Rhapsody In Gold

      

The Golden Flash had an image that few other British bike of that period could ever match. Shahwar Hussain rides a restored example and finds that it has performance to go along with its classic looks.

 

Photographs: Ramesh Pathania

 

In the early part of 2001, I along with a few friends who own vintage and classic bikes headed out for a long ride. This wild bunch were mainly mounted on pre war British and American bikes and only one early 50s BSA A7. It was the only post war twin in the group. There was of course the Indian Chief but it was a twin from the pre war era. All through the ride I saw Vikas Talwar astride the A7 and let its owner ride Vikas’s own Triumph 3HW.

Vikas was obviously thrilled by the speed and handling of the twin and a few days later I got a call from him saying that he had bought a 1952 BSA A10 Golden Flash. Now, that was interesting! Needless to say, I was off in a flash to his place to have a look at his latest possession. But I was disappointed when I saw the bike. It didn’t look anything like a Goldie. Its previous owner must have tried modifying it into a café racer but got nowhere near it. Both the mudguards were cut short, the tank came from some other motorcycle and the weird looking headlight was sourced from some very obscure bike.

 

I took the bike out for a longish spin and more than the power, which seemed a little low; I was taken in by the bike’s handling. That the bike was anything but authentic didn’t seem to bother Vikas. He had a Goldie and it ran well, and that’s all that seemed to matter to him. But his joy was pretty short-lived. He lent the bike to a friend for a couple of days and he assaulted the engine nice and proper. Ignorance is bliss indeed! This friend didn’t even realise that the bike was low on oil and as was bound to happen, the engine seized! But it was a blessing in disguise, otherwise Vikas would never have got it restored so fast.

Once dismantled, the engine turned out to be a chamber of horrors. One of the pistons melted through, as had the connecting bearings. The pistons were from a Triumph 3HW and were at least 1.5mm short at Top Dead Centre (it’s the position of the piston at full crank) and that was the reason the bike showed a perceptible lack of power when I rode it initially. The barrels were scarred so badly that re-boring them took the size to 20 from standard. Fitting in a sleeve didn’t

appeal to him but since oversized pistons were not available he had to settle in for Hapolite sleeves and pistons. Infact Hapolite pistons are the original fitments in this bike. Fortunately, for Vikas the gearbox did not hold any unpleasant shocks and just stripping and rebushing had it up and running.

 

Unlike its previous owner, Vikas didn’t want the Golden Flash to be café racer and tried to restore it back to its original shape, the tinwork needed major surgery. It’s no use searching for original body parts because you will never ever get them. The welder took the better part of three months to fabricate the two mudguards and the petrol tank. While the deeply valanced mudguards had a high degree of finish, the petrol tank could have done with a little better craftsmanship. Most of these classic English bikes were let down by poor electricals. Actually, they are not terribly bad but over the years the unavailability of genuine parts has compounded the problem. Thankfully it was not so bad with this bike, the pick-up points needed replacement but the dynamo and the magneto responded to simple servicing. But the slip ring in the magneto is on the wrong side of its life cycle but still good for another 20,000km. This bike is not ridden too frequently so the slip ring will last for a relatively long period.

 

I don’t know what carburettor the 1952 Golden Flash came equipped with but when Vikas bought the bike, it was fitted with a beat up Amal concentric carburettor. It was a useless piece of metal, more for cosmetic value. A friend sold him a new Amal monobloc carburettor with a jet size of 260 and while it performs very well at high speed, it had no idling speed worth its name. The Mikuni carb from an Enfield Bullet 500 is doing sterling duty although high-end power is compromised a little, but that’s part of the fun with restoration.

A couple of months back I rode the bike up some hilly roads and it pulled admirably even in third gear and the jerky needle of the Smiths Chronometric speedo showed 50mph in double quick time. A10’s engine is rather torquey and very flexible. Even though the speedo is a new one, there’s something wrong with the odometer and it doesn’t show any reading.

When the Golden flash was launched, BSA proudly proclaimed that its brakes were ‘extremely powerful.’ The 7-inch drum brakes in the front are good enough but certainly not ‘extremely powerful’ as boasted by the manufacturers. I found out the hard way that the brakes could do with some more bite when a maniac Tata Sumo driver nearly rammed me. We have been spoilt by disc brakes.

 

Although most of the parts have been done up according to specifications, there are a couple of things that leaves a somewhat sour taste. The battery doesn’t have the period look and neither does the seat. Done up in the original paint scheme of gold and chrome, the bike easily stands out in the crowd. A few days before the shoot I fractured my arm when electricity poles, a tractor was carrying broke lose and hit me. Pity I couldn’t ride the bike!

BSA bikes are ruggedly built, easy to ride and are stylish in a typically British understated way. Although it’s not really a lightweight, it handles like one. Some of its contemporaries like the AJS 650 or the Matchless 31 CSR can outperform the A10 on most days but the Goldie has an image that’s all its own. It’s a winner any which way you look at it. '