Retrospective: BSA A7 Shooting Star 500cc: 1954-1962 Rider Magazine

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Retrospective: BSA A7 Shooting Star 1954-1962

Photo Credit: Salvadori

Clement Salvadori

8, 2013

That Daytona 200 was a back in ’54, on a cold beach. The 4.1-mile oval had one on the asphalt, then two 180-degree and the second straight on the sand.

Off the line, two Harley K-models, side-valve motors, led the way. were the old days when 750 raced against 500 overheads. five laps, a Triumph 500 took over.

But by lap 20, a BSA Shooting ridden by Bobby Hill was the pack. In the 40th lap, Stars had first, second, and fifth places, with a BSA Star single in the middle. And was how the race ended eight later, with BSA looking to a golden year of sales.

be known, there was nothing exceptional about the A7 Shooting

1954 BSA A7 Shooting Star

It was just a strong, reliable that could withstand 200 of abuse. Only 44 riders the race, with 107 having Both riders and motorcycles had to a lot of stamina.

In the interest of transparency, it should be that Hill was using a Star engine in a rigid the bike weighing some 50 less than the swingarm this was available through order, mostly by racers, up late 1953.

BSA’s A7, a twin, first appeared on the back in 1946. After the of Triumph’s vertical twin in 1938, BSA immediately began its own version, but it had to appear sufficiently from the Triumph design, nobody wanted to be accused of a copycat.

World War II interrupted but in 1946 BSA presented its new vertical with a narrow bore of a long … of 82mm, a single gear-driven camshaft set the cylinders—Triumph had two cams, fore and aft of the The fork was telescopic, but the frame was The factory claimed 26 horsepower at rpm.

1954 BSA A7 Shooting Star

Power output was limited by the combustion chambers and the low quality of gasoline. A sporty version the Star Twin was introduced in with twin carbs, a compression ratio and five horsepower. And a plungerstyle sprung

Also arriving on the BSA scene at time was designer/engineer Bert who was asked to come up with a version of the twin to compete Triumph’s impending new 650 Thunderbird. And for could he please make as pieces compatible between the 500 and

The first thing Hopwood did on the A7 500 was to the cylinder configuration, expanding the to 66mm and reducing the … to thus creating a larger and efficient combustion chamber… and the to rev a little faster. As a practical buyers liked the A7 better the new 650 A10, as it ran more smoothly…but weren’t practical, and were happy to spend a few dollars and get the 650.

1954 BSA A7 Shooting Star

In 1952, the West Coast BSA Hap Alzina decided to have a go for the C (essentially stock) 500cc record, and after a little massaging clocked a two-way of 123.69 mph at Bonneville. People notice. In ’53, a new alloy head was developed using a single Amal Monobloc which was bolted onto the Twin.

Note the nice “spill” tray under the the starting drill recommended the tickler on the float bowl gas came out, this was the way to any excess drip onto the which sat behind the cylinders. The was in front.

A major change for the ’54 and A7s was a new swingarm frame that had developed, with the engine sitting in the traditionally British frame with double and the wheelbase extended just one to 56 inches. There was the inevitable in weight—the swingarm arrangement over 30 pounds to the plunger

1954 BSA A7 Shooting Star

BSA 500 SS Gold Star
BSA 500 SS Gold Star

The standard, or “popularly priced,” A7 was now the Flash, while the sporting was no longer the Star Twin but the Shooting Star, or SS for short. had a slightly “hotter” camshaft the basic Flash, and a slightly compression ratio; the SS was now rated at 32 at 6,250 rpm. The English testers found the Flash and SS to be to the bigger 650s, as the engine ran smoothly.

Americans, on the other were convinced that was no substitute for cubic inches.

The that few English motorcyclists in the could also afford an resulted in major differences the British and American approaches to Brits saw their motorcycles as transportation first, high-speed second.

Practical meant like valanced fenders to the water off on rainy days. And little cover, called a over the headlight conveniently the speedo, ammeter and headlight

But Yanks were not practical as most of them owned as well. When they saw of Hill’s machine, stripped for they liked the idea of fenders and detachable headlights. And it was … to have a tachometer the speedometer.

This stripped was becoming the key to successful styling for the market.

1954 BSA A7 Shooting 500cc

Gradually, grudgingly, the in Birmingham acceded to the Americans’ sportifying the 650 Super Rocket and 500 Gold Star, but neglecting the Star, going only so far as to the fenders. That headlight was going to stay. Triumph to remove the headlamp shell its own TR5 in ’58, increasing its sales-worthiness.

One astounding example of BSA’s look was the company’s efforts to the 600cc Commander into the market in 1957. This old lady, called a “utility” was intended to pull a sidecar and had a engine in a rigid frame had been around since the war. What were thinking?

But major changes were in the in the Brit-bike world. Four-… were going to unit with gearbox bolted to the Triumph was first with its 350 in 1957, and BSA followed with its 250 in 1959. Then, in January of BSA announced the arrival of new unit 500 and 650

But in the American market, sales of the beat out the 500s some 10 to

(This Retrospective article was in the July 2013 issue of magazine.)

BSA 500 SS Gold Star

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