bushman" name was recalled to duty – it had been previously used on high ground clearance Bantams sold for the likes of Australian sheep farmers.

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, 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.

Products Edit

BicyclesEdit

According to Charles Spencer, BSA was manufacturing the "Delta" bicycle circa 1869. In 1880 the company was approached to manufacture the "Otto Dicycle". An initial contract was signed to produce 210 and a further contract followed for a further 200. In all it is believed that a total of 953 Otto machines were made. BSA then went into bicycle production on their own account, the first machines to their own specification being exhibited at the 1881 Stanley Show. BSA went on to design and manufacture a "safety" bicycle (patent:15,342 of 1884). BSA was also producing tricycles and a licence was obtained in 1885 to manufacture ball bearings. BSA ceased bicycle manufacture in 1887 because of the demand for arms. Bicycle component manufacture commenced in 1894 and BSA continued to supply the bicycle trade up to 1936. The company recommenced bicycle manufacture on their own account again in 1908 and these were exhibited at the Stanley Show in 1909.[4] Bicycle manufacture was what led BSA into motorcycles. BSA produced bicycles for both the police and military and notably a folding bicycle for the British Army during World War One [5] [1]and the more well known folding Paratroopers bicycle during World War Two. BSA supplied the Irish Army with bicycles after 1922.

BSA manufactured a range of bicycles from utility roadsters through to racing bicycles. The BSA range of Sports bicycles expanded in the 1930s and tandems were introduced into the BSA bicycle range as well. BSA had a reputation for quality and durability and their components were more expensive that either Chater-Lea or Brampton. BSA launched a high end club cyclists machine in the early 1930s initially branded as the "Super-eeze". Never slow to avail of publicity BSA sponsored the great Australian cyclist Hubert Oppermann [2]and re-branded the top of the range machine the "Oppermann" model [3][4]. A less expensive range of clubman lightweight machines was introduced from 1936 with the "Cyclo" 3 speed derailleur equipped "Clubman". Subtle changes were made to the range, most models being equipped with "Russ" patent forks [5]and some models were made for only two seasons. This all stopped around September 1939 with the outbreak of war. A revised catalogue with a much reduced range was issued in March 1940 which also saw the launch of the BSA "Streamlight" model [6]. A novel all white bicycle [7] was produced for the blackout but had disappeared from a severely reduced bicycle range the details of which were circulated to dealers from December 1941. BSA had ceased production of their 3 speed hub gear in 1939 and production appears to have started again by 1945 although with a black finish instead of chromium plating. BSA bought Sunbeam in 1943 and produced Sunbeam bicycles using up existing frames and parts and using BSA components for the missing bits. The first BSA produced Sunbeam catalogue was published in 1949 [6]

Post war BSA expanded their bicycle range but faced problems of shortages of raw materials such as steel and was required to export a lot of their manufactured output in order to get a Government licence to purchase the necessary raw materials. The company moved bicycle production to the new Waverley Works after World War Two. BSA continued to innovate introducing the 4 Star derailleur gear in 1949 [7] along with an associated 4 speed 'unit' or cassette hub. The derailleur design was altered from 1951 and was certainly available up to 1953 but was not a great success. BSA bought New Hudson in 1951 and started to manufacture and sell New Hudson branded machines as well as Sunbeam. It appears that the top of the range BSA lightweight club cyclist machine was the "Gold Column" and this appears to have been changed into the BSA "Tour of Britain" model following the success of the BSA Professional Cycling Team in the 1952 Tour of Britain race. The "Tour of Britain" model was heavily promoted in the BSA 1953 sales literature. The factory made "Tour of Britain" model was not the same as those ridden by the professional team. Only eight machines were crafted for the professional team and none of the components appear to have been standard BSA parts. 1953 saw BSA separate the bicycle and motorcycle business into different holdings.

The good times were coming to an end and demand for bicycles fell with the end of rationing in 1954. James Leek who had been managing director was suffering ill health and he retired in 1956, the same year that the BSA Chairman, Sir Bernard Docker, was removed from the BSA Board a move approved at the Company shareholders AGM. Jack Sangster who had joined the BSA Board following the purchase of his company Triumph in 1951 became Chairman. The bicycle manufacturing business BSA Bicycles Ltd was sold to Raleigh Industries in 1957.

MotorcyclesEdit

Template:Infobox Defunct Company

The first wholly BSA motorcycle, the 3 1/2 H.P. [8]was built in 1910 and displayed at the first Olympia Show, London in that year. The machines were available for the 1911 season and entire production sold out. BSA had previously acquired a commercially available engine in 1905 and fitted it to one of their bicycle frames and discovered at first hand the problems which needed to be overcome. BSA Cycles Ltd was set up as a subsidiary company in 1919 under Managing Director Charles Hyde to manufacture both bicycles and motorcycles [8]

BSA produced their only two stroke motorcycle design for the 1928 season, the 1.74 H.P. Model A28 with two speed gearbox. [9]It was produced as the A29 and A30 the following two years and became the A31 with a three speed gearbox in 1931, the last year of production. The post war 'Bantam' was a German DKW design which was part of war reparation and it was not a true BSA design.

