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History of BSA Motorcycles

BSA was founded in 1861 in the Gun Quarter, Birmingham, England by fourteen gunsmiths of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association, who had together supplied arms to the British government during the Crimean War.

During World War 1, the company returned to arms manufacture and greatly expanded its operations.  At the peak of the war, the Group factories were employing approximately 20000 people.  BSA produced rifles, Lewis guns, shells, motorcycles and other vehicles for the war effort.

After the armistice, it was decided to put the Company’s three main activities under separate management, and so three new subsidiaries were formed, these were BSA Cycles, BSA Guns and BSA Tools.



As well as the Daimler car range, BSA re-entered the car market under their own name in 1921 with a V-twin engined light car followed by four-cylinder models up to 1926 when the name was temporarily dropped.  In 1929 a new range of 3 and 4 wheel cars appeared and production of these continued until 1936.

In 1931 the Lanchester Motor Company was acquired and production of their cars transferred to Daimler's Coventry works.

126,000 BSA M20 motorcycles were supplied to the armed forces, from 1937 (and later until 1950) plus military bicycles including the folding paratrooper bicycle. At the same time, the Daimler concern was producing armoured cars.
    The BSA Group bought Triumph Motorcycles in 1951, making them the largest producer of motorcycles in the world.  The cycle and motor cycle interests of Ariel, Sunbeam and New Hudson were also acquired.  Most of these had belonged to Sangster.

    In 1960 Daimler was sold off to Jaguar.

    The BSA bicycle division, BSA Cycles Ltd., was sold to Raleigh in 1956. Bicycles bearing the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within India by TI Cycles of India.

    The final range was just four models: Gold Star 500, 650 Thunderbolt/Lightning and the 750 cc Rocket Three.
      However, the plan involved the axing of some brands, large redundancies and consolidation of production at two sites.  This scheme to rescue and combine Norton, BSA and Triumph failed in the face of worker resistance.  Norton's and BSA's factories were eventually shut down, while Triumph staggered on to fail four years later.

      Out of the ashes of receivership, the NVT Motorcycles Ltd company which owned the rights to the BSA marque, was bought-out by the management and renamed the BSA Company.

      In 1991, the BSA (motorcycle) Company merged with Andover Norton International Ltd., to form a new BSA Group, largely producing spare parts for existing motorcycles.

      In December 1994, BSA Group was taken over by a newly formed BSA Regal Group.  The new company, based in Southampton, has a large spares business and has produced a number of limited-edition, retro-styled motorcycles.

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