1966 BSA A65 Lightning Rebuild

I got this bike back in 2004 or so from my friend Paul. I'd been having difficulties with my other bike and had a big ride planned (New Year's Day NYC tradition). He told me to come pick it up and I could borrow for an unspecified amount of time. I'd never much cared for BSAs as the ones I'd seen struck me as being kind of ugly, with oversized side panels and taller handlebars. When I saw him wheel it out of his garage I was in love. I rode it around the city constantly from that point on, flogging it with no mercy and having no problems. It did have a mighty sticky clutch which could make it hard to get in gear if it sat for a few days. One fine summer evening Paul and I were headed out for ride and it was giving me a lot of trouble. I was impatient and kicked it into gear with the motor revving to break the plates free. Went into gear, let's ride! Not. Bike was still idling perfectly but didn't go anywhere when I let out the clutch. I couldn't figure what'd had happened until I turned around and saw a look of horror on Paul's face and the pool of oil and some trans parts on the ground at my feet. Shit. Another lesson in patience.

I let the bike sit in back of my shop for couple years and dragged it to my new shop in Philly after moving from NYC. In the winter of 2007 I decided to rebuilt the bike and "hired" an apprentice (Brent) to help me in the shop. This was the first BSA motor I'd ever. I'd done a good number of shovels, pans and ironhead sporsters by then and even a couple Triumph motors. This was a whole new thing. I intended to build the motor out of a set of mismatched cases so I could keep the same motor numbers as the bike was pretty original. Good thing for lathes and milling machines. Turns out I was gonna need them.

To make a long story longer, as Paul likes to say, I got it done after a couple months of sporadic, but intense work and spent the next year riding it everywhere I could. What an amazing machine! Last spring I did an oil change and put on a new filter obtained from a local shop that looked pretty crusty. On the way home I blew the motor on the expressway doint a decently high rate of speed ;-0. Crushed. Killed. Almost in tears. I tore it apart that night to see what happened only to find what seemed like a complete oil obstruction. The crankcases where dry. The crank, rods, cam and tappets were completely ruined and unuseable. I stashed it away in the back of the shop again until the time was right.

Spring 2010 finds me doing the motor again. I picked up a core motor, a new crank and a bunch of parts from Keith DiCristo last summer and got just what needed for dirt cheap. Cleaning them up and measuring everything revealed an unground crank in perfect condition, two original unrebored cylinders and a DD oil pump in perfect working condition. I spent the evening a couple weeks ago breaking everything down and cleaning and inspecting for the rebuild. I started scouting for a place to install and size a new timing side bushing. I'd done the last one on the Bridgeport with a boring head, finishing with a hone, but the Bridgeport is not currently hooked up at my new shop. Someone recommended Classic Cycles in central NJ. After speaking with owner (Dave) I was convinced to leave the cases and crank to let him fit and assemble the lower end including timing bushing and rod bearings. After seeing how spotless his shop was and how well stocked the parts bins were, I was convinced to trust someone else withe my motor. This makes the first time I've had anyone other than me work on a bike of mine since 1998. I got it back last week and it looks great.

The rebuild continues and I should be done in a few weeks if all goes according to plan.

Jason - April, 2010

A video of riding the BSA around Manhattan on New Year's Day 2004.


More tech articles @ www.greasygringo.com