RealClassic Reading: new BSA book

It’s unusual for us all to be amazed by a book about one of the best-known British marques, but Peter Crawford has produced a remarkable gem. And it’s all about the A65 twin, as you might expect from the title: ‘Thunderbolts & Lightning’.

In fact the book is far more than that – it is a careful and revealing study of the way BSA and indeed Triumph, and in fact the entire British industry worked post-war. It’s filled with details, tales, anecdotes and bikes you’ll be unfamiliar with, like the pre-war overhead cam parallel twin. And much, much more.

There are interviews with the builders, with owners, with dealers, with importers, with the guys who worked at ‘The BSA’ for decades, and excellent insights into how the bikes came into being, how they were developed… and how it all ended, too. It’s packed full of startling detail, but unlike most books heavy with facts, figures, successes and failures, it manages to avoid being a big book of lists. It also taught me many things about bikes I’ve known well down the decades and about which I had always considered myself to be almost knowledgeable. But no.

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Possibly the most remarkable feature of what is an excellent book is the level of detail about life in The BSA, written by the guys who worked there, in all areas, from design right through production and to testing. Dealers get quotes too, revealing how the company went about marketing and selling its bikes as well as building them.

And of course there is considerable discussion about the end, the sad but sadly inevitable slide from comfortable profitability into total failure. Surprises lurk too, even here in an area which has been picked over by enthusiasts since 1973 or so. The lack of communication between … well … all levels is astounding, even now, when we all know the ending.

Packed with photos and diagrams and … well … everything you could hope for. This is the best bike book we’ve read this year – we were indeed gripped.
RC Reviewer: FrankW

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Thunderbolts & Lightning by Peter Crawford costs £25+P&P from Wideline Books

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