BSA Gold Star

History

 

Much has been written about the BSA Gold Star and no attempt will be made to reproduce the vast amount of published information that is available on this site.  However, a brief history of the marque provides an insight into the machine’s birth, development and subsequent demise within BSA.

The Clubman’s model Gold Star has been developed for competitions in road and short circuit events, and its specification is such that it is neither intended nor suitable for road use as a touring motor cycle – extract from a 1961 BSA Catalogue.

To start the story, we go back to 1937, when Wal Handley came out of retirement to ride a three-lap race for BSA at Brooklands. This was unusual in itself, as BSA had taken no involvement in road racing since the disastrous 1921 Senior TT when all the machines entered failed to finish. Winning the race, with a fastest lap of 107.5 mph, Wal earned himself the Gold Star (awarded for race laps in excess of 100 mph) and with it launched the Gold Star marque.

 

The following year saw the first of the production Gold Stars, the M24, complete with the trademark alloy barrel and cylinder head. The engines were built from individually selected parts and bench tested, a practice that was to remain throughout its life. The machine, an instant ‘good-looker’ and a bargain at £82, was capable of 90mph performance though possibly without handling to match, and pre-war production was restricted to under 500 machines.

Following the war, BSA launched the ZB32 Gold Star in 1948 at a price of £211. In order to satisfy the eligibility requirements for the Clubmans TT, over 100 machines were produced, 21 of which were entered into the 1949 350cc junior race, a race to be dominated by Gold Stars for the next eight years. The 350cc model was followed by the 500cc ZB34 and with it followed success in both trials and scrambles as well as road racing.

1953 saw the introduction of the BB series (BB32 – 350cc / BB34 – 500cc) with new duplex cradle frame and swinging arm rear suspension. These were followed in 1954 by the CB series with engine changes aimed primarily at the road racers. Immediate success was achieved in the Clubmans TT and this cycle of engine redesign and immediate success was repeated the following year with the DB series. The Senior TT was won by Eddie Dow who later went into business as Britain’s Gold Star Specialists providing a wide range of custom accessories.

In 1956, further modifications were made to the cylinder head designated the DBD34 range. Perhaps the ultimate form of the pre unit Gold Star, it was available in both Clubmans and Scrambles trim for £277.

The Magnificent 7
FIRST YEAR OF MANUFACTURE MODEL 350 500
1938 JM24 x
1939 KM24 x
1949 ZB32/34 x x
1953 BB32/34 x x
1954 CB32/34 x x
1955 DB32/34 x x
1956 DBD34 x
Further reading:
TITLE AUTHOR ISBN
BSA Gold Star Super Profile John Gardner ISBN 0 85429 483 X
Goldie A Golland (!) ISBN 0 85429 233 0
The Gold Star Book George Prew
BSA Singles Restoration Roy Bacon ISBN 1 85579 023 8
The Illustrated History of BSA Motorcycles Roy Bacon ISBN 1 85648 232 4
BSA and Other Singles Roy Bacon ISBN 1 85579 012 2
BSA Motorcycles since 1950 Steve Wilson ISBN 1 85260 572 3

Perhaps the top brass at BSA lost interest in the Goldie after the Clubman TT was ended in 1956. When Hap Alzina, the USA West Coast distributor, told BSA that he would not order any BSA’s until they had supplied the Gold Stars he wanted, it is believed that someone at the top of BSA said “if he won’t buy what we want to make, we’ll stop making what he wants to buy” …and they did. The last Gold Star rolled off the line in 1963.