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Bike Review - Posted 14th March 2014
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BSA A10 Buying Guide

If you're looking for a traditional Britbike, then BSA's pre-unit 650 twin is an obvious choice. Built between 1950 and 1963, there's an A10 for almost every occasion. Family transport, cheap as chips, fast classic or collector's item. You choose...

You'll always find a wide range of classic-era A10s on sale. The various incarnations of this OHV parallel twin were extremely popular when they were being built, and this accomplished all-rounder is still one of the best British bikes to ride and own today. The A10 is durable, practical and user-friendly. Depending on the exact model and its state of the tune, a Beezer 650 can be a charming old chuffer, sweet as a sixpence at 60mph, or a fire-breathing beast which will top a ton. Most dealers will always have a couple (or a half a dozen) different types in stock so you can compare them side by side - and the A10s up for sale at the Bonhams auction at Stafford this month (April, 2014) neatly demonstrate what's available at what price.

The very first A10s of 1950 were available with telescopic front forks and a rigid rear end with sprung saddle. Very few rigid examples were sold, but the plunger suspension variation was a mainstay of the BSA range through to 1957 and proved hugely popular with sidecar pilots (who didn't quite trust the swinging arm model when it was introduced for 1954). The rigid and plunger bikes have their 646cc, 360-degree, parallel twin engine and four-speed gearbox arranged in a 'semi-unit' layout, while the later swinging arm machines separate the gearbox and engine entirely. So the power-train on the earlier models is commendably compact and this contributes to their slightly shorter wheelbase.

BSA A10 Buying Guide 1953 BSA Golden Flash A10 Outfit

The combination of an all-iron engine, concave pistons running 6.5:1 compression and small-bore carb gives the early A10 an easy-going air which contributes to an entirely relaxed ride. The braking isn't exactly radical, nor does it boast razor-sharp handling, but it's hard not to like a plunger Flash - and it's easy to cover big miles on one without really noticing.

At its launch, BSA suggested that the new Golden Flash 'has a remarkable performance through its entire speed range. At the same time the engine is so flexible and the machine so versatile that it provides an unprecedented sidecar performance, and will satisfy the most ardent high-speed solo enthusiast.' Well. Apart from all those high-speed solo enthusiasts who bought Triumphs, of course.

The plunger Flash was available in black and chrome, but the A10 very quickly became associated with the beige livery which gave the Golden Flash its name. Many owners colour-matched their sidecars, as seen here with this 1953 Golden Flash outfit.

BSA A10 Buying Guide
BSA Twins on Now...

This particular A10 was sent from Small Heath to Nottingham in the autumn of that year, and has been equipped for touring and travel with BSA's own sidecar. It was restored some time ago and was in regular use until 2012. The outfit has been SORNed since then and will need some attention to put back on the road as the clutch isn't keen to operate smoothly. The outfit is expected to sell for around £3500, and you'll pay much the same for a solo plunger Flash in roadgoing condition

BSA A10 Buying Guide 1955 BSA A10

Next up came the swinging arm A10 with its fully separate gearbox, improved frame and dual seat as standard. The 1955 bikes were fitted with a Monobloc carb - and the one on sale at the Bonhams auction also has the Ariel full-width alloy hubs. The current owner bought this bike 14 years ago and rebuilt it to top-notch condition, although it's been used very little since then and hasn't been MoT'd since 2004. This swinging arm Golden Flash is estimated to fetch between £5000 and £6000; our feeling is that the bidding might stall at the £5k mark despite the high standard of its restoration, simply because it's roadworthiness hasn't been demonstrated of late. Fine if you just want to sit and look at it, of course.

BSA continued to build the cooking A10 until 1963, but the standard Golden Flash was joined by several sports version over the years. The 40bhp Road Rocket came with an alloy cylinder head which was revised for 1958 when the model morphed into the A10SR Super Rocket with a sporty 357 'full-race' cam, giving around 43bhp and 100mph potential. This model also benefitted from BSA's 8-inch front brake and was normally seen with twin Smiths clocks rather than the cowl / nacelle of the Golden Flash.

BSA A10 Buying Guide 1958 BSA A10 Super Rocket

The Super Rocket is the A10 to choose if you genuinely want to press on a bit but would like a classic that can cope equally well with a Sunday afternoon amble. BSA claimed the A10SR provided; 'real racing performance in the best looking, most handsomely finished sports motorcycle on the highway,' featuring 'new gear ratios with lower, quicker-off-the-line bottom gear' for the American market, which 'make this big, powerful motorcycle the most thrilling sports job on two wheels!'

Phew. I'm exhausted just reading that.

BSA A10 Buying Guide 1958 BSA A10 Super Rocket

The Super Rocket on sale at Stafford was restored some time ago and was running back in 1998 but hasn't been used since. The frame is a replacement item although the bike comes with a current V5C, some history and past MoTs. It wears a smart set of Akront wheels and has been equipped with a cartridge oil filter - so someone obviously intended to use it. Its lack of use and the replacement frame are reflected in an estimate of £3000 to £4000. If it sells for £3k then the new owner will have grabbed a very pleasant rider's bike which just needs some attention to put back into roadgoing condition. Comfortable, practical and reasonably rapid - it's our pick of this bunch.

BSA A10 Buying Guide BSA A10 Rocket Gold Star

The ultimate A10 - in outright performance terms and price - is the Rocket Gold Star, the café racer which blends the twin-cylinder engine with the Gold Star's cycle parts and styling. There's a genuine Rocket Goldie up for grabs in this sale and it's expected to sell for around £20,000. That buys you a fully restored and authenticated example, running 9:1 compression and putting out 46bhp or so. The RGS was only built for two years and some 1600 were produced, hence the massive price premium compared to a Super Rocket from the same period.

BSA A10 Buying Guide BSA A10 Rocket Gold Star

Of course, there is a cheaper way to enjoy most of the benefits of owning an RGS and there are plenty of RGS replicas knocking around. Here's one now: it started life as a 1955 Road Rocket and has been neatly upgraded with a Goldie fuel tank and silencer, siamesed exhaust system and Akront alloy wheel rims. There's no mention of any engine work which suggests that the RGSness is entirely cosmetic, and it'll be as easy to live with as any roadster A10. It's even got handlebars for humans instead of knee-knocker clip-ons.

BSA A10 Buying Guide BSA A10 Rocket Gold Star Replica

This A10 has been used in the main for VMCC runs and was restored in 2000. It comes with V5C, old MoTs and such, and is expected to sell for between £4500 and £5000.

So there you have five A10s, all of them looking for new owners. It'll be interesting to see how much they sell for on the day - pop back in a week or so when we'll report on the results…

Words Rowena Hoseason - Photos bonhams.com


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