BSA Firebird Scrambler

The last original street scrambler from BSA

| May/June, 2006

BSA Firebird Scrambler
Years produced:
Total production: Unknown
Claimed power: 52hp @ 7,000rpm
Top speed: 105mph (est.)
Engine type:  654cc air-cooled parallel twin
Weight (dry): 185kg (408lb)
Price Then: $1,440
Price Now: $3,500-$5,500
MPG: 35-45

Dual-sport bikes are hardly new. By some accounts, BSA launched the category in 1965 with its offroad-styled 500cc A50 BSA Wasp and 650cc A65 BSA Hornet. Three years later, the company introduced the BSA Firebird Scrambler, its latest — and arguably best — variation on the theme. Trouble is, they forgot to market it, and the Firebird stalled.

Every old motorcycle has some history: sometimes it’s benign, and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes the story is written in service notes, title documents and repair bills. Sometimes it’s oral, passed on from owner to owner — although many sellers seem to prefer saying as little as possible!

Then there are the stories told in the metal: the patina of worn paint from leathers rubbing on a gas tank; rounded-off nuts attacked by mis-sized wrenches; telltale boogers of silicone oozing from a hastily fitted primary cover. All these speak to the past indignities suffered by our old iron.

Humble beginnings
Take Gary Carpenter’s 1970 BSA Firebird Scrambler, for example. (I should confess up front that I’m part of its history, because I sold it to him.) I first saw the bike advertised in the local newspaper as a 1969 BSA Lightning “basket case.” Checking the bike’s serial numbers, I could tell it was a 1970 model but with a 1972 engine in place.

The original engine was also part of the package, and a quick look at the pieces told the story. Punched in the back of the crankcase and primary was a three-finger-sized hole, certainly the result of a snapped drive chain. Likely, then, the old Beezer hadn’t enjoyed the most fastidious maintenance program. A good sprinkling of rust told of lengthy outside storage, and the paint told another tale: The original white headlight ears had been brushed black to tie in with the hand-painted Lightning gas tank.

12/26/2010 8:16:34 PM

My first British bike was a 1968 BSA Hornet, although I believe that it was a 67 titled when sold in 68. Running a tac only took a bit getting used to. These bikes ran a ET battery less system which produced a nice hot spark when running but could be a bear to kick start. Push starting the bike was normal 50% of the time and was not that difficult. The bike was plenty fast and handled good so it was fun to ride even being quirkey to start. I would love to own a 650 hornet again.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.


The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter

Free Product Information Classifieds

Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265