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At the conclusion of his story about his BSA A7 Shooting Star in RC156, Craig Whittaker wonders whether he should swap it for a Golden Flash. My advice would be ‘probably not’.
Back in 1964/65 I was running a 1954 500 Matchless G9 Clubman; good looking, well-engineered, but a bit slow for my 20 year-old self. I decided I needed a 650, and found a late 1950s Golden Flash advertised by Slocombe’s of Neasden. I’d owned several BSAs, including a couple of elderly A7s, so knew roughly what to expect, but I still can’t believe what I did next. I was in college in Worcestershire, so rang Slocombe’s (with whom I’d never dealt previously) from the college payphone. After a brief conversation and purely on the strength of the advert (one or two lines of text stating make, model, year, mileage and price: no photographs in the 1960s) I said ‘I’ll have it. Can you send it to Worcester?’
‘OK’ they said, ‘send us the money and we’ll put it on the train.’
So that’s exactly what happened; the first time I saw FNH 37 it was standing on the platform at Shrub Hill station. It was minus its plug leads (apparently liberated en route) and unsurprisingly the fuel tank was empty, but it looked clean and tidy and otherwise ready to go (and it was black, which I wasn’t expecting, but that was OK). It was delivered home in a British Railways box van (those were the days) and the logbook arrived in the post.
After a quick check over and with new plug leads and some fuel in the tank, we were ready to go. I rode it through the spring and summer of 1965, and it was pretty much everything I had hoped for; reasonably fast, comfortable and sure footed, with a nice exhaust note to boot. It was easily my best bike so far, but my enjoyment was curtailed by a late summer collision with a Morris Minor. It speared into my nearside at a 45 degree angle while its driver was apparently looking elsewhere.
I don’t have a ‘before’ shot, but my brother recorded the result of the crash; you will see from the shape of the tank that I was extremely fortunate to escape serious injury. I was completely unscathed by the actual impact, my only injuries being abrasions to my hands and knees when I skated along the tarmac after being thrown over the bars; painful, but far from life threatening. Oh, and I scratched my newly painted crash hat. In almost modern parlance, I dodged a cannonball that day.
The Flash was sidelined while my solicitor battled with the car driver’s insurers. I rode through the following winter on a 350 Royal Enfield Model G and, in the spring, I bought a circa 1960 A7 Shooting Star in pearlescent green. This was a more conventional purchase; I actually saw the bike and gave it a test ride before buying, and it turned out to be a real gem. I tore about on it for several months, enjoying every minute and thinking ‘ This is a really good bike; it would be even better with a 650 engine’.
I still had the wreckage of the Golden Flash. The engine seemed to be OK so I did a swap. I wasn’t disappointed by the resulting hybrid, but nor was I particularly excited. The standard A10 engine is credited with a few more horsepower than the A7SS, but these are delivered in a slightly different way; more shire horse than race horse, methinks. I couldn’t really tell the difference and, had I not already sold the Shooting Star engine to a lad who hoped to slot it into his B31, I would probably have swapped back.
I have no hands-on experience of the Super Rocket / Road Rocket variants, but would say that if you just want significantly more power, that’s the way to go; on paper, they are clearly a more powerful version of the Shooting Star. Not so the Golden Flash. However, if you just want a big soft twin that’s easy to look after and a real pleasure to ride, go get one. Dave Windmill, member 3944