Project Bike: 1970 BSA 441 Victor Special

BSA – Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd – started life in 1860s Britain making firearms. By 1903 it had created a motorcycle division, producing its first bike in 1910. The company purchased Triumph Engineering in the 1950s and shortly, one in every four motorcycles sold around the world came from BSA. Racing successes bred even more sales, and of course, the desire for even more powerful motors. In the early 1960s, BSA’s Competition Department – prodded by its star racer Jeff Smith – decided to enlarge the B40 engine, taking it to 421 cc’s. While this configuration was a winner, Smith pushed harder, and the result was a 441 cc powerhouse that took BSA to victory in both the 1964 and 1965 500 cc World Motocross Championships. BSA capitalized on this success by producing the BSA Victor – the name a direct reference to its track prowess. Here on eBay is a 1970 BSA Victor Special project bike, bid to $1225, located in Bradford, Vermont.

The seller says this bike and its parts were taken in trade for welding work he performed. The motor number apparently does not match the frame but the seller has assembled a motor from the parts he received. He has not started it. He says the generator motor needs to be replaced and the oil pump is not completely installed. In its original form, the 441 is a four-stroke single, with two valves and about 30 hp, coupled with a four-speed gearbox. The result is a hard-starting but very torquey engine. This motor is a square-fin type. The odometer reads 4158 miles.

Motocross started in Europe in the 1950s and was just debuting in the US in the 1960s. By the 1970s, both BMX and motocross had legions of fans. The Victor is a roadgoing machine that retains the “racing motocross” look as well as a feather-light frame and race-purposed front forks.

Numerous parts go with the bike; freshly chromed pieces include the controls and the exhaust. The bike has new tires. No title is available, just a bill of sale. Restored Victors sell for considerably more than the current bid. Here is one with a final price of $15,400, but there are plenty of partially restored or shabby running examples that seem to cluster in the $5000 area. This bike would make a great winter project – doesn’t take up too much space, has loads of vintage appeal, and parts do seem readily available. Could you see bringing this one home to your garage?

Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    Oh, you really did it this time, Ms. Rand, how did you know? Cool Beezer, you know, had the guy across the alley not had a BSA, a Thunderbolt 650, single carb, Lightning was the dual carb,,,get it? 1st the Lightning, followed by the Thunderbolt,,so clever, them Brits,, I probably never would have had much exposure to a “Limey”, it’s not something one saw very often in “Harleytown”. Some guy down the block had a Royal-Enfield, but rarely rode. Since the French didn’t offer a bike, of any merit, the British bikes were welcomed with open arms next to H-Ds. Totally cool to ride with the Hogs and Sportys, but not in the lead, somewhere in the middle, maybe. Mattered not, big groups were not the British thing anyway, and a solitary ride down a back country lane, was much more like it.
    The author mentions its MX( motocross) roots with these, more like Hare Scrambles, a precursor to motocross, except, on far rougher terrain. For many of the “obstacles”, low end grunt of a 4 cycle single, was the hot setup. Once race tracks became more organized, the high winding 2 cycle took over, leaving these in the dust. Fantastic find, where is it now? VERMONT,,,oh for cry,,why are these things never down the block? And don’t suggest that shipping nightmare, either.
    And another thing of note, it’s interesting to see the ups and downs of certain “hot buttons”. In the last, say, 40 years, these went from, only the cool people rode them, then, nobody wanted them, to off the scale, for a spell, every British bike was $10grand,,then fizzling of late. 13 alleged bidders, so clearly there’s interest, but dwindling, as fewer and fewer are willing to take this on. If it was a “kick and go”, different story, but it wouldn’t be $1300 bucks either.
    I’ve always had a hankerin’ for a Rocket 3, what I consider the crowning achievement in British motorcycle engineering. Never actually rode one, buddy did some custom paint on one, it was incredibly smooth, for a Limey, and pulled the front wheel easily. Should have bought one on that 2nd part of the scenario above, when nobody wanted one.
    Great write-up, and hope Geo chimes in with his British bike escapades. You can’t help but have them with a Limey,,by the way, it’s okay, “Limey” is kind of semi-derogatory, kind of like “Yank” to the Brits for us.

    Like 11
    • geomechs geomechs Member

      This was kind of an odd-ball machine. It was light enough to qualify for a smaller bike yet it had an engine that bordered on the larger bike. I could never figure out why they didn’t simply make it a little larger and call it the Goldstar II. I had a ’59 BSA 500 Sportsman (pic I posted is borrowed), a 500 cc cast iron thumper. Of course it weighed 450 lbs which required everyone of its 29 horses to move it.

