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Thread: New guy. 68 BSA

  1. #1

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    Default New guy. 68 BSA

    Hi everyone. I picked up a 1968 BSA Firebird recently. So far I'm pretty happy with it. There are a few things I'd like to change. The ape hangers have to go, I can't get comfortable with them. Same with the forward controls. I'd like to lower the front a little, but I'm not sure how yet. I'll try to upload a picture.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 26437DD2-CE02-4C55-B502-92A1F1297F7C.jpg  

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    Looks like it has the original gas tank and exhaust - last year for one up high on each side. Does that weld-on hardtail look good? Do you know what front end is on there?

    Here is how the '68 Firebird looked stock:
    Click image for larger version. 

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    http://www.classic-british-motorcycl...8-bsa-a65.html

    And here is an interesting article from a 2006 Rider magazine:

    When this Firebird Scrambler model showed up on American shores in 1968 it should have sold by the shipload...The first year, BSA made only 250 of these Firebirds, almost all of which went to the United States, with those side-panel decals showing the crossed American and British flags...The 650 cylinders had a nearly square configuration, with a 75mm bore, 74mm stroke. The crankshaft was built so a cylinder would fire every 360 degrees. Gears turned the camshaft, located at the rear of the cylinders, which in turn pushed the rods that operated the valves. Two valves per cylinder, and one Amal Monobloc carburetor; compression ratio was 9:1...New metallurgy was noted, with an alloy head and manifold, and the pushrods were light alloy with steel caps at each end. Connecting rods were also of light alloy...
    https://ridermagazine.com/2006/08/20...0cc-1968-1971/
    Last edited by TriNortchopz; 07-15-2018 at 11:05 PM. Reason: added Rider article info

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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	85685The hardtail looks like it was done right. I think it looks good. I'm not sure what the front fork is. I'll try to get more pictures next weekend. Thanks for the information on it.
    Last edited by Trey; 07-16-2018 at 8:16 PM.

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    Do you have a shop manual and parts book?

    Here is a site which includes links to Brit bike parts books, including the 1968 A65 Firebird:
    https://www.classicbritishspares.com...on-parts-books
    and
    one here for your A65:
    https://www.baxtercycle.com/FLIPPING...ex.html#zoom=z
    from here: https://www.baxtercycle.com/parts/pa...ks-online/bsa/

    Here is a link to download a workshop manual, for a 1969 A65:
    https://www.carlsalter.com/download.asp?p=435

    I would raise that oil tank up to ensure full supply of oil to the pump.

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    I ordered a workshop manual for it. I'll take a look at it and the links you provided.

    I will move the oil tank. Thank you for suggesting that. I figured the position was too low, but wasn't sure. I appreciate all the information.

  6. #6

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    Yeah oil tank needs to be just under the seat, the frame looks like its also had an attempt to rake the headstock, i would be inclined to remove all the filler that seems to be on there, don't quite know why they did that and then fitted much longer forks which gives it the perhaps period correct but horrible sit up and beg look.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tricky13 View Post
    Yeah oil tank needs to be just under the seat, the frame looks like its also had an attempt to rake the headstock, i would be inclined to remove all the filler that seems to be on there, don't quite know why they did that and then fitted much longer forks which gives it the perhaps period correct but horrible sit up and beg look.

    I don't think that is filler on the neck - hard to tell 'cause I can't zoom in enough on the pic, but it looks like the factory metal neck wraparound:
    Click image for larger version. 

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  8. #8

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    Yeah downloaded the pic and zoomed in and it could well be the std headstock, in which case just ditch the long forks and it would be a better look, a quick rebuild with sensible positioning and a seat without the long springs would help a lot.

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    Thanks for the info guys. I'm going to work on it this weekend and see what I can do about the front forks. I have the original triple tree for it, I'm just not sure what to do about the fork tubes. I'd also like to get a more original front wheel setup too.

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    They did come with that metal sheet around the neck stock. I would get a adjustable triple tree, and cut the neck, to get acceptable rake and trail figures and lower the whole thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by datadavid View Post
    They did come with that metal sheet around the neck stock. I would get a adjustable triple tree, and cut the neck, to get acceptable rake and trail figures and lower the whole thing.
    or add this:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Current bid:
    US $217.50
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Honda-CB750...-/113156744816

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    Or this? UltimaĻ Black Springer Front End, 2" Over Stock Length, 117-77 https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016E5EH2G..._osjvBbE0T61Y7

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    The original front end and brake setup looks better but the stock brakes are garbage. Even perfectly adjusted you need a calendar to plan your stops. I agree with OP on changing that goofy front end though. That front end looks like a mix of parts but I can't zoom in close enough for much detail. The bars are totally out of place along with the pseudo-wide glide setup.

