Chicagoland MG Club: Driveline August 2016

books The Library Muse

Today let’s chat about a company that you may associate with motorcycles but not automobiles, Birmingham Small Arms, commonly referred to as BSA. It all started way back in 1689 when King William III complained about having to get military weapons from Holland. He placed orders with five Birmingham gunsmiths, contracting for 200 muskets a month. During the Crimean War the master gunsmiths joined together to form the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association, later morphing into a public company.

Around 1880 BSA started making bicycles but stopped in1887 to concentrate on making Lee-Metford rifles for the military at the rate of 1,200 per week. 1908 saw the return to the bike business and two years later they started to produce motorcycles. That year BSA also sold 150 autos having purchased Daimler. In 1957 the bicycle business was sold to Raleigh and Daimler was taken by Jaguar in 1960.

WWI saw the company switch over to the manufacture on rifles, Lewis guns, ordinance and de Havilland bombers as well as vehicles for the government. After the war, car production resumed with BSA, Daimler and Lanchester. By WWII BSA was the UK’s only producer of rifles. They also made Browning machine guns, stun guns, armored cars and various war materials.

At one time BSA was the largest producer of motorcycles in the world. In the 50s and 60s poor management and failure to develop new products led to a dramatic decline in sales and they were surpassed over by the Japanese. In 1973 the company was taken over by Manganese Bronze Holdings, owners of Norton. Manganese continues to operate former BSA subsidiary Carbodies, now known as LTI, the current manufacturer of the iconic London Taxi. ‘Bronze’ is owned by Geely, a Chinese company.

Sunday Driver
Brock Yates, 1972, 251 pages, soft bound

No, not the road hog that does 5 MPH below the limit in the left hand lane or waits 10 seconds to proceed after the light goes green. This is Brock Yates tale of his quest to transition from an auto journalist to a Trans-Am driver in the 1970s. Follow him from racing school thru his semi-professional ride against drivers such as Dan Gurney and George Follmer. Join him behind the wheel at long gone tracks like Riverside and Bridgehampton. Also has a chapter on the famous Cannonball Baker Run.
-- ~~ Bill Mennell

Motor Works
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