A rumor dating as far back as May 2016 came to fruition yesterday when India’s largest automobile manufacturer confirmed it had acquired UK-based two-wheeler manufacturer BSA Company. The information was revealed by Mahindra and Mahindra through corporate filings submitted on October 24th, 2016.
As motorcycle enthusiasts with a good memory may know, acquiring a company in one country doesn’t necessarily mean worldwide marketing rights. This was seen over the past few decades with the Indian Motorcycles brand as well as Norton, both had marketing rights scattered around the world until they were collectively purchased to become the reborn brands we know today.
In this case however, the worldwide rights were secured with the Indian auto manufacturer placing the ownership of BSA in a subsidiary named Classic Legends Pvt Ltd (CLPL). Interestingly enough, the BSA name has been licensed around the world, albeit for a small amount of money and mostly likely for official apparel. Another fun fact, Mahindra and Mahindra were pursuing two famous British brands, Norton as well as BSA.
No plans have been announced of how the BSA name will be used, but Mahindra and Mahindra also purchased a 51 percent stake in Peugeot Motorcycles (PMTC), manufacturer of fourteen different scooter models featuring engines ranging from 50 to 500cc. With Mahindra and Mahindra considered one of the largest vehicle manufacturers by production in India and the largest manufacturer of tractors in the world, the new owners of BSA have not only the production expertise but also the financial ability to produce a solid line of motorcycles.
BSA Catalog drawing for 1939 Gold Star
Birmingham Small Arms Company
If the BSA brand doesn’t sound familiar to today’s motorcycle enthusiasts, it was a household name for our riding forefathers. At its peak, BSA was the largest motorcycle producer in the world, even owning Triumph at one point.
The origins of BSA date back to 1861 when the company was formed by a group of fourteen gunsmith members of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association to make weapons. Originally called Birmingham Small Arms Company, the company branched out to automobiles and motorized bicycles which, like many other well-known names, led them to produce motorcycles.
In November 1919, BSA launched their first 50 degree V-twin, Model E, 770cc side valve motorcycle for the 1920 season, kicking out an amazing 6-7 hp. The machine boasted interchangeable valves, total loss oil system with mechanical pump and an emergency hand one. Selling for £130 it enjoyed an Amac carburetor, chain drive, choice of magneto or Magdyno, 7-plate clutch, 3 speed gear box with kickstarter and new type of cantilever fork.
One of its more famous models was the BSA A65 Star. First produced in 1962 it had a top speed of 100 miles per hour and became popular in the U.S. market, where it competed successfully with established Triumph models and new Japanese bikes.
By the end of the ’60s, BSA were responsible for the vast majority of British exports to the U.S. and the rest of the world. Unfortunately, poor management and an underestimation of the resurgent Japanese motorcycle industry would lead to problems for the entire BSA group.
When BSA went bankrupt in 1972 its line-up was down to four models: Gold Star 500, 650 Thunderbolt/Lightning and the 750 cc Rocket Three.
The BSA name last rode from 1997 to 2003 after the rights were purchased and hand built versions of the 400cc Gold SR and 500cc Gold SR were offered in a similar fashion to how Norton bikes are built today. Lack of interest led to the BSA name being used to sell branded parts but no motorcycle production.
Bearing in mind the worldwide success enjoyed by Royal Enfield, which has its own equally colorful history, it wouldn’t be too much of surprise to see new BSA motorcycles taking advantage of the nostalgic trends that have the youngest new riders choosing the classic designs of Triumph as well as Ducati’s Scrambler.