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1965 BSA Lightning Rocket

The 1965 BSA Lightning Rocket has 650cc and twin Amals. Fully restored from the crankshaft out. Every part on the bike is the original part except the exhaust system and front and rear rims (which are NOS Jones) and the rear shocks (Hagons). The new exhaust is, as you can tell, Siamese and is BSA NOS for the 1965 European-version Lightning Rocket (the US model was not offered with Siamese exhaust). I have the original rims, shocks and exhaust system. Of course, all numbers match. I was the third owner and the second owner is a close friend of mine who acquired the bike when it was nine months old. I sold the bike a year or so ago to a Norwest Airlines pilot and long-time Brit-Iron enthusiast.

This exhaust system is a very rare item. In fact, it's the only one I have ever seen on a Lightning Rocket in this country. BTW, the side cover badges are off for repainting to match the tank badges.

Just another good looking motor...

The engine was not sandblasted, shell blasted, or otherwise blasted - it has the original casting patina. It was cleaned with kerosene only. It could use further polishing but, personally, I prefer the original casting patina - you can never get it back once you've blasted it with walnut shells or something. 

All fasteners that could be replaced by SAE stainless steel have been replaced (although I have ALL of the originals, right down to the last washer). This means all fasteners that have a bolt and nut as opposed to those that thread into a casing, etc.  BTW, that doodad you see between the downtubes just above the exhaust system is the Tympanium rectifier. It has since been moved to a very neat location behind the left side panel. The wiring harness is excellent throughout and I have a complete spare, just in case.

No Heli-Coils have been installed as all the original head bolts and threaded holes were in perfect condition. The engine had never been apart until I rebuild it. All the old fasteners that were re-used are in excellent condition. New oversize stainless steel spokes, new fork tubes (by Frank's), Boyer electronic ignition, 12v conversion with Tympanium rectifier, new chain, new primary chain, new primary chain tensioner, etc., etc., etc. Yes, all the parts that you can't see were replaced and I have the receipts from British Only to prove it. BTW, this bike starts on the first kick every time, hot or cold.

It ALL used to be "Show Chrome"...

All chrome has been rechromed in triple plate show chrome by ABC Chrome in Waterford, MI, including the fuel tank. Those of you familiar with ABC know they do many of the show cars for Autorama, etc. The chrome on this bike cost $1500 in 1996. There were no dents or other damage to the bike prior to rechroming - this was a straight bike. It had never been dropped, hit, or mistreated. Even the clutch and front brake levers were perfect. It was simply 30-some years old and needed to be stripped and restored.

The entire chassis was powder coated in dark blue. All "cycle side" components were done - wheel hubs, frame, swingarm, footpegs, fork housings, taillight bracket, and so on and so on right down to nuts & bolts. Every single piece of original chrome was re-chromed - right down to every nut & bolt.

The tires are new K-81 Dunlop's matched to the original cross section. The engine was built by David Coe in Ionia, MI, and received all new bearings and bushings in both engine and transmission except the right side crank bushing which was in "as new" tolerance. Many knowledgeable BSA fans are aware that 1966 was the year BSA unit twins received the left side crank bearing change that weakened bushing reliability. 1965 was the last year for the original roller bearing crank and, as such, this year is considered by many to be the finest unit motor of it's kind. It is bulletproof, simple to build and simple to maintain and makes excellent power. 

Also, the BSA chassis was mechanically the most elegant on the market in the 60's. It even has a quick change rear wheel that allows the wheel to be removed without disturbing chain tension (makes fixing flat tires a breeze). That is remarkable for 1965. BTW, yes, the rear sprocket is in perfect condition.

"Handed" Amals, NOS badges...

Close inspection will reveal that the twin Amals are "handed". It is very rare to find one with handed monoblocs, but it sure makes getting at the ticklers easier. They look cooler, too. (For Amal aficionados, there is a 389 and a 689, 1 1/8 bores, needles and jets set to stock.)  

I have an complete photo history and complete pedigree dating back to the original owner and I have the original title. As I mentioned, I am the third owner of this bike. The first owner had it for 9 months, the second had it until 1996 when I bought it as a restoration project. Before my rebuild, it had 22,000 miles on the clock.

Finally, this bike was painted by Finch. HD fans might recognize him from Finch's Custom Cycles in Auburn Hills, MI. It is a pale yellow metallic and it is beautiful. Handling is light, quick and predictable for this vintage machine. Brakes are awful but typical for the period. Gearing seems tall but I suppose Iíve gotten used to five speed gearboxes and the old 4 gear job just feels tall. In general she is a very nice bike and a pleasure to ride. It sounds wonderful, smells like a Brit-iron twin ought to, and buzzes like one of those 25 cent bed vibrators. It's a great bike.

OK, What's Wrong With It...

I did the resto on this one prior to the arrival of my first child. These days, I'm lucky to get fifteen minutes of uninterrupted time to myself. I just don't have the time to fix the little details and, although I ride the bike and fix the big stuff, I'm anal retentive enough that even minor flaws bug me. This one deserves someone that has the extra time to keep it in show bike condition. It is truly that nice.

The seat needs to be recovered. The pan is fine and there are no rips or tears but a nice new cover would look sharp. The speedo and tach both work fine although the main odometer is so faded you can't read the numbers. The trip odometer works fine but lacks a reset stick - I have no idea where it went. These instruments cost about $100 each to restore properly but, frankly, they wont work any better than they do now. They'll just have new rubber bezels and look prettier. BTW, the ampmeter works also, which is just about miraculous for an orignial Lucas part. The headlight on/off switch works perfect but the bakelite actuator vibrated off one day. Also, the ignition key vibrated off and vanished. Both add up to a minor nuisance.

The tank leaked and damaged the paint on lower edge of each side of the gas tank. Luckily, I have enough of the original paint to do the tank and side covers at least once more so touch up is a relatively minor thing. I replaced the old Ewart petcocks with modern valves (saved the Ewarts, of course). I have not (and do not intend to) Kreem the tank. There were two pin hole leaks and, in response, we lead soldered the seam on both sides. The rest of the tank is solid as a rock. It's important to remember that this tank was perfect - not a dent or mark of any kind when I rechromed it. Therefore, the chrome is perfect. The tank is in excellent condition except for the paint flaws and those are easily corrected.  

Also, the aluminum engine covers are due for a good polishing and the rear brake light actuator switch needs painting. The right fork leg seal weeps a bit because the seal moved slightly out of it's seat when I tied the bike down in the back of my truck one day. Simple fix but I don't have the time to fuss with it right now. Finally, there is a slight scuff mark on the front fender between the fork tubes where the headlight bezel rubbed against one day; it is minor enough that you have to look for it. Likewise, there is a scratch in the chrome on the rear fender under the passenger grab bar you have to look under the seat to see.

That's about it. It is an exceptionally nice 1965 BSA Lightning Rocket. There are very few around and just about none of them have all their original parts. This one is show quality throughout except for touching up the paint on the tank, the seat cover, painting the brake light switch, polishing the cases and a good coat of wax. Incidentally, the bike cost just over $5500 to restore, plus my labor.

 

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