BSA motorcycles were sold as affordable motorcycles with reasonable performance for the average user. BSA stressed the reliability of their machines, the availability of spares and dealer support. The motorcycles were a mixture of sidevalve and OHV engines offering different performance for different roles, e.g. hauling a sidecar. The bulk of use would be for commuting. BSA motorcycles were also popular with "fleet buyers" in Britain, who (for example) used the Bantams for telegram delivery for the Post Office or motorcycle/sidecar combinations for AA patrols Automobile Association (AA) breakdown help services. This mass market appeal meant they could claim "one in four is a BSA" on advertising.

Machines with better specifications were available for those who wanted more performance or for competition work.

Initially, after World War II, BSA motorcycles were not generally seen as racing machines, compared to the likes of Norton. In the immediate post war period few were entered in races such as the TT races, though this changed dramatically in the Junior Clubman event (smaller engine motorcycles racing over some 3 or 4 laps around one of the Isle of Man courses). In 1947 there were but a couple of BSA mounted riders, but by 1952 BSA were in the majority and in 1956 the makeup was 53 BSA, 1 Norton and 1 Velocette.

To improve US sales, in 1954, for example, BSA entered a team of riders in the 200 mile Daytona beach race with a mixture of single cylinder Gold Stars and twin cylinder Shooting Stars assembled by Roland Pike. The BSA team riders took first, second, third, fourth, and fifth places with two more riders finishing at 8th and 16th. This was the first case of a one brand sweep.[9]

The BSA factory experienced success in the sport of motocross with Jeff Smith riding a B40 to capture the 1964 and 1965 FIM 500 cc Motocross World Championships. It would be the last year the title would be won by a four-stroke machine until the mid-1990s. A BSA motocross machine was often colloquially known as a "Beezer."

Birmingham rocker Steve Gibbons released a song "BSA" on his 1980 album "Saints & Sinners" as a tribute to the Gold Star. He still plays this song with his band and often performs on the Isle of Man at the TT races.

BSA remains a well recognised brand throughout the world. In 2007 ownership of the European trademarks was transferred from Joe Seifert, the German owner of BSA Motorrad GmbH, back to BSA Company when BSA Regal sold their interest in Andover Norton, the Norton Commando parts manufacturer, to Seifert.

In November 2008 Tube Investments of India launched a range of electric scooters under the BSA banner, claiming the rights for motorised vehicles were included in BSA's 1957 sale of BSA Cycles. BSA immediately protested through the Indian courts and in July 2009 the final verdict was in favour of BSA Regal Group and TI of India was ordered not to use the brand name “BSA” for motorcycle in the future.

TI of India have indicated that an appeal will be filed but BSA's lawyer Mrs Bala Janaki announced at a press conference that BSA Regal Group will not tolerate any abuse of this famous and respected trademark. However with the world's economic power steadily shifting to Asia and the Far East it is thought to be highly probable that the trademark will eventually end up on motorcycles built in China or India.

Motorcycle modelsEdit

Pre World War IIEdit

File:Beeza BSA 1935 Blue Star 1.jpg
  • C10 sidevalve 250 cc 1938 on design by Val Page
  • G14 1000 cc V-twin
  • Blue Star
  • Empire Star
  • Silver Star
  • Gold Star
  • Sloper
  • M20 (500cc):as the WD (War Department) M20 the motorcycle of the British Army in WW2
  • M21 (600cc): the big brother of the M20, also used by the British Army in WW2

Post World War IIEdit

File:57 Goldflash 650 - Gold RHS 002.jpg
File:1969 BSA A50.jpg
  • Triples (four stroke, pushrod, three-cylinder engines) - The BSA Rocket 3/Triumph Trident were developed together. The Rocket 3 shares a majority of engine components and cycle parts with the Trident T150, but has forward-inclined cylinder barrels, BSA frame and cycle parts.
    • A75R Rocket3 750
    • A75RV Rocket3 750 - 5 speed
    • A75V Rocket3 750 - 5 speed
  • Singles (Four-stroke single cylinder)
    • C25 Barracuda
    • B25 Starfire - 250cc unit construction
    • B25FS Fleetstar
    • B25 SS Gold Star
    • BSA B31 single
    • B32 Gold Star
    • B33
    • B34 Gold Star
    • B40 350 Star - 350cc unit construction
    • B40 SS90
    • B44 Victor
    • B44
    • B50
      • B50SS Gold Star 500
      • B50T Victor Trials
      • B50MX Motocross
    • C10

The C11 used a C10 motor fitted with an overhead valve cylinder head. The C11 frame was almost unchanged until 1951 when BSA added plunger rear suspension. Early gearboxes were weak and unreliable. The C11G was available with a three ratio gearbox and rigid frame or a four ratio gearbox and a plunger frame. Both models had better front brakes than earlier models. This model was a common commuter motorcycle, and many survive today.

