THUNDERBOLT from the BLUE
After riding a rigid Triumph bobber for years, Classic Bike snapper Gary Margerum has found solace in an unrestored 1967 BSA A65. He relates his experiences
‘THE FACT THAT IT WAS A 1967 BIKE WAS A NICE TOUCH – IT WAS THE YEAR I WAS BORN’
Until earlier this year, I was riding around on a Meriden Triumph bobber, but I fancied a change – and saw an opportunity to get two bikes instead of one. So I sold the bobber, bought the bike I really fancied – a 1975 Harley-davidson Shovelhead – and had some cash left over.
Rather than leave the money in the bank, and wait for her indoors to spend it, I kept an eye open for another reasonablypriced classic that I could use every day. Pretty soon a ’67 BSA Thunderbolt came up on ebay – it failed to sell, so I contacted the owner after the auction. He said it had one previous owner, who had used it with a sidecar attached. He claimed that the 30,000 miles on the clock were genuine and that the cases had never been apart. When I came to look at it, it was clear that everything on the bike was original except for the tyres and pipes, so I agreed to buy it off him for two grand.
I wanted an understated classic. A useable, everyday kind of hack with a bit of charisma, a bit of soul, not over-restored. And the price was right. The appealing thing for me was that it had the patina of 50 years of use.
I wasn’t looking for a BSA specifically, but the fact that it was a 1967 bike was a nice touch – that was the year I was born. The brown logbook revealed that it had first been registered in May that year – the very month I was born.
There’s no way I wanted to restore it. I wanted to keep it original. And after the Triumph bobber with its hardtail rear end, the Beeza was much softer and more comfy. I just fitted new tyres and tubes, cleaned the carb and adjusted the tappets, and it was on the road. We took it in the van to Wheels and Waves in Biarritz and stopped off at a mate’s on the way down for a few days off, where I rode it around. I was doing backroads stuff, stopping off at cafés with the lads – I was using it as a café racer!
In Biarritz it was used as a hack for collecting provisions from the nearest town. I really enjoyed riding it, but then first and third gears went AWOL. After nursing it back to the campsite, I took off the gearbox side cover to find the selector spring had broken. We hunted around unsuccessfully for materials to repair it, but them bumped into the groundsman of the campsite, who happened to be English. He loaned us his workshop, in which my mate Jim an I made a spring out of a barbeque skewer! Once more, I had a full selection of gears – just ready for the ‘Punks Peak’ hill climb the next day.
Sadly, it proved to be a temporary repair. I lost second gear on the hill and remember railing around the outside of Dutch (the guy who runs the Bike Shed in Shoreditch) on one of the tight hairpins in a shower of sparks. I continued to use the bike for the rest of the weekend with just two gears. Back in the UK, I got hold of the right parts and fixed it properly. I’ve had BSAS before – a B25SS Gold Star, with a shoebox silencer, which split regularly when it backfired; my dad taught me to weld it up. And I had a Bantam – a D3 engine in a D1 frame, if my memory serves me well.
My BSA is a bit agricultural – I think Triumph twins are a little bit more refined, but then a 1967 Triumph would be twice the price. And although I was told A65s have bottom-end issues, it seems my motor’s never been apart and is still going strong.