Harry Stitt BSA B40

Classic Trial - - CONTENTS -

Many years ago I saw pho­to­graphs of my hero, a very young Martin Lampkin rid­ing his 250cc BSA in his first Scot­tish Six Days Trial in 1967. In his face you can see the dream of a fu­ture world tri­als cham­pion rid­ing my ‘dream’ ma­chine. Over the years I have col­lected pho­to­graphs of the Works BSA team rid­ers in­clud­ing, from tri­als: the Lampkin broth­ers, Jeff Smith, Jim San­di­ford, Scott El­lis, and Dave Row­land, to name but a few, and also in­clud­ing the mo­tocross stars such as Keith Hick­man, John Banks, Vic East­wood etc. Two years ago I fi­nally pur­chased my first BSA B40, and my thoughts were to build a tri­als Special with a Bri­tish hand-built frame. Words: Justyn Norek Snr and Jnr and John Hulme • Pic­tures: Justyn Norek Snr and Brian Holder

Ihad done some sketches of how I would like this ma­chine to look, and started re­search on the web for special tri­als frame builders in the UK... I found quite a few, in­clud­ing Cheney, Dray­ton, Faber, Mead, Mojo, Wasp and Whit­lock… I took a close look at their prod­ucts as some had only ever pro­duced mo­tocross kits, and I also re­alised this would be a very costly pro­ject!

Pure Chance

Then by pure chance I saw a pho­to­graph of a young guy with a mo­tocross frame he had built, so my next thought was to con­tact him. I did some more re­search and manged to lo­cate his email ad­dress through his very kind brother-in-law. I en­thu­si­as­ti­cally con­tacted him with many, many ques­tions. I was quite sur­prised when I got an

im­me­di­ate an­swer and it was a huge ‘yes’. I was so happy I even checked the grin on my face in the mir­ror! He ex­plained that he also loved this fourstroke en­gine and that for many years he had looked into the idea of build­ing a tri­als frame to house it as he wanted to see this pro­ject through for him­self. Af­ter speak­ing with Harry Stitt I had this vi­sion of a young guy in the cel­lar fab­ri­cat­ing and weld­ing frames and so I made the de­ci­sion to place an or­der. He had only ever made around a dozen frames and mine would be num­ber 14. Once I had placed the or­der he told me that he would pur­chase the tub­ing and ma­te­ri­als to con­struct the frame kit.

A New Logo

I made some loose sketches on how I would like to see the fuel tank in­te­grated with the seat base made in alu­minium. The next ques­tion for me to an­swer was what to call this Special ma­chine? What did Harry want me to call the ma­chine, had he a logo, a name reg­is­tered that I could put along­side the proud BSA logo? He told me that noth­ing was reg­is­tered to his name. Way back in 1968 I did sketch of a ‘CE’ logo for the late great ma­chine builder Eric Cheney. He spoke with me and adopted it to put on all his fa­mous Cheney ma­chines that he built. I thought: ‘af­ter half a cen­tury why should I not try to do it again?’ I put some quick ideas down on pa­per and sent them to Harry; he quickly re­sponded, se­lected one, and asked to in­clude sym­bol of a run­ning hare as he has al­ways liked this an­i­mal. Thus I added sil­hou­ette of run­ning hare and sent it back. He liked it and wrote back to me to say that he will use it on all the frames and mo­tor­cy­cles that he builds from now on.

Beau­ti­ful Bronze Weld­ing

Af­ter a few months had passed Harry con­tacted me to say the frame kit was ready. He sent me pho­tos show­ing his beau­ti­ful bronze weld­ing and of course I opted for a nickel fin­ish to com­ple­ment it. Af­ter it came back from the nickel plat­ing process an­other pic­ture ar­rived; I couldn’t wait any longer, I just had to have it. Ship­ment was ar­ranged and a few days later a courier com­pany de­liv­ered a wooden box with my new frame and fuel tank in­side all nicely pro­tected. Well you can imag­ine how ex­cited I and my son Justyn Jnr were when we opened the box and looked in­side, and found a beau­ti­ful piece of art! For a few mo­ments we were both stuck for words as we ad­mired this man’s su­perb crafts­man­ship. We spent some time look­ing at the best way to as­sem­ble it all around the BSA B40 en­gine unit and tried to imag­ine how the as­sem­bled ma­chine would look.


Be­fore we started assem­bly we weighed both the stan­dard frame and the new Harry Stitt one. The stan­dard frame weighed in at 20kg and the new one just 15kg, mak­ing a sav­ing of a huge 5kg — 25% lighter in real terms. Our friend the ex­pe­ri­enced Pippo Bar­to­rilla used his knowl­edge to help us carry out the full assem­bly, which was greatly ap­pre­ci­ated. From a mul­ti­tude of parts ev­ery­thing fit­ted per­fectly, such was Harry’s pre­ci­sion in fab­ri­ca­tion and weld­ing, and in less than one week the com­plete ma­chine was ready to try. The fi­nal re­sult was sen­sa­tional in mak­ing our dreams come true; happy days. Thank you Harry — and can you build us an­other frame....wait, we have to buy an en­gine first.... Tri­umph? Ariel? AJS? Royal En­field....hey guys out there, do you have any four-stroke Bri­tish en­gines for sale? Af­ter all the ex­cite­ment of the ar­rival of the ‘Stitt’ Special tri­als frame, un­pack­ing it and as­sem­bling it came an­other ex­cit­ing mo­ment of putting the wheels on the ground and rid­ing it!

