The Past and Present of BSA Gold Star Racing

Reader Contribution by Margie Siegal
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Red Caldwell loads his BSA Gold Star
at Sacramento, Calif., 1960.

BSA Gold Star racing then
Red Caldwell made a name for himself racing Gold Stars in Northern California. “I got my pro license and bought my first Gold Star in 1956. In 1958, I bought another one. I was racing at Vallejo, the Sacramento Mile and Belmont,” he says.

Like most racers of the era, Red did most of his own wrenching. “I raised the compression and put in better cams. There was a guy in Southern California who made cams, and Harold Ball in Sacramento was the local dealer. He had a knack for getting the most out of whatever motorcycle he was working on. He helped me, and did the machine work, but I did all the engine work myself.

“I always liked the single cylinder and the low-end torque. It was a fun motorcycle to ride. I had the most fun riding Belmont. It had a figure-eight TT, quarter mile, with an underpass. You didn’t have to have a lot of horsepower. I rode Catalina in 1956, 1957 and 1958 — the last year. I rode Big Bear three different years.

“My main competition was Dick Dorresteyn, a fast Triumph rider. I only beat him once. It was happenstance. I rode to the edge on a corner and got enough horsepower to get past him,” Red remembers. “It was a great experience and a great motorcycle, although it was underpowered for my six-foot four-inch frame — especially on longer tracks.”

Here’s some vintage footage of BSA Gold Star racing from 1957 featuring dirt track racer Louis Kramer:

BSA Gold Star racing now
Five years ago, vintage racer Ron Halem was talking with some other riders. “It came up that no one had ever lapped the Isle of Man on a Gold Star at over 100mph. Someone said, ‘I bet you can do that.’ I’ve been playing with Gold Stars since the late Sixties, and the idea was intriguing,” Ron says. The next thing Ron knew, someone was offering him a Manx frame, custom built for a Gold Star engine. The person who ordered it had backed out. “It started me down that slippery slope.”

David Roper heads for a win aboard Ron Halem’s BSA Gold
Star at Willow Springs, 2010.

Ron acquired an engine from Phil Pearson in England, and was on his way to the Isle of Man for the 2008 races. He retired with a leaky fuel tank. He tried again the next year, and the connecting rod failed. In 2010, Ron assembled a fresh engine, but the shipping agent couldn’t get the paperwork together and the bike sat at the airport for three weeks.

Ron has, however, had better luck in American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association events. His Gold Star has placed fourth in class at Daytona twice, won twice at Willow Springs with vintage ace David Roper riding, and taken two second places at Portland. “Gold Stars are addicting,” Ron explains. “All vintage big singles have that allure, but Gold Stars outlived their design. It’s a neat bike considering how old the technology is. They rev so nicely.”

Here’s some contemporary footage of BSA Gold Star racing at Cadwell Park in Lincolnshire, England:

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