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BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) bicycle from 50s.

BSA history (based on Wikipedia article)

[img] BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) began in June 1861 in the Gun Quarter, Birmingham England. It was founded specifically to manufacture guns by machinery, by fourteen gunsmiths of the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association. In this time the Board of Ordnance's Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield had introduced machinery made in the USA. Their greatly increased output had been achieved with reduced reliance on skilled craftsmen.The War Office provided free access to technical drawings and their facilities at their Enfield factory.The newly-formed company purchased 25 acres of land at Small Heath, Birmingham, built a factory there and made a road on the site calling it Armoury Road.

[img] In 1863 the company got an order for 20,000 rifles. The same year the managament was changed from a committee to an elected Board of Directors: the first chairman was John Dent Goodman. The first War Office contract was not agreed until 1868. In 1879 the factory, without work, was shut for a year. The military arms trade was precarious, so BSA decided to diverse their production. In 1880 they entered the bicycle industry. The first vehicle they manufactured was the Otto dicycle.

[img] In the 1880s the company began to manufacture so called „safety bicycles”, like the one shown in the press advertisement to the left. The illustration below (from Lexikon der gesamten Technik by Otto Lueger, 1904) explains the concept of safety bicycle, compared with elder „Hochrad” type. Dicycles were belived to be safer then old high wheel bicycles, but "safety bicycles" were much safer then all earlier models; in a short time they completely replaced them.


[img] In 1905 first experimental motorcycle was constructed (first prototype automobile – in 1907). Bicycle production ceased in 1887 as the company concentrated on producing the Lee-Metford magazine loading rifle for the War Office, which was re-equipping the British Army with it. The order was for 1,200 rifles per week. BSA recommenced manufacturing bicycles on their own behalf from 1908. Motor bicycles were added to bicycle products in 1910. The BSA 3½ hp was exhibited at the 1910 Olympia Show, London for the 1911 season. The entire BSA production sold out in 1911, 1912 and 1913. BSA Cycles Ltd was set up in 1919 for the manufacture of both bicycles and motorcycles.

[img] From 1908 BSA run a motorcar departament, but it wasn't very succesful at the start: in first year only 150 automobiles were sold. In 1910 BSA merged with Daimler Motor Company Ltd of Coventry; Daimler and Rover were the largest British car producers at that time. Soon BSA automobiles with Daimler engines were available. When First World War started, the company focused on arms manufacture; after war BSA continued motorcycle and car production.

[img] In November 1919 BSA launched Model E, first of their vee-twin, or V-twin, engine motorcycles (the one to the left is from 1937). For a short time they were also involved in aircraft industry. As well as the Daimler car range, BSA Cycles Ltd re-entered the car market under the BSA name in 1921 with a V-twin engined light car followed by four-cylinder models up to 1926, when the name was temporarily dropped. In 1929 a new range of 3- and 4-wheel cars appeared and production of these continued until 1936. Car production under the BSA name ceased in the 1930s.

By the outbreak of the Second World War, BSA Guns Ltd at Small Heath, was the only factory producing rifles in the UK, as Royal Ordnance Factories would not begin production until 1941. BSA Guns Ltd was also producing .303 Browning machine guns for the Air Ministry at the rate of 600 guns per week in March 1939 and Browning production was to peak at 16,390 per month by March 1942. The armed forces had chosen the 500 cc side-valve BSA M20 motorcycle as their preferred machine. BSA also produced folding motorcycles for the Airborne Division. The production was enormous, but it had to be dispersed throughout Britain, after BSA factories were bombed in 1940. At its peak Small Heath was running 67 factories engaged in war production. BSA operations were also dispersed to other companies under licence.

[img] After war BSA again returned to bicycle and motorcycle production. The first Sunbeam bicycle catalogue appeared in 1949. BSA bought New Hudson motorcycle and bicycle business in 1950 and followed this up in 1951 with the purchase of Triumph Motorcycles. The effect of this acquisition was to make BSA into the largest producer of motorcycles in the world at that time. 1952 saw BSA establish a Professional Cycling Team. Bob Maitland, a successful amateur cyclist then an independent rider in the BSA team, was a BSA employee working in the design office as a draughtsman. Bob Maitland was responsible for the design of post war BSA range of lightweight sports bicycles based on his knowledge of cycling. BSA sold the bicycle business to Raleigh in 1957 after separating the bicycle and motorcycle business in 1953. Bicycles bearing the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within India by TI Cycles of India but have no direct connection to the original Birmingham BSA company.

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