by Eric Johnson
In 1966 the most ambitious factory-backed development effort in the history of modern motocross materialized on the esteemed Federation Internationale de Motocyclisme 500cc World Championship circuit.
In the beginning… The year was 1965, and BSA – commonly known as Birmingham Small Arms – was bent on ruling the motocross world. Keen on winning its third consecutive 500cc World Motocross Championship, the factory executives of the Birmingham, England-based motorcycle company held a big meeting in a smoky, dimly lit room – a meeting to which the company accountants were not invited. And it was in this room that that their master scheme of producing the fastest and lightest motocross bike mankind had ever seen was sketched out on a clean sheet of paper.
Their corporate mission statement now etched in stone, the BSA overlords – perhaps intoxicated by the success of the two previous world titles they had pulled down – declared that all of the factory’s resources were to be immediately tooled up and put into motion in a finely concerted quest to snag a third FIM Gold Medal. In doing so, the BSA accounting ledgers were slammed into a dark cabinet and the engineers, fabricators and machinists filled up their coffee cups and set about the task at hand. For them, the entire project was something of a dream come true: Free reign – and no budget restraints!
Enter Jeff Smith, the talented English rider who had delivered BSA its two previous titles. Smith, who was tapped to ride the exotic new “shadow works” project bike, was brought on board during the development process, and soon joined the army of machinists and engineers in transforming the bike from violet colored lines on a powder blue blueprint into a real lie, gas burning piece of machinery. It was at this point that the intriguing true story of BSA’s at “totalitarian rule” on the motocross world began. And like many great, timeless stories, when all was said and done, both BSA and Smith would end up riding an emotional roller coaster that would serve up hope, joy disappointment and an unforgettable conclusion.
BSA, having captured the previous two 50cc World Championships through it s creative and resourceful competition department, now wanted a third title at all costs. However, as with most motor corporations that race to win, there was more behind the project than just the desire to put a third gold medal in the company trophy case... Read more