Birmingham Small Arms Company - History of The BSA Industrial Group - Post-war


As the result of increased post war demand the Small Heath, Birmingham factory was turned over entirely to motorcycle production.

BSA produced the first Sunbeam bicycle catalogue in 1949 and produced its own '4 Star' derailleur gear with an associated splined cassette hub and 4 sprocket cassette. This design was different from the 1930s Bayliss Wiley cassette hub which had a threaded sprocket carrier. BSA bought New Hudson motorcycle and bicycle business in 1950 and followed this up in 1951 with the purchase of Triumph Motorcycles which brought Jack Sangster onto the BSA board. The effect of this acquisition was to make BSA into the largest producer of motorcycles in the world at that time.

1952 saw BSA establish a Professional Cycling Team. Bob Maitland a successful amateur cyclist and the highest placed British finisher in the 1948 Olympic Games road race and now an independent rider in the BSA team was a BSA employee working in the design office as a draughtsman. It was Bob Maitland who was responsible for the design of post war BSA range of lightweight sports bicycles based on his knowledge of cycling. Bob Maitland also made some of the components used on the bicycles of the professional team which were not standard production machines. In the 1952 Tour of Britain Road Race run between Friday 22 August and Saturday 6 September, involving 14 individual stages and covering a total race distance of 1,470 miles, the BSA team of Bob Maitland, “Tiny” Thomas, Pete Proctor, Alf Newman and Stan Jones won the overall team race and Pete Proctor “King of the Mountains” classification. The riders also enjoyed success on the individual stages of the race. The team competed in four further events, 14 September Tour of the Chilterns, 1st “Tiny” Thomas and Team Prize, 21 September Weston-Super-Mare Grand Prix, Team Prize, 28 September Staffordshire Grand Prix, 1st Bob Maitland and Team Prize, 5 October Tour Revenge Race, Dublin, 1st “Tiny” Thomas and Team prize.

In 1953 BSA withdrew motorcycle production from BSA Cycles Ltd, the company it has established in 1919, by creating BSA Motorcycles Ltd. BSA also produced its 100,000th BSA Bantam motorcycle, a fact celebrated at the 1953 motorcycle show with a visit by Sir Anthony Eden to the BSA stand. In 1953 the BSA Professional Cycling Team was managed by Syd Cozens. Successes were 5/6 April Bournmouth 2 Day Road Race, 1st Bob Maitland, 12 April Dover to London 63 Miles Road Race, 1st Stan Jones, 31 May Langsett 90 Miles Road Race, 1st Bob Maitland and “King of the Mountains”, 7 June Tour of the Wrekin, 1st Bob Maitland, 12 July Severn Valley 100 Miles Road Race, 1st “Tiny” Thomas, 19 July Jackson Trophy, Newcastle, Team Prize, 9 August Les Adams Memorial 80 Miles Road Race, 1st Alf Newman, Team Prize, “King of the Mountains” Arthur Ilsley, 30 August Weston-Super-Mare 100 Miles Grand Prix, 1st Bob Maitland, Team Prize. The team also competed in the 1,624 mile, 12 stage, 1953 Tour of Britain Road Race. The 1953 line up had changed as Arthur Ilsley replaced Pete Proctor in the team. “Tiny” Thomas won the overall individual classification, the Team were runners-up in the team competition and Arthur Ilsley was 3rd in the “King of the Mountains” competition. Bob Maitland also had notable success by winning the Independent National Championship.

1954 saw the introduction of the BSA Quick Release 3 Speed hub gear. It was a split axle three speed gear intended for use with bicycles equipped with oil bath chainguards. The original BSA 3 speed hub gear had been made under licence from the Three-Speed Gear Syndicate since 1907. The design was later to be classified as the Sturmey-Archer 'Type X', but all BSA hub gear production ceased in 1955

Sir Bernard Docker remained chairman of BSA until 1956 when the BSA removed him. In an acrimonious dispute conducted in the media the matter was brought to the BSA shareholders at the Annual General Meeting where the decision of the Board was upheld. Another significant departure for the fortune of the BSA Group but less controversial was the retirement on ill health grounds of James Leek CBE, Managing Director from 1939 until his retirement. Sir Bernard Docker was replaced as Chairman of the BSA Board by Jack Sangster.

The BSA bicycle division, BSA Cycles Ltd., including the BSA cycle dealer network was sold to Raleigh in 1957. Raleigh initially continued bicycle production in Birmingham at Coventry Road, Sheldon, Birmingham 26 into the early 1960s using up BSA parts but as time went on more stock Raleigh parts and fittings were used, some continuing to bear the 'piled arms' stamp. TI Group owners of the British Cycle Corporation bought Raleigh in 1960 thus gaining access to the BSA brand. Bicycles bearing the BSA name are currently manufactured and distributed within India by TI Cycles of India but have no direct connection to the original Birmingham BSA company.

In 1960, Daimler was sold off to Jaguar.

1961 was the centenary year of the BSA Group and in recognition of this milestone the company magazine produced an anniversary issue of BSA Group News in June BSA Centenary 1861–1961 in which many of the achievements of the Group were celebrated. This year also saw the end of military rifle production, however BSA still continued to make sporting guns. In 1986 BSA Guns was liquidated, the assets bought and renamed BSA Guns (UK) Ltd. The company continues to make air rifles and shotguns, and is still based in Small Heath in Birmingham.

Read more about this topic:  Birmingham Small Arms Company, History of The BSA Industrial Group

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