BSA Fury and Triumph Bandit: The Forgotten Twins — Classic British Motorcycles…

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BSA Fury 350

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1971 BSA Fury

Claimed 34hp @ 9,000rpm

Top speed: (est.)

Engine: 349cc DOHC 180-degree parallel 63mm x 56mm bore and 9.5:1 compression ratio

(dry): 345lb (157kg)

capacity/MPG: 2.5gal (9.5ltr)

In BSA-Triumph was poised to release an double overhead cam 350cc to take on Honda’s reigning the CB/CL 350. Unfortunately, slide into bankruptcy be stopped and the 350 never had a chance to a difference.

By the mid-1960s, a Honda-led invasion of high-tech twins electric start and dazzling had conquered the U.K. middleweight killing off England’s old-fashioned singles and wheezing 2-strokes. The 650s had been considered because the “Japanese only small bikes,” but that as well with the arrival of the “Black Bomber” in 1965. The industry was under siege.

its home sales quickly up, BSA-Triumph was forced to focus on the market where its big twins in increasing demand: the U.S. The of Triumph-based “desert sleds” in racing, together with BSA and success in the Grand National with Dick Mann, Romero and Gary Nixon, and at Daytona for Don Burnett, Buddy and Nixon all contributed to demand for the big bikes.

But while Brits ruled in the over-500cc class in the Honda dominated the increasingly middleweight market. By the mid-1960s, BSA and Triumph dealers were for a “hot” 350 to compete with the Honda CB350 street and CL350 scrambler.

BSA-Triumph had competitive, but could they up with a new middleweight machine to Honda in the U.S. and rebuild lost middleweight business at

Competing designs

In 1968, chief designer Bert and chief development engineer Hele were working on and 350cc 6-speed triples expected to form the basis of a new of middleweight machines. The 250cc was especially important in the U.K. the biggest bike a “learner” ride was a 250. You could get a license at 16 versus 17 for a car, so teens in Britain rode before they got cars and the they learned on frequently the brand they stuck

Turner’s new 350cc twin

Triumph boss Edward (retired but working as a consultant) had allowed to borrow company to help him with a new project. In he presented BSA-Triumph with a 350cc double overhead cam that he considered ready for Not surprisingly, Turner’s new twin something of a stir.

Throughout his as head of Triumph, Turner had considerable time in the U.S. as as six months each year and maintaining relationships with and dealers. He had been especially to Bill Johnson of Johnson (JoMo), the West Coast distributor, so Turner had perhaps insight than anyone in the group as to the needs of the U.S. or at least what the dealers they needed. Turner’s twin was the result.

In retirement, was something of a loose cannon. his new design was under-developed, he supposedly his old contacts in the U.S. that the new 350 soon be in production and available to

Turner’s new bike was powered by a dry-sump parallel-twin with a two-main-bearing crank (just his landmark Speed Twin of gear-driven double overhead a 5-speed transmission, and electric as an option. Contrary to usual practice, primary drive was on the and timing on the left for a left-foot and right-foot brake lever it also meant the kickstart sat on the left side.

The powertrain into a new single downtube suspended by slender front with exposed springs. was simple but distinctive, with a gas tank and exhausts that the shape of the famous BSA “Goldie” A single front disc was fitted ahead of its time for

Turner claimed the new bike produce 35 horsepower and weigh than 350 pounds.

Good, but enough?

In many ways, new 350 was typical Turner: cleverly innovative and ingenious, but also under-engineered for the job. Turner’s major design, the 500cc cam Square Four for Ariel, was inventive, using overhung that is, each crank was at its ends, with just two bearings inboard of the big end. worked fine at low power but crankshaft whip became a issue when the engine was hard.

The Square Four gained main bearings in the 1935 4G version, and this revised endured another 24 years. Turner opted for just two bearings to support the Bandit/Fury the benchmark Honda 350 used

As chief designer at BSA-Triumph, was understandably angry about maverick project taking over his own designs. He wrote BSA managing director Lionel in October 1968, telling him he have nothing to do with bike because he knew if he did and did the he considered necessary to turn it a production machine he would be of deliberately delaying the project he had “an axe to grind.” Hopwood instead that BSA’s new group at Umberslade Hall with it.

