1962 BSA Gold Star DBD34
The last of the big singles
John Niesley's 1962 BSA Gold Star DBD34.
Photo by Nick Cedar
1962 BSA Gold Star DBD34
Claimed power: 40hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 95mph (est.)
Engine: 499cc air-cooled OHV single
Weight (dry): 380lb (173kg)
MPG: 45mpg (est.)
Price then: $985 (est.)
Price now: $12,500 - $20,000
The most iconic BSA model ever, the BSA Gold Star DBD34 was actually something of an anomaly for the company. For decades, BSA made its money selling well built, reliable, non-sporty motorcycles to people who needed to get to work. There was a big market for two-wheeled Buicks in England and the Commonwealth countries, and BSA did well with its staid and reliable lineup.
The Gold Star, on the other hand, was not a good bike for getting to work. Built for performance, it was noisy and hard to start. But it was also fast and a lot of fun to ride, and in the days after World War II, Gold Stars became famous on both sides of the Atlantic for their performance both on and offroad.
In England, Gold Stars dominated in the Clubmans TT races and were road raced in many amateur events, and won numerous offroad competitions. In the U.S., Gold Stars did well on the beach at Daytona, qualified for the finals in flat track and TT racing, and lined up for all sorts of offroad events.
BSA Gold Star beginnings
The BSA Gold Star got its start in the 1930s. Designer Val Page, his assistant Herbert Perkins, and Jack Amott and Len Crisp from the BSA factory worked over a 500cc BSA Empire Star overhead valve single until it could put up with a 13:1 compression ratio and alcohol fuel, and signed a recently retired racing star, Wal Handley, to ride it. In 1937, Handley lapped the Brooklands track at over 100mph and was awarded a Brooklands Gold Star for this feat.
The publicity this prototype stirred up convinced BSA management there was a market for a sports machine that could be campaigned in amateur events. The first production Gold Stars appeared in 1938 and featured an aluminum alloy barrel and head, and an Amal TT carburetor. They did well in English trials competition, but the advent of World War II ended production of sport motorcycles.
After the war ended, BSA concentrated on building bikes for people to get to work on, and tried to ignore the increasing clamor for something a little sportier. Finally, in 1948, BSA unveiled a new 350cc Gold Star, with an aluminum alloy overhead valve engine and an extensive option list. Buyers could specify compression ratio, transmission ratios, cams, and lighting equipment. It was an immediate success in the Isle of Man Clubman TT races that had been launched in 1947, and a 500cc version followed in 1950.
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