      A couple of local guys had Victors and they tried to compete in motocross events but the Bultacos, CZs and Huskies (oh yes, can’t forget the guys on the Maicos and Greeves) fairly blew them off the track. I might add that the Rising Sun was coming up and it was starting to kick some butt.

      Some said that the Victor was more of a desert racer but again it was an odd-size, and not nearly as powerful as the BSA Wasp, which could really move.

      Like 5
  2. Harvey Member

    Never heard of a generator motor, think I could be a generator rotor. Not hard starting for a person who knows how to kick start a single.

    Like 3
    • Michelle Rand Staff

      Or just a “generator”.

      Like 1
  3. luke arnott Member

    BSA made guns,bikes & cars,before going under.The company has been reformed and is Indian owned.

    Like 2
    • Robert White

      Birmingham Small Arms Manufacturing Company.

      Bob

      Like 2
    • Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

      As with Royal Enfield (guns)-they are still making/selling bikes to this day in India after the original died an agonizing death in England;
      Simson was a German gun company also in the bike business before WW2 I’m told but wound up as a Soviet mess afterwards.
      Benelli also started with guns but the bike manufacturing is a Communist Chinese product now.
      FN (Fabrique Nationale), CZ, Husqvarna are a few others also that started as gunmakers.
      I’m sure I missed a few-anyone?

      Like 2
    • Garry

      BSA also made stationary motors. (I suppose that some were used to power generators)

      Like 1
      • geomechs geomechs Member

        Stationary engines? I wasn’t aware of that. Of course I was rather surprised to find out that the “John A Prestwich” company (AKA J.A.P.), producer of high performance engines, had a full line of stationary power units. Obviously diversification helps pay the bills…

        Like 1
      • Garry

        I have an old BSA stationary engine in pieces somewhere in my shed

        Like 1
  4. The Shark

    Had a few Victors back in the day. The Lucas charging system was always a challenge. They were more stable when fitted with a magneto. As for starting… I have been witness to a few lite weight riders get launched over the handlebars…LOL There was a fine line setting the timing for the most power and too advanced to backfire when being kicked over. Another bike I should never have gotten rid of…

    Like 3
  5. Michael Ponsano

    I had the next version a 500 B50 Victor. Yeah it launched me over the handlebars. Then I found that you don’t crack the throttle when kicking it over. No problem after that and another bike I wish I was able to keep!

    Like 3
    • Solosolo UK Solosolo Member

      I had a 1953 Royal Enfield Bullet 500cc single and the trick to stop yourself launching over the handlebars was to fully retard the ignition, crack the throttle a tiny bit, and give it a swift kick. Simples.

      Like 4
  6. BlondeUXB Member

    Ha. I owned a ‘68 from nearly new. Never worried about anyone stealing it.
    It had a compression release for sissy beginners. The oil tank cap is what your knee had to worry about.
    Would-be thieves walked with a limp…

    Like 6
    • Derek

      A limp what? I remember being at a pal’s flat and hearing someone trying to start my BSA (which had a lock on it) which I’d left on full advance. It kicked back and they limped off, and I saw this from the window.

      Like 4
  7. Big John

    Had a ’71 Gold Star 500. Kept stripping starter gears until I discovered the compression release. Great bike and I am not sissy.

    Like 6
  8. Robert White

    I restored my 1970 Thunderbolt 650 and changed the ignition to electronic ignition which is a must have on these bikes given points are terrible.

    I got $2700.00 CDN when I sold it.

    Nice bikes but too small for moi.

    Bob

    Like 1
  9. chrlsful

    “Thumper”? “Bumper”? too ol 2 remember our name for this (huge 1 cyl).

    Most (a us) well beyond it, as, by this time – innovation (the Continent, Brits, Japan) well beyond it.

    Only of interest for history (also ran), not ridin, Michelle.
    Keep documentin, tho. Of import and FYI.

  10. Ford fixer Member

    Bought a 69 Victor new, lots of fun. Put a larger sprocket on it to run washes, but the lighter bikes seemed to do better. I always likened it to a Chevy six, lots of torque, reliable. Kinda thumping through the sand. Sold it and got married. Wonder if I made the right choice.

    Like 1
  11. Frederick G Meyer

    I had that same bike – big disappointment. Bought it for $500 – sold it for $300 and glad to be done with it. Junk.

  12. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    SOLD for $1,625.

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