Memorable Motorcycles BSA Gold Star

June 7, 2004
Frank Melling
Frank Melling
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.

In 1938  a new BSA model the M24 Gold Star  was released in commemoration of Wal Handley s dramatic 100-plus mph lap times at the infamous Brooklands concrete bowl.
In 1938, a new BSA model the M24 Gold Star, was released in commemoration of Wal Handley’s dramatic 100-plus mph lap times at the infamous Brooklands concrete bowl.

If there is one classic bike name which still carries immense weight it is the BSA Gold Star. It was the definitive hyper-sports bike of its day – copied to the point of parody by thousands of wannabee Goldie aspirants and revered by riders of every caliber for twenty years.

Strangely, for an icon of such legendary proportions, the Goldie was actually as good as its reputation. Even more bizarrely, Goldstars were not only the best production road racer of their era but they were equally successful in the ISDT, Grand Prix motocross, grass track and even trials. Put a good rider on a Goldie in any discipline and he would win.

The story of the birth of the Gold Star is straight from the story books. The BSA factory had withdrawn from all racing activities after all its works entries failed to finish in the 1921 TT. By 1937, the factory had a reputation for solid but dull bikes. In order to perk up their image, a heavily tweaked, 500cc Empire Star was given to the legendary Wal Handley to race at the Brooklands Speed Bowl and he promptly won at an average speed of 102.77 mph. In the process, he was awarded a Brooklands Gold Star for his 100mph laps.

Handley’s machine metamorphosed into a neat, oil tight, push-rod single which from birth in 1938, was sold initially as a sports bike but always with racing in mind. So much so that from 1939, road ratios in the gearbox were optional extras: the bike came ready for action.

After the war, the first Goldies were 350cc models and these appeared at the 1948 Motorcycle Show with a huge catalogue of specifications. Not only was there a wide choice of gearbox ratios but different cams and port sizes.

Good as the Goldie was in any form of motorcycle sport – and touring too – its legendary status came through the Clubman’s TT held over the famous 37 3/4 mile Isle of Man circuit. These races were designed to allow ordinary riders, competing on their road bikes, to test themselves on the world’s hardest circuit. It was a laudable idea but Gold Stars killed the concept stone dead. By 1955, 33 of the 37 starters in the Clubman’s’ TT were riding Gold Stars. If you didn’t ride a Goldie, you might as well not have bothered entering.

The reasons for the bike’s success were manifold. A good Goldie in race trim could manage a genuine 120mph – at a time when a 500 GP bike was only 15mph faster. The Goldie stopped well too, and had docile, trustworthy handling and bomb-proof reliability. Every Gold Star engine was hand-built and came with a written test sheet recording its performance on the dynamometer. In short, it was in a class of its own.

And as a final bonus the bike was stunningly handsome.

Today, Goldstars remain as popular and are still winning races as well as providing the ultimate in British hyper-sports performance. A clear road and a crisp Goldie is about as good as it gets for the sporting motorcyclist.

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