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1966 BSA A65 Hornet

1966-BSA-A65-Hornet_National-Motorcycle-Museum_04

A motorcycle manufacturer’s winnings at the race track resulted in wins at their dealerships, too, especially in the 1960′s and 1970′s.  Built for dirt track racing, America’s premier form of competition, BSA, like Triumph, Harley-Davidson and others, offered a race-ready, competition-only 650, a hotter version of the Spitfire with open pipes and no lighting. A strong performing machine they hoped would enhance street bike sales.

Think of Dick Mann, Ronnie Rall, Sammy Tanner, Jody Nicholas, Ralph White, Don Emde, Dave Aldana and Neil Keen as “BSA promoters.” All great racers, and mostly on BSA dirt trackers back in the 1960′s, each was a motorcycle salesman for BSA! Riding their own equipment as privateers or with factory, distributor or dealer support each helped send the message as to the performance of BSAs on the dirt tracks and road race courses across America. And this helped sell race bikes as well as street bikes. Even though AMA Class “C” racing called for serial production-based race bikes, most of the companies involved in racing offered an out-of-the-box racer, and the Triumph TT, Harley KR750 and the BSA Hornet are good examples; based on a production model, but with some performance tweaks.

Considering using the basic street legal BSA Lightning or Spitfire as a starting point to build a race bike, a tuner would remove the stands, lighting, battery, mufflers, seat, tires,  stock cams, low compression pistons and both brakes, probably the stock fenders, too.  Then building the race bike he would  install racing engine internals and carbs, ‘glass tank, solo seat, dirt track tires, open racing pipes (low TT pipes for the West Coast, up each side for the East Coast) and maybe a magneto or other form of racing ignition. The Hornet, TT Special and KR750 began life without the street equipment, yet came with just what was needed to race, plus a tuning catalog with additional homologated performance parts. These “production racers” were built in the pattern of what succeeded at the track, and were then sold through dealers. This helped dealer-sponsored and private riders get closer to the needed race bike with less wasted time and money. And, the Hornets were set up for desert racing, used in TT competition and guys like Earl Bolby even set them up to win at hillclimb! And some adapted lights and made hot street bikes.

BSA and Triumph discontinued their 650 racers after roughly four year runs ending with the 1967 model year. Based on the Sportster, Harley brought out the XR750 in 1969  and sold complete bikes up until about 1980, XR750 engines even longer. With so many TT Specials, XR750′s and Hornets being raced and worn out, they have become sought after by those who appreciate motorcycle racing history. This fine 1966 BSA Hornet is graciously on Loan to the National Motorcycle Museum by Carroll Smith.

6 comments

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  1. Simon Blake

    It’s a beautiful bike, but if you are going to talk about BSA’s Hornet you need to mention BSA team rider Jim Rice who actually went into a BSA dealer, bought a Hornet, and kicked off his pro career. And he won a lot more AMA races than Aldana or Emde. Most of the guys you mention made their names on BSA’s Goldstar, which was the hottest BSA allowed prior to 1969 when the AMA restricted overhead valve equipped motorcycles to 500cc for flat track and road racing. By the time the 650s were allowed, Mann, Rice, Aldana and other pros on BSAs were mostly riding Trackmaster framed 650 and 750 BSAs.
    Keep up the good work! Simon

  2. phillip r brown

    a very good story.i would like to see your 1980 maybe a 1981 Suzuki GS450ST motorcycle featured on your newsletter.i once owned one of these.

  3. rick

    Jim Rice spent a lot of time with Rodger Selby’s BSA dealership in Redwood City Calif. I passed up one of his bikes at Selby Motors.(big Mistake!), but we were Loyal to theTtriumph TT Specials just down the Road at Menlo Cyclery. Both shops had great staff as did Ray Abrams A&A Yamaha. They kept all of ridding even when we fell off! up in La Honda.
    Thanks GUYS

  4. Mike rinaldis

    I do have a 66 bsa hornet and a 67 tt bonneville and Norton p11 …one of these days they will all be running at the same time and I would love it if I could get 3 riders to race them in a vintage flat track race ! My money is on the txt to win.

  5. Savannah

    Nice game

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