Turner had indeed BSA management that Hopwood delay production for one or two years if I my man.” So Hopwood’s concerns well founded. Though and Hopwood had worked well at Ariel in the 1930s, it’s to say by this time there was no lost between them. So was design any good?

The Bert version

This is where get a little murky. In “Turner’s Jeff Clew writes the Turner prototype was tested by Percy Tait, who rated it and managed 112mph on it at the Motor Research Association test

Hopwood was eventually persuaded to Turner’s new bike. In his engine report, he wrote that it to produce the promised horsepower, and in “road” miles on the dyno the broke two crankshafts and the valve failed. Excessive mechanical and high oil consumption were noted.

The report on 5,400 of street testing was similarly noting oil consumption as high as a every 50 miles, four engine rebuilds due to failure of components (including main collapse and broken crankshafts), excessive frame flexing was noted. The front forks labeled “fundamentally unsafe.”

At that’s how Hopwood presented the to BSA-Triumph management. It is arguable his objectivity may have been However, he agreed to bring the in-house, and with Hele on preparing the 350 for production with a redesign of the engine

In making the unit as compact as possible, had used a small diameter with little rotating fitted to a crankshaft that said was “hopelessly skimped.” components were crammed so inside the crankcase that oil to the sump was compromised, possibly the high oil consumption. Hopwood and had to design a new crankshaft (with throws) and crankcases, and replaced the cam geartrain with a chain still on the engine’s left

The revised drivetrain went a new double downtube frame with the group front and cycle parts. The disc was gone, replaced by BSA’s conical-hub drum. Like the 350, the Fury and Bandit prepared in street and scrambler the street version with a low-level exhaust and the street with two high pipes on the

Though Hopwood was in charge of the Hele would certainly done most of the engineering It was Hele who had steadily developed and the 500cc Triumph twins won Daytona and the AMA Grand National It was Hele who engineered the Bonneville that won the Isle Man production TT in at an average speed of 99.99mph.

And it was who developed the Daytona-winning BSA triples.

On the

There’s little doubt would have produced a and efficient motorcycle in time but was running out. Somewhat the Bandit/Fury was announced in late together with the rest of the BSA and Triumph models. One of those to test the new bike was Bob Greene of Sport Quarterly, who took the street-scrambler version for a lap of the Silverstone

“Thriving on RPM, the Fury down the front chute and the first turn,” Greene “It felt light, to turn into the bend, and was seemingly no end to its revs, which passed the 9,000 mark.” oil started pouring from the drive as a result of a stretched Back to the factory it went.

then took a Bandit out on the around Meriden, noting the (adjustable) footpegs were too to the seat for a tall rider, and the shift lever needed However, the “Ceriani-type” front and the 8-inch twin-leading-shoe drum brake worked well.

was evident that the Fury was revver than lugger,” concluded, “though when the was applied, it reacted smartly it its best work when ‘on the boil.’” Greene that the Fury “lacked the lugging power of its Japanese when the revs dipped It was near the rev limit that the shone. “Imagine a 5-speed 350 a 90mph fourth gear!” enthused, noting that was really more of an overdrive.

“Dual cams, dual dual exhausts, an engine of rakish appearance in an ultra-modern frankly I was amazed that a could get so much together in one at one time,” Greene concluded.

Vincent’s view

In assessing the details of the Fury/Bandit engine, U.K. correspondent, one Philip (yes, that Vincent) with the designer’s decision to use two main bearings: “From a point of view, the 180-degree seems to offer all the advantages of the horizontally-opposed twin in this the absence of a center main seemed to be an advantage.”

