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BSA Spitfire. Fast, unreliable and sought after

ER Classics Desktop 2022

The BSA Spitfire was the fastest BSA motorcycle and was made from 1966 to 1968 with model designations MkII, MkIII and MkIV. Announced at the Brighton Motor Show in September 1965, the dynamic novice was based on the earlier BSA Lightning with a power upgrade achieved through the most classic tuning method through a higher compression ratio with 10,5: 1 pistons, hotter cams and two Amal 1-5 / 32 ”GP carburettors with open chalices. Also very modern: It was one of the first BSAs with 12 volt on-board voltage.

The fastest BSA ever

When introduced in 1966, it was the fastest standard BSA ever produced and the fastest standard motorcycle tested by Motor Cycle with a top speed of 123 mph and an average of 119,2 mph. A well-tuned Spitfire produced 54 hp. In addition, the correct adjustment of the ignition and the carburettors was of vital importance. Just for the record: 123 mph is 197.9493 km / h according to the conversion table. Just say: 200 km / h. And that was incredibly fast at the time. The Spitfire was the Bonneville Beater of choice. The acceleration of such a Spitfire was phenomenal.


Very hard

They drove fast with such fast bikes. Spitfire pilots therefore had a limited chance of survival if the case remained intact. But more often, their lives were saved by the fact that their Spitfire's engine gave up the ghost.

Before that, a Spitfire was already a difficult starter when it was warm. And when it ran it vibrated tremendously at high revs. But the Spitfire was faster and better handling than a Bonneville. But certainly with the early Spitfires everything vibrated loose and / or broken.
The pain point was that they - also at BSA - assumed that their customers would remain brand loyalty forever. The idea that a motorcyclist would ever want to be seen on a Japanese motorcycle seemed unthinkable to BSA. At BSA they therefore continued to build on production lines that were still from before WWII. And that was clearly at the expense of the British technical superiority once built up.

Speed ​​kills

Thus, faster than the competition wanting to be the death of the brand. Whatever was done by aftermarket suppliers. The twins soon got stronger crankshaft bearings, a larger oil pump and a modified clutch. That crankshaft bearing was quite a thing because there were quite a few Spitfires that were very dead at low mileage. But suppliers also found solutions for this. The starting problems were largely solved by the factory by mounting the new 32 mm Amals 932 Concentrics and real air filters. This reduced the power by just 1 hp, but made the engine much more user-friendly. The gas mileage was also much better.

They were toppers!

BSA Spitfires were the best. They were very fast and quite expensive motorcycles with limited survivability. So there are few left. This very real copy, sold new in the Netherlands, is a super authentic example of such a survivor. Even the tank transfers that traditionally dissolved due to spilled petrol are still nice. The machine comes from the collection of Anne de Leeuw from Oosterwijk, who collected his collection in an old village school. And to prevent gender shifts: Anne is of 'our - the usually standing urinating - kind.

And the BSA Spitfire?

A good Spitfire may now be allowed to trot once. But the survivors are treated with respect. And now they remain whole.

Also read:
- BSA Sunbeam and Triumph Tigress. A grumpy kitten
- BSA B31 / 33
- A BSA 65 Lightning
- Triumph Bonneville. Not really original
- BSA B33. Scraping or getting rid of?

3 Comments

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  1. I also bought my Spitfire from Fritz Selling and have never regretted it. My most beautiful bike ever (and I got to own quite a few…)! He was fast (for that time) and steered like a knife. The predicate 'unreliable' is only partly applicable and had a lot to do with maintenance. For example, De Spit reacted angrily to slack valve springs. Shortly before Hamburg (making a cup of coffee with friends in Norway) that resulted in a crooked valve. Own fault…
    I knew they had to be replaced and still went to Norway for a while. In the back of a beer truck to Hamburg, new valve at Detlev Louis scored, replaced on the street and on to Norway. Naturally also replace the damaged piston at home. For the rest, the Spit never let me down, although he also had a lot of full throttle work on 'blow rides' to Switzerland. But he was also pampered.
    Unfortunately, in a moment of insanity, I exchanged the Spit for a Lavera SF. Nothing to the detriment of the Laverda, but I still miss my Spitfire….

  2. When I bought my Spitfire for 1950 guilders at Selling in Amsterdam I was a “novice” motorcyclist. With that I was certainly not the "experienced rider" that you should be for such a "beast" according to the motorcycle magazines.
    I found it irresistibly beautiful and the sound just as much. However, the driving was incomparable with my Japanese teaching bikes and especially the brakes and reliability left much to be desired.
    After a number of near-death experiences I made a life-saving choice and switched to Laverda's, which also vibrated but had brakes and stayed intact.

  3. This was my first motorcycle and it turns me on. Bought it for 1700 guilders. The bitch couldn't be kept whole and was leaking gallons of oil. But when he drove it was party time. Had to replace the head gasket almost every month but it kept leaking. Eventually the crankcase tore in half and I sold it for 500 guilders to a BSA garage in Loenen. Is now StarTwin.

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