BSA Firebird Scrambler

The last original street scrambler from BSA

| May/June, 2006

BSA Firebird Scrambler
Years produced:
Total production: Unknown
Claimed power: 52hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est.)
Engine type:  654cc air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 185kg (408lb)
Price Then: $1,440
Price Now: $3,500-$5,500
MPG: 35-45

Dual-sport bikes are hardly new. By some accounts, BSA launched the category in 1965 with its offroad-styled 500cc A50 BSA Wasp and 650cc A65 BSA Hornet. Three years later, the company introduced the BSA Firebird Scrambler, its latest — and arguably best — variation on the theme. Trouble is, they forgot to market it, and the Firebird stalled.

Every old motorcycle has some history: sometimes it’s benign, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the story is written in service notes, title documents and repair bills. Sometimes it’s oral, passed on from owner to owner — although many sellers seem to prefer saying as little as possible!

Then there are the stories told in the metal: the patina of worn paint from leathers rubbing on a gas tank; rounded-off nuts attacked by mis-sized wrenches; telltale boogers of silicone oozing from a hastily fitted primary cover. All these speak to the past indignities suffered by our old iron.

Humble beginnings
Take Gary Carpenter’s 1970 BSA Firebird Scrambler, for example. (I should confess up front that I’m part of its history, because I sold it to him.) I first saw the bike advertised in the local newspaper as a 1969 BSA Lightning “basket case.” Checking the bike’s serial numbers, I could tell it was a 1970 model but with a 1972 engine in place.

The original engine was also part of the package, and a quick look at the pieces told the story. Punched in the back of the crankcase and primary was a three-finger-sized hole, certainly the result of a snapped drive chain. Likely, then, the old Beezer hadn’t enjoyed the most fastidious maintenance program. A good sprinkling of rust told of lengthy outside storage, and the paint told another tale: The original white headlight ears had been brushed black to tie in with the hand-painted Lightning gas tank.

12/26/2010 8:16:34 PM

My first British bike was a 1968 BSA Hornet, although I believe that it was a 67 titled when sold in 68. Running a tac only took a bit getting used to. These bikes ran a ET battery less system which produced a nice hot spark when running but could be a bear to kick start. Push starting the bike was normal 50% of the time and was not that difficult. The bike was plenty fast and handled good so it was fun to ride even being quirkey to start. I would love to own a 650 hornet again.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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