Vincent praised the choice of double cams, “ very of that used on fine cars like Jaguar,” as as the camshaft drive system, akin to modern sports car than the old-time spidery of small motorcycle engines.” supported the choice of a half-time in the camshaft drive to reduce and wear, and the ease with the chain could be serviced. he liked the cast-in iron liners that sealed to the head with waisted rings, eliminating a head

“To sum up,” Vincent “the new Bandit/Fury models are up to date in design conception and built, representing a new higher in these respects over the

Unfortunately, the Bandit and Fury prey to the problems facing By the end of 1970, numerous production made it clear the company miss the critical U.S. window in April-June 1971. didn’t stop them advertising the promised Bandit/Fury in the and April 1971 issues of with full page ads of both machines.

Unfortunately, the BSA was close to financial collapse: The and creditors were circling, the were restless and parts were spooked. Before the company was technically bankrupt.

the company effectively being run by creditor Barclay’s Bank mid-1971 on, major cuts in were inevitable. BSA’s range for 1972 showed four machines: the B50SS Star,” the 650cc Thunderbolt and and the 750cc Rocket 3. The Fury was

An owner’s view

It was a chance sighting of a BSA Fury that led U.K. resident Tony to a long-term obsession. It was parked a house where Tony saw new motorcycles. He suspects a motorcycle lived there.

He decided he must own one, if he had to build it himself.

“It my life over completely for two and I became known all over the for this obsession,” Page British Bike magazine in a interview. He started by accumulating he could find out about the and Fury, sorting through the speculation and opinion, rejecting the that he knew were and noting “things I know to be in a notebook. He also ran small ads in publications on both side of the requesting parts for and information the elusive twin.

Perhaps the useful find was a parts That enabled him to find common to the Bandit/Fury and other in the BSA range, such as the instruments, (though with different lengths) and wheels (from 1971 model range the swingarm (from the A65 Lightning/Thunderbolt, but upside-down) and the primary drive BSA’s unit-construction singles). even moved to the U.S. a car delivery job so he could travel

It’s believed 60 Bandits and were built, and Page’s eventually led him to 18 complete and running found across the U.S. and New Zealand, most of them

He was still determined to build his but he was hampered by an almost complete of spare parts. Usually, up for new model production involves parts for distributor inventory. The goes that a shipment of parts arrived in the U.S. but BSA out of cash the distributor couldn’t pay the duty and the containers were dumped in the ocean.

By this Page had acquired almost he needed to build one complete including two test bed engines with tester’s notes and a box of A machinist made the last Page needed a set of gearbox from the drawings he had acquired in his He was now able to assemble a complete Bandit.

Then a complete Fury turned up, which was able to buy. So now he had two.

The incident would have lesser men. The shop in the bikes were stored fire. Both bikes damaged, the Bandit more so. But network came up trumps with some of the more parts.

Page notes Les of Triumph parts supplier LP and Rob North himself as helping out at stage.

So how did Page come to acquire the BSA “It was owned by the father of Rothera, a friend and fellow and Rocket Three Owners member. I was searching for parts for my and Steve told me his dad had a new Fury! I to see it and took countless detail to assist my Bandit build. I if he ever wanted to sell it

few years later, he did. I saw it in about 1980, and bought it in Paid £3,500. That was a bit then. It was immaculate, with 30 on it.”

But is the final Fury/Bandit any “Maintenance-wise, no,” Page “The cam covers cannot be as the bolts foul the frame; the level dipstick cannot be as the carbs block it; the carb are virtually obscured by the frame. one Triumph I’ve seen has a starter motor. But it starts (on the kickstart) and is quite fast,” says.

“The handling is The BSA has very few miles on it (less 60), and most of them put on by me at Cadwell Park on demonstration I rode my Triumph (Bandit) on the and it was fine. Good brakes and a nippy bike to ride.”

But if the cam bolts can’t be removed, how Page check the valves? don’t,” he says. If the gearbox dipstick can’t be removed, how do you the gearbox level? “It can be you need to remove the carbs

We’ll never know if the BSA and Triumph Bandit would stood comparison with the and CL350, especially in reliability and

There’s little doubt Hele, one of the best development in the business, would have an efficient, competitive and cost-effective But BSA-Triumph’s final 350s all the signs of a good, sound let down by insufficient development. As has the epitaph of the British motorcycle the effort was too little, too late.


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