In this day in age when horsepower and speed are the rules of the day for performance vehicles, enthusiasts often forget how the whole gas-powered transportation industry found its foothold. Cars and motorcycles were mostly small and slow well into the 20th century. Such is the case with the 1924 BSA motorcycle, restored by LeMay volunteers and Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiast members Pat Barnes and Dick Casey.
The Birmingham Small Arms Co. motorcycle has just as single cylinder that delivers 3.5 horsepower from at 175 cc engine that requires the use of a three-speed gear box mounted to the side of the gas tank. By today’s standards the vehicle is more bicycle than motorcycle. As the name suggests, BSA started out making guns. The company formed in 1854 when 14 gunsmiths banded together in a converted bicycle factory to make firearms for English soldiers heading to the Crimean War effort. Bicycles and bike components then started flowing out of the plant in the 1880s, with the first motorized bicycle production beginning in 1903. The first real motorcycle was created by BSA in 1910 – a 499 cc side-valve. Production of bikes shifted back to guns during World War I only to swing back to bicycles and motorcycles when the Armistice was signed. Reliable rather than innovative, BSA became the largest motorcycle company in the world between the wars. But it was not to last. The last bikes left the factory in 1973.