1968-bsa-lightning_1In the mid-1950’s BSA won the first five positions at the Daytona 200 on the beach and were on top; BSA was then the World’s Largest Selling Motorcycle. Though BSA was competitive in dirt track and road racing events, Triumph began to overtake in sales numbers though all British makers were suffering from a lack of technology and design innovation against the Japanese makers.

The BSA Lightning was a dream bike to many riders in the 1960’s. Lavishly chrome plated, painted in candy-apple red, or metallic gold like this example, and traditional in design, Triumphs and BSAs satisfied until the Honda CB750 hit in 1969, the year after this BSA was made. The Honda CB750 changed everything. The twin carb Lightning was offered from 1965 until 1972 when BSA went out of business.

The “pre-unit” BSA A10 650 twin was made from 1947 to 1963, then the “power egg” A65 unitized engine was offered. This put engine, transmission and primary drive in one set of castings simplifying manufacturing and sealing. BSAs looked fairly traditional with lots of chrome and polish through the 1970 model year. In 1971 Triumph and BSA, both owned by BSA, went to “oil in frame” designs which met with resistance from the motorcycling public. Laws mandated turn signals, stylists went new directions including using an odd pale gray paint on BSA frames and another nail was driven into the coffin for BSA.

Not content with the typical alpha-numeric system of naming its motorcycles, BSA’s marketing department was always over the top when naming their bikes: Gold Star, Hornet, Rocket, Golden Flash, Spitfire, Cyclone, Lightning, Firebird, Shooting Star, Victor, Royal Star were some of the monikers. Displacement, number of carburetors and cylinders, exhaust systems, intended use plus general state of tune were the differences. BSA styling in the 1950’s and 1960’s was a strong part of the brand; chrome, polished aluminum and candy-apple paint.

When you visit the National Motorcycle Museum, or scan past featured bikes on the Museum website, you can see a wide range of BSAs and other British motorcycles. BSA Gold Star racers, a fine Y13 V-Twin, along with Vincents, Broughs, Douglases and Velocettes are on display. This flashy BSA Lightning is part of the Jill & John Parham Collection.


    • Engine: Overhead Valve Parallel Twin
    • Bore & Stroke: 75mm x 74mm
    • Displacement: 654cc’s
    • Carburetion: Twin Amal Concentrics
    • Ignition: Battery, Points, Coils
    • Starting: Kick Only
    • Primary: Chain Driven
    • Transmission: 4-Speed
    • Lubrication: Dry Sump
    • Clutch: Wet; multiplate
    • Final Drive: Chain
    • Horsepower, Rated: 48 hp at 7000 RPM
    • Frame: Welded Steel Tubing
    • Wheels/Tires: 3.25 x 19 / 4.00 x 18
8 replies

    A BSA is why I got into motorcycling in the first place. I was walking across a street in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when a rider on a BSA went around the corner and really got onto it. The sound from those dual pipes as he accelerated away mesmerized me and I literally stopped dead still in the middle of the street to listen. First, it is a wonder that I wasn’t hit by an inattentive driver. Second, a week later I bought my first bike. I couldn’t afford a BSA but I could afford a Honda Trail 90 and I bought one. Not quite the same thing, but it was all I could afford. I am nearing the end of my riding days. I have a Honda Trail 125 on order to help close things out.

  2. Jerry Wood
    Jerry Wood says:

    Almost everything about this bike shouts 1965 / 1966. Even the description says Concentric carbs (correct for 68) but it has monoblocks in the photos. Tank, side covers, primary cover, front brake, valve covers, all 65.

  3. Robert Bowring
    Robert Bowring says:

    I agree with Mr. Wood. It looks like a 1966 or maybe a late 1965 Lightning. I think it is a west coast version.

  4. Art L Casserberg
    Art L Casserberg says:

    I have a candy apple red 1968 Lightning in pristine condition. It is more valuable than all of the rest of my bikes put together! 😎

  5. Sue
    Sue says:

    One was two into one raced Isle of Man wish I hadn’t sold it gutted to this day, bike still on road ps yes female biker


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