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What Could Have Been: Emu BSA Empire Twin

Engineer Doug Fraser builds the V-twin BSA should have made in the mid-Fifties.

| November/December 2014

  • The trouble with inspired craftsmen is they know only too well that what man has made once man can make again.
    Photo by Stephen Piper

EMU BSA B66 Empire Twin
Claimed power: 58hp @ 5,600rpm (at rear wheel)
Top speed: 100mph plus
Engine: 1,143cc air-cooled OHV 50-degree V-twin, 88mm x 94mm bore and stroke, 9.25:1 compression ratio
Weight (w/oil, no fuel): 418lb (190 kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4.8 U.S. gal (18ltr)/45mpg

Constructing one complete motorcycle entirely on your own, engine and all, would be enough of a challenge for most mortals — especially if the result turned out as well as the vintage-era BSA Empire Twin M46, created single-handedly in Melbourne, Australia, by Emu Engineering’s one-man band, electrical engineer Doug Fraser.

Doug’s ’30s-style tribute to the historic BSA marque, took the form of a rigid-framed, girder-fork, 50-degree V-twin “what if” motorcycle. Based on doubling up BSA’s M23 Empire Star single, which debuted in 1936, the M46 (as in M23 times two) was Fraser’s attempt to build a bike he wished the British firm had produced in the prewar era, except they never did.

The year-long construction took 1,400 hours of spare time, and more than fulfilled its creator’s intent to produce a practical, good-looking bike that has proved to be thoroughly rideable. That’s evidenced by the 2,000-mile round trip shakedown ride Doug undertook on the M46 immediately after its completion in 2008, to the BSA National Rally on the Queensland Gold Coast where the bike won the Best of Rally award. Since then, it’s covered more than 20,000 trouble-free miles in the hands of its creator — so, job done, right?

Never Enough

Well, no. The trouble with inspired craftsmen is they know only too well that what man has made once, man can make again. Having fulfilled his ambition to build the bike that BSA ought to have made in, say, 1938, Doug figured he still had unfinished business with the marque’s postwar era.

The 500cc overhead valve B33 model introduced in 1947 was BSA’s sporting single, which in due course gave rise in 1955 to the legendary DB34 Gold Star. But BSA never made a V-twin version to compete with Harley-Davidson in the growing U.S. market. This was an omission that Doug decided to rectify by creating the Emu BSA Empire Twin B66 — as in B33 times two!

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