On Trial

We se­lected the Ru­biana tri­als train­ing ground in Italy to put the ma­chine on trial as it’s full of nat­u­ral as well as ar­ti­fi­cial ob­sta­cles, sim­u­lat­ing sec­tions of var­i­ous dif­fi­culty from easy ones to the very haz­ardous. Orig­i­nally we in­tended to fit ei­ther Ce­ri­ani or MP front forks but could not wait to find and pur­chase some and so we fit­ted a Montesa front wheel and forks. It’s not ex­actly in fit­ting with the Pre-65 lay­out but we were cu­ri­ous to ride this ma­chine and see how this com­bi­na­tion would work out. Af­ter the assem­bly we had to make one last check so that we could be sure that we had re­mem­bered to put oil in the frame and fuel in the tank! One nice strong push on the kick-start lever moved the pis­ton into the right po­si­tion and I gave it a strong kick. To our de­light we started to hear the char­ac­ter­is­tic sound of the ‘base’ of BSA mu­sic — what a sound, mu­sic to our ears.

What a Plea­sure

I gen­tly warmed up the four-stroke sin­gle cylin­der en­gine for a few min­utes un­til the reg­i­men­tal ‘clock­work’ sound was reached. The clutch was en­gaged and a gear se­lected and it was all sys­tems go; what a re­lief to ride the ma­chine af­ter all this time, what a plea­sure. As this was a ‘brand new’ ma­chine I took it very easy at the be­gin­ning, rid­ing very easy haz­ards be­fore slowly in­creas­ing the dif­fi­culty af­ter about half an hour. Then I stopped to take a breath and ex­change my first im­pres­sion with my fa­ther, who was tak­ing pho­tos and ea­ger to know what it was like. My first im­pres­sions were very pos­i­tive, above all the per­fect bal­ance of the ma­chine and the great re­sponse from the en­gine mak­ing it a sheer plea­sure to ride; I loved it. Now it was time to try it on more dif­fi­cult sec­tions, and there are plenty of them on the Ru­biana prov­ing grounds. I started with steep climbs and drops and again it was sta­ble and easy to con­trol, with trac­tor-like trac­tion from the BSA en­gine. Even on big rocks steps I felt very much at one with the ma­chine. It’s easy to lift the front wheel al­most in any sit­u­a­tion and then the rear wheel will grab the rock, and with some help from your body it will climb over the rocks quite easy.

Not for Sale

The same can be said about slip­pery sec­tions; the en­gine pro­vides soft four-stroke power and on the de­scents the en­gine brak­ing works with a tremen­dous ef­fect of slow­ing you down bet­ter than the brakes. There is some­thing magic about the han­dling and I think it’s due to Stitt’s well-se­lected ge­om­e­try and ex­cep­tional frame rigid­ity that make it very pre­cise; you also have to take into ac­count his su­perb en­gi­neer­ing and fab­ri­ca­tion skills. One thing I plan to im­prove is the fit­ting of a thicker bash plate. The cur­rent one is 5mm thick and al­ready it’s bent in a few spots due to con­tacts with rocks. So: would I sell it if you made me a good of­fer? No way, but you can al­ways try to con­vince Mr Stitt to make a frame for you. It’s a great mo­tor­cy­cle from great frame builder. I am lucky to have one.

Any Pre-65 owner will un­der­stand that they need to make some ad­just­ments when rid­ing, it’s nor­mal.

Even in dif­fi­cult haz­ards the ma­chine per­forms well.

In April I rode the ma­chine in the ‘Old Trial Cup’ in Italy run by the Moto Club Canzo.

As I am sure you can imag­ine, I love rid­ing the ma­chine.

We are still look­ing for some Ce­ri­ani or MP front forks but could not wait to find them and so pur­chased a Montesa Cota 348 front wheel and forks assem­bly.

The bal­ance is very neu­tral.

As you can see from my body po­si­tion I was very con­fi­dent even on steep climbs.

It’s when I see pic­tures like this that means one day I will have a one-piece seat and fuel tank unit made.

The ex­haust sys­tem is very much ‘straight through’ with a small si­lencer to try and re­move the ‘bark’.

Way back in 1968 I did sketch of a ‘CE’ logo for the late great ma­chine builder Eric Cheney. He spoke with me and adopted it to put on all his fa­mous Cheney ma­chines that he built. My thoughts were ‘af­ter half a cen­tury why should I not try to do it...

One thing I plan to im­prove is the fit­ting of a thicker bash plate. The cur­rent one is 5mm thick and al­ready it’s bent in few spots due to con­tacts with rocks such as this one.

From this right-hand-side pic­ture the en­gine looks much taller.

Some of the Works BSA tri­als ma­chines in­cluded this yel­low fin­ish on the fuel tank. The Clas­sic Trial Magazine logo en­hances the tra­di­tional look.

The en­gine unit for a four-stroke is quite com­pact.

Some of the early sketches of how I wanted this ma­chine to look.

This is how I would like to see the fuel tank in­te­grated with a seat base made in alu­minium – maybe later?

The next job is to re­place the sump shield and find some more ap­pro­pri­ate front forks.

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