1971’s BSA - 750/3 From Hail­wood to Hele

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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.”

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