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Bike Profile - Posted 13th July 2012

1971 BSA Fury
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This prototype DOHC 350 twin dates from the days when BSA went Plum Crazy. Rowena Hoseason tells the tale of the BSA Fury (and Triumph Bandit)...

If you're ever in West London with some time to spare, be sure to stop by the London Motorcycle Museum in Greenford wherein lurks one of the British industry's interesting neverwozzas which didn't make the leap from prototype to production - the DOHC 350cc parallel twin, aka the BSA Fury.

Blue-purple: very 1971 1971 BSA Fury

Edward Turner, retired from management but still working on motorcycle designs as a freelance, initiated the Fury/Bandit project in the late 1960s. Owen Wright once commented that Turner's Fury design was 'beautifully presented, excellent in style, but dreadfully lacking in any technical substance.' The T35 Bandit would have been marketed as a Triumph while the E35 Fury wore BSA badges. Turner's design was developed further by Bert Hopwood and Doug Hele, and incorporated aspects of the R&D being done at Umberslade Hall, to produce a high-revving five-speed parallel twin which retained the typically British format of vertically-split crankcases. Bore and stroke were 63mm by 56mm, giving 349cc; the five-speed gearbox was an updated Triumph four-speed unit.

This is the BSA Fury engine's good side...

The 34bhp engine which revved to 9000rpm incorporated a forged crankshaft with integral flywheel, set for 180-degree firing. Max torque was claimed to be 20ft/lb at 7000rpm, which would have felt very strange to traditional British riders familiar with low-revving heavyweight singles… but it was ideal for taking on Honda's perky 350 twins. The Fury used light-alloy conrods and three-ring pistons running 9.5:1 compression in shallow combustion chambers, fed fuel by two 26mm Amal Concentric carbs. The single-piece light-alloy cylinder head housed the chain-driven cams (lubricated by a new, high volume oil pump), and the whole engine was tilted forward in the duplex frame by 20-degrees.

Is this the ugliest engine ever fitted to a British motorcycle?

The frame itself is very similar to that used by the BSA competition triples, and was matched with swinging arm rear suspension; bare, slimline telescopic front forks, and conical hub drum brakes (8-inch front 2LS with a flared air intake to aid cooling, 7-inch SLS rear). An electric starter unit was positioned above the gearbox, and this would have been a factory-fit optional extra for £21 on top of the asking price of £380. The 18-inch wheels were shod in Dunlop K70 tyres.

Two initial versions of the Fury were anticipated; the E35R roadgoing machine and the E35SS Street Scrambler with dual, black, high-rise exhausts, which was expected to sell well in the USA. Both versions weighed around 160kg dry with a seat height of 30 inches and 7 inches of ground clearance.

BSAs on

The Fury came so close to production that it is featured in all the 1971 catalogues. 'This is BSA answering the call of so many riders for a genuine high performance bike' says one brochure. Although some sources claim that the Fury was capable of 110mph, a top speed of 95mph seems more realistic. Similarly, scheduling production to build customer bikes for the 1971/72 season was outright optimistic. The new engine needed a proper shakedown period - when Hopwood put one early prototype on the test bench it broke two crankshafts and the valve gear failed within 1500 miles.

The roadgoing test bike had to be ridden at low speeds for 3000 miles 'because of lack of power' said Hopwood. It used four pints of oil per hundred miles, and the crankshaft, gudgeon pins and main bearings all failed during the total 5400 mile test. Even the chassis caused concerns; 'the frame has already been redesigned due to excess flexibility which caused a hazard' explained Hopwood, while 'the front forks are considered to be fundamentally unsafe.' Overall, Hopwood's view was that the first stab at the Fury was 'a good looker but extremely badly engineered and very unreliable.'

I wonder how Brit Bike Buyers would have taken to the left-hand kickstart?...

Eventually, Bert Hopwood's efforts produced a machine which he felt had a 'high degree of reliability', although he never liked its styling. This delay in bringing the bike into production - dealers had been pre-selling the new 350s from 1970 - meant that by mid-1971 it became obvious they wouldn't be available until late into 1972. The Street Scrambler version was postponed and the price tag of the roadster rose to £458 for an electric-start model. Feedback from factory riders suggests that the Fury was quick but mechanically noisy; teething troubles with the points ignition continued.

BSA 350 Fury clockset: 12,000rpm tacho from the nineteen seventies, choke lever from the nineteen thirties...

However, the BSA Group's finances were collapsing and in the end the company decided instead to concentrate their restricted resources on existing models. Roy Bacon observed that the Fury 'had tremendous potential' which 'it never had a chance to show.' Indeed, the Fury came close to achieving Turner's aim of cramming the performance of a 500 into the petite package of a 350. The Fury could match the top speed of an A50 Star twin and the 650 single-carb Thunderbolt, and even Honda's CB350. The Fury would have been a potent performer in the early 1970s… if, of course, it proved to be reliable.

RIght-hand centre stand tang, too...

Only a handful of Fury and Bandit bikes are still known to exist; the one we photographed can be found at the London Motorcycle Museum: www.london-motor cycle-museum.org

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Words and photos: Rowena Hoseason

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