1971’s BSA - 750/3 From Hailwood to Hele
In October 1969 the Triumph factory’s head of development, Doug Hele, was entrusted with the task of developing a racing version of the company’s new T150 Trident three-cylinder Superbike, which had been launched the previous year. For someone like Hele, who relished using racing to improve the performance of his company’s products, this was an enticing challenge with just one drawback: He had to have six bikes on the grid for the Daytona 200 the following March, just four months away.
The Highboy-framed BSA-3 which Mike Hailwood raced in the 1970 Daytona 200 is in the Barber Museum in Alabama, but the fate of his 1971 Lowboy bike is less certain. Taking the frame of a bike as its genesis, there’s a good case for identifying the bike pictured here as being that machine. It belongs to Surrey collector Mike Braid, who has a superb collection of historic race bikes ranging from the ex-bill Ivy 650 Monard twin to an ex-loris Capirossi Ducati V4 Desmosedici Motogp racer. After Hailwood’s retirement from the Daytona his BSA-3 was returned to the UK to be converted to short circuit spec and raced by Ray Pickrell in the debut Anglo-american Match Races held in 1971. On it, Pickrell won three of the six races held, but crashed in the final one at Oulton, sufficiently damaging the frame that it had to be replaced. The bent-up original acted as a jig for Triumph’s brought-in metal-basher Don Woodward, in manufacturing the two types of aluminium fuel tanks he built for Rob North’s new design of Lowboy frames. The Highboys had plastic resin tanks supplied by Screen and Plastics, who also made the bodywork, but the Lowboys were fitted with either a smaller, lower short-circuit aluminium tank with a single filler cap, or a larger Daytona version with twin caps, one for filling the tank and the other to let the air out. After the closure of the Triumph factory this tank jig was among the Experimental Department’s bits and pieces which ended up in factory race fitter Les Williams’ shop. Braid takes up the story: “In 1987-88 I happened to be at Les Williams’s shop where I glimpsed a chassis sitting behind the counter. It turned out that it was the Lowboy frame off the ex-hailwood 1971 Daytona bike. I asked Les if he wanted to sell it and bought it for not a huge amount of money. I then decided that I would start collecting bits and pieces with a view to building it up as a proper factory style bike. “I bought a lot of stuff from Les, including wheels and various factory parts. I took all this to Richard Peckett of P&M Motorcycles and asked him to repair the chassis which had some fairly bent tubes, especially on the front. I asked him to cut out all the bad stuff and put it back together as it would’ve been in 1971, which he did, finishing it in 1990. “Without ever claiming to be the actual Hailwood bike, but a machine recreated in the spirit of it from a collection of parts, many of them ex-works, we’ve just built the bike up as close as possible to 1971 Daytona specs. “It has a factory squish cylinder head on it, which has the re-angled centre spark plug, it’s got squish pistons, it’s got the original factory ignition system with the quill drive for the points and the Zener diodes, it’s got the original Quaife five-speed gearbox as used in the factory bikes. The tank was built by John Woodward, who made the original fuel tanks using that very frame, and the bodywork is an original Screens and Plastics Rob North fairing. Without going overboard, I’ve tried to make it as close as possible to what that bike would’ve been in 1971, and I feel that Richard Peckett has done a really fine job in re-creating it.”