    If not going with a springer or girder, consider a 39mm Sportster narrow glide front end. Aluminum trees and sliders look good and appropriate on much older motorcycles and unlike stock forks (Ceriani etc excepted) the 39mm Sporty forks are much stiffer and offer a wide choice of stock and aftermarket single and dual disc brakes. They look like they belong on old Britbikes.

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    okay, I own a LOT of BSA's so dont get your panties in a wad, BUT that bike is seriously messed up 6 ways from Sunday. Even Ugly girls gotta get laid so not judging here and recognize that your tastes might not line up with mine.
    But a number of options.

    First, be helpful to actually figure out what you have. Several online sources as well as many books can break it down for you. Early frames & motors dont match, They DO match the factory records but had a weird system. But early to mid 67 they started matching.

    So, Brits did things weird, Production for next year started after summer holidays and typically Sept for next years model, complicating that in the US DMVs often titled them as year sold NOT model year or year of manuf. So you COULD have a 68 model made in 67 and titled as 69 or 70.

    Secondly, I have hornets, spitfires, lightnings and one 1968 Firebird Scrambler and the Firebirds used special one off parts...
    Complicating things is some came with a Hornet tank like yours has, but most had the diamond shaped tank, same tanks were used on a lot of BSA 441 thumpers as well but the singles typically had a fiberglass version where the twins were mostly metal but a few were fiberglass.

    Some also used Hornet pipes like yours did, but most firebirds had the 2 to left sides, and later 69-70 versions were with the birdcage heat shields. (picture below of a 69-70) Only around 200 or so 68s were made,

    The 68 brake was the upgraded 2LS and distinctive with a brake cable exiting straight out the back and looping up over the fender, 69-70 brakes had the cable vertical and aligned with the front fork tubes.

    Most hard tailed BSA Unit frames look crappy and like they are bent in the middle, few people get it right,., Depends on actual stretch and drop of the hardtail but raking the neck might make it handle worse than it already does. See the chopper builders guide on rake,stretch and trail, (plus wheel sizes) I would be very careful before you make changes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Those forks are hideous! Properly raked they MIGHT be okay but will be flexy as hell, and depends on WHICH BSA internals are in it and how it was extended will make a huge difference between okay and dangerously stupid. (NEVER EVER use SLUGS) but most use internal damper rods so, not a great design for extended forks.

    With a different tank, stock length forks and some decent brakes it COULD be a sweet little rigid bobber, But that poor thing has been beat with an ugly stick for sure.

    I can send you a digital copy as well of the factory parts book and factory workshop manuals if the downloaded ones dont work for you. But do a google images search for BSA 650 Bobbers and you will get some great ideas as there is some cool ones out there. ***If you have the correct front fender, side covers and some other small but important parts I would be happy to purchase them or trade you. My 68 Firebird is restorable and would like to keep it stock, But BSAs were rigids from the factory back in the day (I have several stock BSA Factory Rigids 1932-48-51 &52) and best look is acknowledge the original style that made them cool and popular but update them to make them as good or better looking but improved performance...& updated

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Like this...
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    Updated with Harley discs, dont care for white walls or tins colors but has nice style to it.
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    Thanks for the lengthy reply. I'll try to cover all of it.

    You are right, the poor thing is a conglomeration of parts. I don't believe the neck has a rake to it, other than stock. I'm going to look more into it this weekend. I travel to Vegas every week for work, so I don't get time during the week. The triple trees have a rake built into them, and it's a few degrees.

    I have the original parts for the fork, just not the tubes or a front wheel. I'm going to pull it apart and see what's there internally.

    The gas tank is fiberglass, and seems to be in good shape. I have some original parts, but not a lot. Oil tank, some lights, and a few misc things. I'm not sure if my front fender is correct, and I don't have the side covers, I don't think. I'll look.

    The good thing is the engine was just rebuilt, and I have the receipts to show it. I paid 1500 for it. I'm going to try to make a better looking bobber out of it. First I want to sort out the front end, then go from there.

    I checked the vin number. It's a A65FB, so 68 Firebird
    Last edited by Trey; 07-23-2018 at 8:29 PM.

