Birmingham Small Arms: 1937 BSA Scout Roadster

David FrankBy David Frank

Most folks know at least a little about BSA motorcycles, but did you know they built small open touring cars from 1907 until 1939? The front wheel drive Scout was introduced in 1935 and was very successful. This four-seat roadster is listed on eBay in Elgin, Illinois with an opening bid of $6,500. It looks like someone has started the restoration and a lot of parts are included, but this is no project for the faint of heart.

There’s not much inside, well, inside. Unless there’s a pile of parts somewhere, you’ll be starting from scratch. The auction does describe it as having a brown leather interior, but they don’t say where. The shift lever goes through the hole in the panel and is a push-pull mechanism like a motorcycle.

Here’s the engine and yes, that is the three-speed transmission in front of the engine. The engine is a 32 HP water-cooled 1,203-cc flathead four-cylinder with one little SU carburetor. The axles each have a universal joint and a flexible cloth joint. In 1937 shock absorbers and front wheel brakes were added. Earlier models had a differential brake for the front wheels.

The Scout front wheel drive Scout was not the first front wheel drive car but BSA is credited with having the first production front wheel drive automobile. As early as 1895 Gräf & Stift built a vehicle with an engine powering the front wheels. There’s a long way to go to restore this little roadster, but they’re unique and so rare it will be worth the effort. The parts will be difficult or impossible to find. Hopefully, there is a collector somewhere with deep pockets who has to have this for his collection.

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    The late past Chairman of the Veteran Car Club of South Africa had one and wore by it. Photo enclosed. (I hope)


    Rear end


    Sorry. Should read SWORE by it.

    • KeithK

      I have a feeling the new owner of the car listed will swear by it too. Swear at it, in it ,on it and all around it. That’s part of the fun of a classic.

  4. geomechs

    Always something new to learn. Here I thought that BSA was guns and motorcycles (and an Otto-cycle in the early aughts) and here it dabbled in four wheeled transportation too. Looks like a challenge but a lot of fun in the process.

  5. Paul

    basket case

  6. sluggo

    Okay, i too have learned something today. I own multiple British bikes including a bunch of BSA motorcycles. (Triumphs too) But first I knew they made cars.
    If the new buyer needs a BSA motorcycle to go with this car, then let me know. Got a 52 650 selling, several unit singles and several mid 60s unit twins (650cc) as well as a 1971 OIF BSA twin.


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