Fond Memories of a 1969 BSA A65 Lightning


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new 69 bsa a65 
Dan Delehant and his 1969 BSA A65 Lightining. 

Short of a thousand or more attractive females it was the most beautiful thing my eyes ever beheld. Over the years I owned faster and better handling motorcycles but none came close to the stunning estheticism of that black, red and chrome 1969 BSA A65 Lightning. I probably should not admit this, but even now, all these years alter, I pine for that shiny motorcycle more than any lost girlfriend.

Mechanically and electrically it was no prize. The charging system, wiring, and lights were supplied by a British company called Lucas. Lucas was better known by the nickname, “The Prince of Darkness.” All my riding buddies back then rode Triumphs – this was 1969, the Harley craze had yet to occur and the Japanese were flooding the U.S. market with cheap, reliable, and fast motorcycles. Our classic British motorcycles leaked more oil in a night than a Jap-crap (as we deemed them) machine would burn or leak in its lifetime. But we were steeped in denial and believed completely that we rode the cream of the motorcycle crop.

While shopping for the appropriate Triumph I saw the BSA Lightning at a shop in Azusa, Calif., and I was forever smitten. It was ever-lasting love at first sight! The red and chrome tank captured me. I spent a sleepless night and a frantic morning begging and borrowing and that following afternoon I bought the glistening two-wheeled English-built gem. Sure, it was no Triumph, or an Ariel Square Four (the other “accepted” bike back then in Pomona, Calif.) but since it was a British bike I would still be part of the “in” crowd. I called up my two best riding buddies, Gus and George, and told them to ride by my place Friday night, because I had a big surprise for them.

I had that Lightning glistening like a red-hued motorized diamond! I set it out on the lawn canted down on the kickstand so that Gus and George would see the lustrous beast in all her glistening glory head-on as they came trundling down the street on their shiny but run-of-the-mill Triumphs. They arrived on their chrome-laden and oil spraying steeds just before sunset. I can still see Gus down on one knee beside my Beezer studying it. George got back on his Bonneville and just sat scrutinizing the coruscating-in-the-setting-sun, red and chrome, metallic jewel on the front lawn.

I recall George saying after a few minutes, “Hot damn, but that is one pretty motorcycle!”

2/28/2013 11:13:22 PM

Gus, George, are you guys still above ground? Dan.

Adrian Featherstonhaugh
9/16/2012 5:08:51 AM

Dan, great account ref your Lightning; I got the same model machine when I was an engineering office cadet in London in 1974 except mine was black and chrome. It was beautiful - I got it from another cadet who got runover by a lorry on the Hammersmith roundabout in west London and broke both legs.......I loved riding it and thought it was the most gorgeous machine on the road. Unfortunately, some nasty wee tow-rag thought the same and stole it from the underground garage that a bunch of us cadets had rented - there were 10 bikes in that garage and only mine and a 250 BSA Starfire were nicked. There I was at 08:30 and off to college for the day but looking at the chain and padlock that secured the door lying on the concrete and a big hole in the garage where my bike used to be! The police were no help at all - the desk sergeant at the local nick just said that the bike was probably already up north in Bradford or Liverpool and in a million pieces ready for sale in the classifieds or to local dealers. I never did pay the previous owner for the bike as I had it for just a couple of weeks and hadn't actually quite got around to giving him the 200 quid or insuring it (naughty boy...) so he claimed for the theft on his own insurance instead. I then moved on to a Triumph Trident, Kawasaki Z1B and Ducati Darmah SS plus quite a few others over the years. Will get another 1969 Lightning one day though, that's for sure.

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