1962 BSA Gold Star DBD34

It was an anomaly for a company whose bread and butter was in workhorse street bikes, but the BSA Gold Star was one of the most successful racing bikes of the 1950s.

| September/October 2011

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

In the late 1950s, the BSA Corporation considered canceling the Gold Star, its most successful — basically it’s only — competition bike in the U.S. When the news got out to BSA’s American dealers, they told BSA, “Give us Gold Stars — you can keep the rest!”

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 off road.

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.

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