(1956 - 1958). 249 cc OHV

Used the C11G engine, fitted with an alternator and swinging fork (known as swinging arm) rear suspension.

    • C15 Star - 250cc unit construction
    • C15T Trials
    • C15S Scrambler
    • C15SS80 Sports Star 80
    • C15 Sportsman
  • D series (Two-stroke single cylinder. See BSA Bantam for details)
    • D1 Bantam - 125cc unit-construction
    • D3 Bantam Major
    • D5 Bantam Super
    • D7 Bantam Super
    • D10 Silver Bantam, Bantam Supreme, Bantam Sports, Bushman
    • D13
    • D14/4 Bantam Supreme, Bantam Sports, Bushman - 175cc
    • B175 Bantam Sports, Bushman
  • Others (may include some export versions of models listed above)
    • B31 Twin (350 cc). B31 frame fitted with a Triumph 3T motor to produce this BSA B31 Twin. Very few units were produced, probably prototypes.
    • BSA Barracuda
    • BSA Beagle
    • BSA Boxer - 1979 - c.1981 the sports version of the boxer-GT50, beaver, brigand (or 50cc) range
    • BSA GT50 (renamed from the boxer)
    • BSA beaver the standard road version
    • BSA Brigand - late 70s moto-cross style product by NVT with Yamaha 50 cc two stroke engine.
    • BSA Dandy 70
    • BSA Sunbeam (Scooters, also produced as Triumph TS1, TW2 Tigress)
      • 175B1
      • 250B2
    • 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)

CarsEdit

File:BSAScout-front.jpg
File:BSA 10 1185cc October 1933.JPG

Car timeline

  • 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.

Military vehiclesEdit

  • BSA Scout armoured car.
  • "Type G Apparatus", Folding paratrooper bicycle, 32½ lb (15 kg) with parachute.

Military FirearmsEdit

Civilian FirearmsEdit

  • The 1906 war office pattern rifle[10]
  • The Sportsman series of .22 Long Rifle bolt action rifles
  • Various Martini action target .22lr rifles[11]
  • The Ralock and Armatic semi automatic .22lr rifles[12]
  • Various bolt action hunting rifles mostly in .243 and .270 calibre

Air riflesEdit

Air pistolsEdit

TriviaEdit

File:Becaksiantar.jpg

In the Indonesian city of Pematangsiantar (North Sumatra), all the local "becaks" (public transportation bikes with sidecar) are equipped with 350cc BSA (mostly B31, B32 or B40); some are also 500cc models. This is unique worldwide, and even in Indonesia you can't find it somewhere else.[13] As there are no spareparts available, most of them are indiviually modified, maintained and repaired.[14]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. Template:Citation, p. 63.
  2. Millers's Classic Motorcycles Price Guide 1995 Volume II, p.21. Consultants Judith and Martin Miller, general Editor Valerie Lewis.
  3. Ryerson Barry (1980) The Giants of Small Heath - The History of BSA Sparkford, ISBN : 0-85429-255-1
  4. Millar Ray, (second edition 2009), An Encyclopaedia of Cycle Manufacturers - The Early Years up to 1918 , Veteran-Cycle Club, ISBN : 978-0-9560430-5-4
  5. Birmingham Small Arms, (1918), BSA History from the days of the Crimea , Birmingham, no ISBN
  6. Pinkerton John, Roberts Derek, Hadland Tony and Lawrence Scotford (2002) Sunbeam Cycles - The Story from the Catalogues 1887-1957 , Pinkerton Press, Birmingham, ISBN : 0-9536174-3-2
  7. Berto, Frank J, (2005) The Dancing Chain - History and Development of the Derailleur Bicycle Page 168, 2nd Edition, Van der Plas Publications/Cycle Publishing, ISBN : 1-892495-41-1
  8. Ryerson Barry (1980) The Giants of Small Heath - The History of BSA Sparkford, ISBN : 0-85429-255-1
  9. BSA: 50 years later
  10. The War Office Pattern Miniature Rifle
  11. BSA Small-bore Target Rifles and Equipment
  12. The BSA Ralock and Armatic semi-auto rifles
  13. Wikitravel: Pematangsiantar
  14. Photo from TrekEarth

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit


Template:British motorcycle manufacturers Template:British Leyland Template:British Car Industryde:Birmingham Small Arms Company fr:Birmingham Small Arms Company it:Birmingham Small Arms Company he:BSA nl:BSA (motorfiets) ja:バーミンガム・スモール・アームズ no:Birmingham Small Arms Company pl:Birmingham Small Arms Company simple:Birmingham Small Arms Company fi:Birmingham Small Arms sv:Birmingham Small Arms

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