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1st February 2005

BSA Unit-Construction Twins: The Complete Story
by Matthew Vale

One book: two completely different opinions. You may just have to read this history of the late Beesa bikes yourself...

BSA Unit Construction Twins - From enjoyed another Crowood publication -- BSA Bantam by Owen Wright -- but was very disappointed by Matthew Vale's 'BSA Unit Twins'.

The title is misleading, as the book largely reproduces existing information on BSA's later twins. An opportunity has been missed to unearth new information, particularly by finding and interviewing BSA employees involved in the A50 / A65's design, production and sales.

Last year's book, Norton Commando, by Mick Duckworth is an fine example of how detailed research can add produce a definitive story. Sadly 'BSA Unit Twins' makes a poor comparison.

As a potential reference book for owners and restorer, there are too many photos of non-standard bikes. In my view, the owner interviews are too subjective and not worthwhile.

A significant section of the book is devoted to restoration, but the advice is quite generalised and could apply to any make or model. If I had wanted a motorcycle restoration guide I would have bought one!

Sorry, but this publication really doesn't deserve the 'Complete Story' title, or the £19.95 price tag.

Simon Amos


I liked this book. Well I would, wouldn't I, being a well-known addict of these unfashionable models, these anti-Bonnevilles?

Not necessarily. If the job had been botched, I would not have been well pleased - this is, after all, the first stand-alone volume (bar Roy Bacon's slim Motorcycle Monograph) on these particular Brumagem Drays, the A50/A65/A70 twins.

But it hasn't been botched. The book is well-produced, with a nice 8-page colour picture section in the middle and a stunning contemporary 1967 cover photo showing a pair of two-up A65s chasing each other somewhere in England. And it's acceptably written, with a proper balance between the model-by-model information you need in a marque history (it's sound on the Hornet and A70's details, and the analysis of the unit engine is masterful), and the anecdotal stuff you want, to keep the story from becoming too impersonal. So there are owner's stories, including real-life grief, and an account of the writer rebuilding a 1965 Lightning.

Chicks Dig Beesas

Sure there are a couple of howlers, as you'd expect from a first-time author. 'Burnham' gearboxes? I don't think so.

And on the historical side, there's no exploration of the intriguing fact that the broad lines of these unit twins' layout and style, which were not universally liked or accepted (think 'watermelon engines'), had originally been laid down by none other than Edward Turner, boss of BSA's deadly rivals, Triumph…

And there's no mention of BSA's own painstaking fix for the '66 Spitfire Mk II's hard-to-adjust for tickover twin GP carbs (a positive-stop mechanism within the throttle cable).

But there are also facts which after many years reading and riding I still hadn't known. Like the difference between 1966's 'open', and the previous 'closed', frames. Or that the original speedo and tacho cables on 1972's Etruscan Bronze A65 Firebird Scrambler had been - brown? Not many people know that.

BSA A series stuff on

Otherwise it's a thorough job, including technical material and illustrations, as well as competition history and currently available tweaks. So well done Crowood, and well done Matthew Vale, a man who has clearly heard the underdog howl of these essentially solid and likeable Small Heath twins.

Steve Wilson


BSA Unit-Construction Twins: The Complete Story by Matthew Vale

  • Published by The Crowood Press ISBN 1 86126 689 8. List price £19.95.
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