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    "I checked the vin number. It's a A65FB, so 68 Firebird."

    Gotta ask, since it may be one of 250, (The first year, 1968, BSA made only 250 of these Firebirds, almost all of which went to the United States...) do the engine and frame numbers match?
    Last edited by TriNortchopz; 07-24-2018 at 6:33 AM. Reason: added 'may be'

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trey View Post
    Thanks for the lengthy reply. I'll try to cover all of it.

    You are right, the poor thing is a conglomeration of parts. I don't believe the neck has a rake to it, other than stock. I'm going to look more into it this weekend. I travel to Vegas every week for work, so I don't get time during the week. The triple trees have a rake built into them, and it's a few degrees.

    I have the original parts for the fork, just not the tubes or a front wheel. I'm going to pull it apart and see what's there internally.

    The gas tank is fiberglass, and seems to be in good shape. I have some original parts, but not a lot. Oil tank, some lights, and a few misc things. I'm not sure if my front fender is correct, and I don't have the side covers, I don't think. I'll look.

    The good thing is the engine was just rebuilt, and I have the receipts to show it. I paid 1500 for it. I'm going to try to make a better looking bobber out of it. First I want to sort out the front end, then go from there.

    I checked the vin number. It's a A65FB, so 68 Firebird
    Just because it has FB is not a guarantee, The only certainty is have it certified and a report by the BSAOC of the UK,,(Some of my bikes have the original dyno test data as early bikes for perf models all had to pass tests on the dyno)
    See: https://www.bsaownersclub.co.uk/engi...mberintro.html

    From experience in cross-referencing machines against the factory despatch books of which the club have a copy, we have found that in about 50% of cases the bike was not despatched according the date of the lettering. Sometimes they were despatched months earlier or later so the lettering system should just be taken as a rough guide.
    -----------------------------------
    So, it MIGHT be,, but BSA did some weird stuff and the smallest of details are argued about (Such as the meanings of an extra zero, a regular Y a dash Y, thread types and type of dipstick in the intermediate cover,, BSA people are weird, not as weird as Norton people but for sure out in left field.

    Further, They are like Ford vs Chevrolet, or Nissan/Datsun vs Toyota, on interchange and parts upgrades. Some really obscure trivia and BSA was the kings of gearing, all kinds of alternative primary gearing and then gear sets inside the tranny along with CS sprockets and rear sprockets.
    Main trans had wide and narrow ratios as well as some mixed gear sets.
    (What I mean by that is Ford did all kinds of one off parts, where most Chevys parts interchange across a wide variety of years and models, Same with Datsun, where Toyota you have to know the month and DAY made)

    So, a factory parts book is mandatory and you have to go page by page and check everything. While most cases it was the DPO (Dreaded Previous Owner) who mixed and matched parts, The factory did it, the importers did it and I know many dealers who did it. I have documentation in some cases. Especially bikes for western US markets.

    I cannot tell by your pictures but your front end looks like its off a B series unit single, B25-B40-B44, the fork oil seal holders are tell tale. But in 68 and 69-70 they used SOME Triumph fork parts on the A series bikes and the TLS braked wheels.

    Contrary to Farmalls statement,, BSA brakes CAN be quite good, He is correct most are not, but its not the design, its DPO and Current owners not learning how to service them correctly. A chopper doesnt need the 2LS, but keep in mind its the BEST drum brake out there, but even early BSA pancake brake hubs can do stoppies if set up right.

    I have been sorting old shop inventory of forks, wheels and triple trees and BSA made a LOT of weird variables,, But I might have the correct parts to put your front end back to stock or better than stock, But Farmall has a good point (Assuming chopper/bobber and not resto) is that there is a wide variety of modern Forks, wheels and brakes out there that still look good on vintage bikes but work WAY better than stock.

    Early BSA forks had truly crappy damping and most were one way damping. Nortons and BSA are both famous for their *CLUNK* of their forks, Starting in the 1950s were a variety of mods and kits to improve them,, But that is why in late 68 and 69-70 BSA used Triumph 2 way damper fork parts.

    But even most late 1980s and 1990s and on forks are vastly better than stock BSA forks, whether asian bikes or HD. (Other than certain Buell forks MOST HD forks are asian made anyway)

    Rebuilt sounds promising, but I am skeptical of most peoples ideas of rebuilds unless I know them well.
    When you ask about the sludge trap and you get a blank stare its time for a teardown and look-see.

