Racy Beesa twins
During the immediate post Second World War years, one would have said that sporting parallel twins were the preserve of Triumph, while BSA were single cylinder exponents, which, although true to an extent, is slightly simplistic. Though overshadowed somewhat by the exploits of its own Gold Stars, BSA made a range of sporty two cylinder machines, which began with the 1949 Star Twin, a twin carburettor version of the original long-stroke 495cc. The twin-carb Star Twin only ran for two seasons, the standard A7 being replaced for 1951 with the revised 497cc engine version, the new Star Twin based on that too, and losing one of the carburettors as well. All Star Twins had a plunger frame, as did 1953’s Super Flash; the first of the ‘sporty’ 650cc BSA twins.
The first swinging arm frames for the performance models came in 1954; the 500cc was now the Shooting Star, the 650cc the Road Rocket. The half-litre version was to retain its moniker throughout, while the Road Rocket became the Super Rocket for 1958, the same year it was joined by the exportonly Rocket Scrambler; this was an unashamed competition twin, renamed the Spitfire for 1960.
Of course, the most famous pre-unit BSA twin (and perhaps, arguably, the most famous of all the BSA twins) was the Rocket Gold Star (RGS), a frankly weirdly timed concoction, coming when it did and offering what it was. In today’s parlance, it would almost be called a ‘run out’ model, as it was a much higher spec machine than had gone before, but the model it was based upon had been (or was about to be) discontinued. Thus, BSA’s marketing department had on its hands the most glamorous BSA twin of all time, but was, at the same time, being asked to favourably publicise an all new ‘cooking’ job, which could have done with some associated glamour all of its own.
Still, whatever the reasoning, BSA launched the RGS for 1962, immediately becoming a favourite, with it reckoned 1600 being built, while wags will no doubt point out, of those 1600 built, only about 2000 survive today… It was copied from the start, which is what makes the pair before us a bit different; they’re clearly not Rocket Goldie wannabees.
“When I was a teenager, I bought a standard A10 from Ken Covell’s dealership in Ely. I promptly café racerised it with alloy mudguards, swept back exhausts and Goldie silencers. But it never looked as good as this one. Basically this is the one I wanted in the 1960s,” reminisces Colin, as we stand looking at the pair of A10.
“My brother Kevin is six years younger than me and he well remembers my old A10 which was why he wanted one of his own.” And that explains why we have the twosome before us.
Colin sold his original A10 in the early 1970s, and followed the familiar path of marriages, kids, mortgages and family life. He’d had a motorbike since he was about 12; living near a disused airfield meant there was plenty of scope for practicing. But it wasn’t all plain sailing…
“I had a B31 [BSA] and thanks to that, I learned about advance and retard. First time I tried to start it, it literally threw me over the handlebars! I was not impressed with that and didn’t fancy having another go. My uncle Peter came round and showed me the advance and retard lever, and things improved considerably!”
Though there was familial influence – with grandad having had a motorbike (a Royal Enfield, reckons Colin), as well as uncles Peter and Les – Colin’s dad wasn’t a rider himself. But Colin most definitely was.
“We’d buy old bikes for five or six quid, old Beesas and Norton singles, I even had an A10 with knobbly tyres at one point, and a two-stroke DOT, to ride around the airfield.
“My first road bike was a 197cc Francis-Barnett, bought for me by my boss [Colin was an apprentice mechanic, though he left that trade and worked as a civil engineer] to get to college on. He was a good boss. I was riding the Barnett one day and the fuel pipe kept coming off. I couldn’t work it out. Eventually, I realised the frame was snapped at the headstock!”
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