This Machine

Filed under: — Wrote by Roger Los on Friday, October 2nd, 1998 @ 2:53 am

How did a BSA end up in my basement?

One inspired day, ignoring the yard and various projects in the house, I decided that restoring an elderly British motorcycle would be just the ticket to keep me from accumulating any savings — and it would also keep me from engaging in anything that might be deemed socially responsible.

To that end, I decided I’d like to restore a Vincent twin of some sort. I quickly ran into a couple of problems:

  • There aren’t many Vincents around
  • I’m not in that tax bracket

Talking with a friend, John, got me thinking about BSA Gold Stars, which are significant and a little less dear than the Vincents I’d been thinking about. John was adamant that I stay away from base model machines — they are generally slow, cost as much to restore, and can be hard to get bits for.

I started casting about the net for something to restore, preferably from the fifties. In addition to Gold Stars, I also had in mind a Norton — I used to drool over a yellow/black 850 long before I ever rode a bike. (I ride a modern Triumph Daytona these days.) There are a couple of shops I checked out not far from Seattle, Old Britts and Robin’s Classic Bikes.

I decided not to spend a bunch of dollars up front unless the bike warranted it by its provenance (i.e. a Vincent), so cheap was the order of the day. The above mentioned dealers didn’t have anything other than “grey porridge” projects or restored machines. The whole point of this exercise wasn’t the end result, but the journey. A finished bike, though fun to ride, would defeat the plan.

Reading an internet classified site, I saw an advertisement for a ’54 BSA Golden Flash for $1000 (US). I had never heard of a Golden Flash (though I immediately liked the model name). A quick query on the British bike mailing list I’m on yielded the answer: The Golden Flash was not quite porridge, but wasn’t a road burner, either. For awhile in the early fifties, it was the fastest BSA produced (and the fastest road machine tested by a cycle mag), but it was soon humbled by other BSA products: Road Rockets, Super Rockets, Rocket Gold Stars…

However, it was a great looking classic twin, and it came standard in “polychromatic beige,” a gold color that was exceptional at the time and still looks quite fetching today. I was sold on the idea, and even John approved of my choice for a first-time restoration.

I got in touch with the owners to inquire whether it was still around. Harry and Vada, the couple who owned it, replied that indeed it was. Was a photo available?

Note that the tank and seat are loose in this photo…but this is what decided me. The sheet metal and other hard-to-find details were all there, and I liked the English registration. It turns out that this bike was shipped on January 1, 1954 to Anderson and Wall, Bridgewater, Somerset, England. (The reg number is correct for that period and location.) It was also confirmed that the bike has “matching” (original) serial numbers:

  • Frame – BA7S 12497
  • Engine – BA10 9225

The BSA was apparently brought back to Canada along with a Triumph twin that their elderly owner intended to restore many years ago. He never got around to it, and both bikes were picked up by Harry and Vada, though they only really wanted the Triumph. And hence on to me.

So now it only remains to be seen whether I can get the back back together to a standard I’d be proud to own up to. I trust that I can!

  • Comment by neel sengupta | August 6, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

    At my childhood I saw a ‘BSA Golden Flash’ at my uncle’s house.I have listen from my father that this is a ‘ROYAL’ bike.I donot know much
    about this bike but whenever I looked at it, all time I have attracted by by it.
    It was really a great looking bike.It is a great symbol of British
    technology.This bike owned by my grand father and he liked it very
    much.I donot know how he got it.As for a longt time I have not any connection with them but till today that bike makes me nostalgic.

  • Comment by Ivan | September 9, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

    I don’t know where you are in Canada, but a guy in Red Deer, Alberta also has a 1954 Gold Flash in about the same condition as yours. He too is about to start restoring it. I saw it in his garage only last month.

  • Comment by Sparton | October 25, 2008 @ 11:16 am

    Hi, I have a Gold Flash sitting in my garage 1961, it is my father in laws and he no longer can use as he can’t kick it over. This one has pans on and indicators, the history is that the local council owned it first then my wife’s uncle bought it for £70 in 1965 he owned it up until 1996 when Roy my father in law bought it from the uncle.It doesn’t have the original plate (911 COX) anymore as it was sold and re-registered. Having it in my garage for a number of years now Roy has give me the go ahead to restore it and use it if i like (which i’m excited about). These are a beautiful bike as anyone who comes to the house always comment on it, it would be wonderful to see (and hear) more about, lovely big heavy lumps with no brakes what more do you want, ha ha.

    Good luck in your venture and when she’s back on the ride i will give the site a post.

  • Comment by anggoro hartono | March 22, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    hi, i really interest with bsa golden flash, do anyone know if someone sell only for bsa goldenflash machine? i need it, but complete with gearbox, thank you for your help, contact me at

  • Comment by Alan | March 24, 2009 @ 2:52 pm

    I had a 54 Gold Flash back in 1962/3. Mine had the swinging arm rear suspension though. I also owned a 54 350 Gold Star after the Flash self destructed on a holiday trip. I always lusted after the Rocket Gold Star but never could afford one. I owned a couple of Ariel Square 4s in my time too.
    I could write a book about some of the machines I owned back then.

  • Comment by Dave | October 6, 2009 @ 5:26 pm

    I bought my ’59 A10 in august 1959, First bike I ever did the ton on, if you could believe the speedo reading vibrating between 108-110, on the A1 from Darlington to Catterick. Chin on the handlebars- Family jewels on the rear end of the seat. Eyes like organ stops when I realized I was running out of road at the round-a-bout outside the camp gates at RAF Catterick. Of course I made it, I drove it for a few years after emigrating here in ’65, then took it off the road. The machine is now in my basement, awaiting restoration.Procrastination seems to be taking care of it at the moment….Dave.

  • Comment by Rene | March 9, 2010 @ 1:39 pm

    Hey there.

    I have a 1953 BSA A10 golden flash (plunger frame) in my basement at the moment. I am in the process of restoring it. I bought it three years ago as a basket case for a $100.

  • Comment by Bob Parker | September 19, 2010 @ 10:51 pm

    Oh you poor people….I owned a 1955 A10 Golden Flash….rode it until I migrated to 1958, had Craven paniers….windscreen..heated gloves..1 pair warm..1 pair hot..thought I was king of the road used to cruise down to Southend at a cool 100mph..tour Piccadilly Circus… at the Black Cat or at Teds Cafe South Woodford…Crikey…I couldnt pick 1 up now…..Best Wishes with your restoration… Memories…thank the Great Biker in the Sky..I still have them

  • Comment by rich rhuems | March 25, 2011 @ 10:25 am

    Have a 1952 650 suppose to be the first twin? belonged to my dad been in storage for 40 yrs it is all there except for a fender and the original tank. Tires are rotted andwheels need to be reone. Is there someone out there that can get me started. I would like to do it right and rite away. Appreicate it

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