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Helping keep British Motorcycles on the road for over 30 years - established 1977

Jim's 1971 BSA A65 Thunderbolt

Here is my 1971 BSA A65 Thunderbolt, completed over the course of 5 years with help from British Cycle and other resources. Last ran in 1980, had been crashed (bent forks) and needed nearly everything.

I stripped the frame and pianted it the notorious dove gray. But the other paint & chrome weren't terrible so I polished everything up and ride it as a survivor. As much as the OIF bikes were reviled in their day, it's a very well-designed bike. Engine work was done by E&V Engineering in Howard City, Michigan -- roller conversion, ported head & manifold, bored for JE angle-dome pistons, dynamic balance.

Runs smooth (for a BSA) and very strong. Add-on oil filter kit. Has all electronic ignition and regulator/rectifier, plus LED converson taillight. Mufflers are made by Stanley for a 1952 IH Cub tractor and are a bit too loud so I'm fabicating a pair of Brooklands-style silencers.

Hope for a COVID-free 2021 season so this 68-year-old Brit enthusiast can put some miles on this fine machine!

>>>> Click here to see a big picture of this bike [400 kb] <<<<

I have a long relationship with OIF BSAs, having owned a 1972 B50SS since 1974. The OIF 650s use the same brakes and virtually the same front end and electrics as the B50. Overall engine architecture is the same as well, so when a 650 presented itself I snapped it up despite its tragic run-til-it-quit condition, complete with bent forks and bodge-job repairs by the former owner.

With help from BCS and others, I performed a nuts-and-bolts rebuild on the bike. The folks at BCS are encylopedias of Britbike knowledge and could answer any question I had. I like the dove gray because nearly every other bike on the road has a black frame. It certainly highlights oil leaks! The bare frame weighs just 35 pounds and is very well designed, although the engineers left "only just enough" space in several places for assembly and to apply wrenches, so some operations require careful consideration and patience.

With electronic ignition, solid-state voltage regulator/rectifier and Amal Premier carburetor the rebuilt/hot-rodded motor fired up on the first kick -- I nearly fell off! -- and is a strong runner. Once I learned its particular starting procedure (very different from the B50) I find it starts easily, although unlike the B50 it is quite cold-blooded and must warm up for several minutes of careful riding until it runs properly.

As for the mufflers, I bought them at a farm-supply store for $17 each. The bike had useless shorty mufflers on rusted aftermarket exhaust pipes so I stripped off the chrome using an angle grinder with abrasive discs, and fabricated the rest from an old dinette set my neighbor threw out. Those exhaust tips are part of the dinette's legs. As the bare steel heats up and discolors, I rub it with steel wool and automatic-transmission fluid; over time this yields a fairly durable satin-black finish when the steel is allowed to rust between applications. I fabricated all clamps, mounts and hangers from hardware-store stock. This all saved me some $400 in exhaust costs.

However, my wife and neighbors tell me those tractor mufflers are "unsociable" to say the least ( wear foam ear plugs when riding so I couldn't tell). Even my fellow members of the Chicago Norton Owners Club thought it was a bit loud when we took a color ride last October. Accordingly, I bought a length of 1-1/2" exhaust pipe and am fabricating a pair of Brooklands-style "silencers" with double-reverse flow that should make it more acceptable (but no fishtails; that would be too over the top). I'll send a report and pictures when they're installed and the bike is running next season.

Thank you!