1967 BSA Hornet

Birmingham Small Arms Company rode the wave of off-road motorcycle racing popularity when it released the 1967 BSA Hornet.

| November/December 2009

1967 BSA Hornet
Years produced: 1964-1967
Claimed power: 53.5hp @ 6,800rpm
Top speed: 102 mph
Engine type: 654cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin
Weight (dry): 382lb (173kg)
Price then: $1,182 (1965)
Price now: $4,000-$6,000
MPG: 40-50 (est.)

Powering along in low gear, you ignore the heat enveloping you. Despite the bandanna over your face, alkali dust fills your nose, but you stay fixed on negotiating the washed-out gullies and rapidly changing terrain.

Two more turns and you give your 1967 BSA Hornet the gas, running up the gears as the trail straightens out and the checkpoint in the distance comes into focus. There’s no one in front of you, and your watch says you’re on time. You’re winning. Focusing on your line, you completely forget about the heat.

Let’s Go Racing

The Sixties were boom times for motorcycles and off-road motorcycle racing. Stoked by Baby Boomers who were just entering their teens and helped by Honda’s campaign to convince Americans that “you meet the nicest people” on two wheels, motorcycle sales shot from less than 60,000 in 1960 to 609,000 imports alone in 1965. While most of these were small-displacement Japanese and Italian bikes, more than 33,000 were imported from England, mostly 500cc and 650cc Triumph and BSA motorcycles.

Many of those people buying British motorcycles were using them for amateur competition. Flat tracking was hot, and the stands were packed as local favorites went wheel-to-wheel. Enduros, motocrosses and cross-country races drew full fields, and drag racing was so popular that contemporary motorcycle magazines published quarter-mile times instead of top speeds.

While lightweight 2-strokes were increasingly showing up at off-road motorcycle racing events, the winner’s circle was still dominated by heavy-duty overhead-valve singles and twins. “The sound of a 4-stroke intimidated some people,” remembers John Huetter, former managing editor of Cycle News, who raced a BSA Hornet in the desert in the late Sixties. “Huskys [Husqvarnas] dominated at the time, and when the BSA Hornet started doing well it was hailed as the return of the 4-strokes to desert racing.”

Win Marks
12/4/2009 12:41:55 AM

First I want to thank the editors for selecting the photo of the 'youthful' me on my old Beezer for the Newsletter's Photo of the Week! Kinda choked me up a bit. Also thought of a noteworthy bit of unique info about the Hornet. Not sure if this was true about other BSA's of that era, but the Rear Wheel could be removed (repaired) without dropping the chain, or removing the brake hub! This was done with the bike on the center stand, by removing the rear axle shaft from the right side, and then a Spacer Block. The wheel itself fit to the drum on a Spline. With the spacer removed you simply pulled the wheel off and away and removed it from under the fender. A flat could be repaired and the wheel replaced much easier than on other machines. Taking it a step further, the front wheel dismounted in the same way. So if you did not have a way to repair a rear flat, you 'could' swap wheels and have a good tire on the drive axle and a rolling flat up front. Of course doing this swap required either a partner to balance the machine on the center stand (with no wheels)or laying the bike on its side. Desperate times require desperate measures!!! Then there was the time I almost fell off the bike when I ran out of gas on the I-75 Fwy. Slowing down with the Amals wide open, I pulled the homemade reserve petcock and jumped to lightspeed! But that's another Hornet story. Win Marks

Win Marks
11/13/2009 11:54:13 AM

http://cu.motorcycleclassics.com/galleries/index.php?id=298367 If you are interested, I found a Pic of me and the "Red Devil" taken Circa 1975 out in the deserts of Utah. The link above is to the Gallery I had to create to get the pic on the website. Can't tell from here if it is a hot link or must be copy and pasted? That pic brings back some fond memories of an ill gotten youth! Win

Win Marks
11/6/2009 11:45:18 PM

Glad to see an article on the BSA Hornet! I once owned a 1966 Hornet when I lived in the Detroit Area (1972). I also was a frequent visitor/customer of Earl Buck's motorcycle shop when I lived nearby in Warren Mi. They were the only shop that could competently work on the bike. My bike was set up for the street....with headlight and tail light, but only a Tach. No ignition key, but a black kill button in the middle of the bar clamps. Pull the petcocks, kick and go. Without a battery, riding alone at night was risky (dim at best). Winding up the engine very tight was likely to blow out the tail light. The bike came to me with Low TT style pipes with shorty mufflers...quite loud. Adding a low sissy bar, and highway bars, and I took it to MANY National Parks via trailer, riding it on roads and trails alike. The most memorable one being the road to Point Sublime on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. The turnoff at the main road reads, "4 wheel drive only, enter at your own RISK". I went in 2 up with my girlfriend, and had the ride of my life. Second gear all the way. Thru mud holes and over downed trees. Never ran out of low end torque, but did knock off the mufflers going over a large tree trunk! I have more memories of that machine than of any of the 4 others I have owned. Never should have sold that Bike!!!!

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.