The BSA 441 Shooting Star
Under the radar
The BSA 441 Shooting Star.
BSA 441 Shooting Star
Years produced: 1968-1970
Claimed power: 30hp @ 6,000rpm
Top speed: 95mph
Engine type: 441cc OHV air-cooled vertical single
Transmission: 4-speed/chain final drive
Weight (wet): 320lb
Price then: $945 (1968)
Price now: $2,500-$4,000
In these days of 1,600cc — and bigger — road machines, it’s hard to believe the single-cylinder BSA 441 Shooting Star was actually described by a period magazine as a “touring mount.” Touring? On a 441cc single? My, how times have changed.
The truth is, by 1968, only the most committed Anglophile or thumper fan thought of BSA’s trusty single as a touring machine. Even if you did get it rolling up toward its potential top speed of 95mph, a velocity much higher than you’d expect out of such a small bike, the tingle from that single piston beating up and down at high revs would probably wear you out before you made it more than a few hundred miles.
But even so, 441cc was enough for a lot of people, and the BSA 441 Shooting Star single was considered one of the better machines to roll out from BSA’s Small Heath, England, factory.
The singles scene
Although many collectors today associate BSA with its 1960s road-going twins like the 500cc BSA Wasp and 650cc BSA Lightning, singles were critical to BSA’s early successes in the U.S., most famously with the 500cc BSA Gold Star single launched in 1938 and steadily improved upon until it was phased out in 1963. With a string of wins that stretched from one side of the globe to the other, the Gold Star’s prominence helped buoy sales of other BSA singles.
In 1958, BSA launched a smaller, 250cc unit construction (combined engine/transmission) single called the C15. More evolutionary than revolutionary, the C15 was however quite contemporary, with breaker point ignition instead of a magneto, a brushless alternator instead of a generator, and of course the unit construction 247cc vertical single.
Although the C15 got a cool reception here, it sold well in England and Europe. This was an era of increasing interest in trials and motocross racing, and the little single quickly proved itself a competent machine in offroad racing. Jeff Smith, one of England’s great motocross racers of the 1950s and 1960s, was a star rider for BSA, and his connection to the brand helped drive sales of the C15, and BSA’s smaller 2-stroke singles, as well. It was, in fact, Smith’s great popularity that helped launch the BSA 441 Victor and, a few years later, the BSA 441 Shooting Star.
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