1969 BSA 441 Victor Special
The last great single
1969 BSA 441 Victor Special.
Photo by Robert Smith
I can still remember opening my copy of Motor Cycle News and seeing BSA’s full page ad for its 1966 motorcycle range. I was 15, motorcycle crazy and hot for motocross.
Jeff Smith had just won his second successive world championship on the 441cc single-cylinder BSA Victor, and to cash in on its investment BSA introduced a street-scrambler version of the Victor. It was chunky, aggressive looking and had a shiny, polished aluminum gas tank with a sexy swash of yellow running across the tank. I wanted one so badly I could scream.
By the time I turned 16 and got my bike license, the girls I was interested in preferred scooters to motorcycles — more chic, I guess, and less likely to spray them with oil — so that’s what I rode. Then I discovered the even more significant advantages of four wheels for cherchez la femme, so I traded my Vespa for a 1955 flathead Ford Anglia. But the lusting for a BSA Victor never completely went away.
It wasn’t long before I was back into bikes, and after a couple of years commuting on a Honda SL125, I decided it was time to move up. I tracked down a used 1969 BSA Victor in the classifieds, parted with my money and quickly became acquainted with the concept of buyer’s remorse.
Actually riding the BSA after my little Honda was a major disappointment. Where the Honda was slick, sophisticated and easy to ride, the Beezer was stark, clunky and ornery. I pretty much had only to look at the Honda and it would start, while I sweated away trying to kick the BSA into life. The Honda ran like a Swiss watch; the BSA shuddered, coughed and misfired. Its favorite trick was stalling at traffic signals just as the light turned green.
Worse yet, I couldn’t find parts for it, nor could I find anyone who could help with knowledge or insight. And while Gold Stars and Vincents were becoming collectible, BSA unit-construction singles were just so much junk. The world had moved on, and the obsolete Victor was caught in the twilight zone between trash and treasure. I had become, I found out, a “victim.”
The Victor story
All BSA unit-construction singles (the gearbox is cast with the engine instead of being attached separately) trace their lineage back to the Edward Turner-designed 150cc Triumph Terrier of 1953, a simple, unsophisticated 4-stroke single intended as a cheap commuter that soon grew into the best-selling 200cc Tiger Cub. The BSA group, which had owned Triumph since 1951, adopted Turner’s design, and for 1958 BSA announced the C15, a new 250cc 4-stroke single based on the Cub with cylinder dimensions of 67mm by 70mm. This proved a solid, reliable little bike, and tens of thousands of British teens cut their motorcycling teeth on one. It was cheap, cheerful and tunable, too. Before long the C15S scrambler was winning trophies in motocross, especially when piloted by BSA team rider Jeff Smith.
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