1958 BSA DBD34 Gold Star
June 22, 2009 9:51 PM
Founded in 1861 by 14 gunsmiths, the Birmingham Small Arms Company or BSA expanded their weapons manufacture into bicycle production after the Crimean War, and by 1903 had created an experimental motorcycle. With the 1910 purchase of the Daimler Company, BSA branched into car manufacture, and was poised for maximum growth during World War One.
Originally, BSA motorcycles were sold as a reliable alternative to the automobile, targeted to the average commuter. Popular with fleet buyers, the company would claim "one in four is a BSA" in its advertising. After a few seasons of embarrassing failures on the race circuit, BSA pulled its motorcycles off the track in 1921, which many manufacturers of the day used as proof of concept. But when BSA created an experimental one-off prototype in 1937, legendary racer Wal Handley was lured out of retirement to ride in a club race at the infamously rugged Brooklands track. With his fastest lap timed at 107.57 mph, Handley won the race, and was presented with the traditional gold star pin given to the elite few who could manage a lap in excess of 100mph.
With the motorcycle world on fire for a production version of the Brooklands prototype, designer Val Page went to work on what would become the M24 Gold Star, one of the first true super bikes of its era. Hand-built and bench-tested, the Gold Star featured a single cylinder 500cc engine capable of 90 mph, rated at 30 bhp at 5800 rpm. Pre-war production was limited to 400 machines, which were not inexpensive by the standards of the day; purchase price was estimated to be the equivalent of seven months worth of the average worker's salary.
Production was halted in 1939, as BSA again focused on the war effort. Flush with cash after the war, BSA acquired Triumph Motorcycles in 1951, making it the largest producer of motorcycles in the world. The Gold Star was put back into production with many performance options, and racing began again in earnest. In 1956, modifications were made to the head to create the prized DBD34. With clip-on handlebars, polished tank and swept-back exhaust, the single cylinder 500cc DBD34 had a top speed of 110 mph, and quickly became an icon in motocross racing or "scrambles," as they were then known.
By the early 1960s, competition from the Japanese was eroding BSA's market share, and the company was scrambling to keep up with the competition. Legend has it that when their West Coast distributor, hungry for the motorcycle that had become so popular in California threatened to cancel his order unless BSA supplied the Gold Stars he wanted, offended BSA brass decided to stop making it altogether in 1963. Jay was lucky enough to get his hands on a 1958 DBD34, immaculately restored by Walter Worsch. This Gold Star may run even better than when it left the factory, thanks to its one major improvement of a five-speed gearbox. Not only is this Gold Star one of the most gorgeous motorcycles in Jay's collection, it still runs dead smooth on the highway at 75 mph.