1954 BSA Star Twin Racer Replica

Wrecking Crew Redux: Kenny Eggers recreates his race-winning 1954 BSA Star Twin

| January/February 2006

BSA Star Twin Racer (1954)

Claimed power: 31bph @ 6,000 rpm (factory rating, racer would be higher)
Top speed: 123.69 mph – speed trials at Bonneville, 1951
Engine type: Air-cooled, overhead valve four-stroke parallel twin, two valves per cylinder

"The BSA Wrecking Crew was Al Gunter, Dick Klamfoth, Bobby Hill and me, all originally on rigid frame Star Twins, and Gene Thiessen and Tommy McDermott on singles. BSA only made four of the rigid frame twins, and shipped them over for Daytona. We had to safety wire everything, and then we started testing them on the Jungle Road, testing for top revs. Cyril Halliburton, the British BSA tuner, was there to make sure everything worked properly. 

"Hap Alzina, the US importer, took care of us and paid all our expenses. We were staying at a big hotel on the beach, and we had a candlelight dinner every night. That was NOT how racers were treated in those days. Usually, you had to pay your own way." — Kenny Eggers, Wrecking Crew member

In 1954, and for many years previously, BSA, based in England's industrial Midlands, was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world. Most of its customers were a type of motorcycle rider that has almost disappeared from the road. The typical BSA rider of the era wanted reliability, economy, and ease of maintenance, and was uninterested in performance. Fifty miles an hour was fine as long as the old scoot started up every morning and got the owner to work.

The one exception to the dull but reliable output of the BSA company was the Gold Star 500cc single, introduced in 1937 and a mainstay of amateur racing until it was discontinued in 1963. In the immediate aftermath of World War II, BSA faced new challenges. England had huge debts, and needed to export as much as possible to pay them, so all English companies were prodded to sell overseas. There was an expanding market in the United States, but most Americans had expectations of a motorcycle that were completely different from those of the traditional BSA rider.

American customers wanted acceleration and speed. "Win on Sunday, sell on Monday." was a popular slogan with American dealers. While European customers babied their bikes, Americans thrashed theirs. Most European riders were happy with small singles, but American customers wanted large capacity twins. The BSA executives decided (probably very, very reluctantly) that if they wanted to increase sales, they would have to go racing.  Even so, BSA left most of the race effort to its American distributors.

ramarro smith
3/27/2010 8:48:21 AM

In the 1950's I was a teenager and helped around a local AMA racer speed shop. Billy Myers raced for Balock Cycle in Silver Spring, Maryland and when I was old enough he said he had a basket job (all together except engine) he would sell me for $50.00 and would help me rebuild it. It had no head light or tail light (from factory) so we mounted those for the street, the bike was a 500 BSA Star Twin racing bike. It was tiled 1953 but had a swing arm frame. I rode it for several years (with little problem) and it would out perform 650's. Just what was it had back then?

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