    The oil pumps, stock rods and timing side oil bushings, as well as the factory wet sump valve, pressure relief valve all are topics in themselves.... and lengthy.

    Not trying to be all negative here,, the Unit BSA Twin "Power Egg" can be a awesome and powerful-fun engine set up right, But adopting someone elses idea of a custom requires either a LOT of blind faith (Read dashed hopes and dreams) or some meticulous detective work. Very simple, basic agriculturally based machines and at one time was the #1 Motorcycle manufacturer in the world for a good reason.

    Hunter S. Thompson had a variety of bikes but bought a BSA 650 because Hot Rod magazine tested them and declared them the fastest production bikes in the world at that time. Here is a story written after a ride on a BSA on the coast highway..
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    “Months later, when I rarely saw the Angels, I still had the legacy of the big machine – four hundred pounds of chrome and deep red noise to take out on the coast highway and cut loose at three in the morning, when all the cops were lurking over on 101. My first crash had wrecked the bike completely and it took several months to have it rebuilt. After that I decided to ride it differently: I would stop pushing my luck on curves, always wear a helmet, and try to keep within range of the nearest speed limit … my insurance policy had been cancelled and my driver’s license was hanging by a thread.

    So it was always at night, like a werewolf, that I would take the thing out for an honest run down the coast. I would start in Golden Gate Park, thinking only to run a few long curves to clear my head, but in a matter of minutes I’d be out at the beach with the sound of the engine in my ears, the surf booming up on the sea wall and a fine empty road stretching all the way down to Santa Cruz … not even a gas station in the whole seventy miles; the only public light along the way is an all night diner down around Rockaway Beach.

    There was no helmet on those nights, no speed limit, and no cooling it down on the curves. The momentary freedom of the park was like the one unlucky drink that shoves a wavering alcoholic off the wagon. I would come out of the park near the soccer field and pause for a moment at the stop sign, wondering if I knew anyone parked out there on the midnight humping strip.

    Then into first gear, forgetting the cars and letting the beast wind out .. . thirty-five, forty-five … then into second and wailing through the light at Lincoln Way, not worried about green or red signals but only some other werewolf loony who might be pulling out, too slowly, to start his own run. Not many of those – and with three lanes on a wide curve, a bike coming hard has plenty of room to get around almost anything – then into third, the boomer gear, pushing seventy-five and the beginning of a windscream in the ears, a pressure on the eyeballs like diving into water off a highboard.

    Bent forward, far back on the seat, and a rigid grip on the handlebars as the bike starts jumping and wavering in the wind. Tail-lights far up ahead coming closer, faster, and suddenly – zaaapppp – going past and leaning down for a curve near the zoo, where the road swings out to sea.

    The dunes are flatter here, and on windy days sand blows across the highway, piling up in thick drifts as deadly as any oil slick … instant loss of control, a crashing, a cartwheeling slide and maybe one of those two inch notices in the paper the next day: “An unidentified motor-cyclist was killed last night when he failed to negotiate a turn on Highway 1.”

    Indeed … but no sand this time, so the lever goes up into fourth, and now there is no sound except wind. Screw it all the way over, reach through the handlebars to raise the headlight beam, the needle leans down on a hundred, and wind burned eyeballs strain to see down the centerline, trying to provide a margin for the reflexes.

    But with the throttle screwed on there is only the barest margin, and no room at all for mistakes. It has to be done right … and thats when the strange music starts, when you stretch your luck so far that fear becomes exhilaration and vibrates along your arms. You can barely see at one hundred; the tears blow back so fast that they vaporise before they get to your ears. The only sounds are the wind and a dull roar floating back from the mufflers. You watch the white line and try to lean with it … howling though a turn to your right, then to the left and down the long hill to the Pacifica … letting off now, watching for cops, but only until the next dark stretch and another few seconds on the edge… . The Edge… . There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others – the living – are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to chose between Now or Later.

    But the edge is still Out there. Or maybe it’s In. The association of motorcycles with LSD is no accident of publicity. They are both a means to an end, to the place of definitions.”

    -“Midnight on the Coast Highway“, Hunter S. Thompson, 1965

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    Bottom photo in DTIAs post above has a Harley 39mm narrow glide.

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    I'm definitely going to try to find a 39mm narrow glide front end. I want to do some measurements this weekend. Do you know what the bottom bearing to axle measurement is?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trey View Post
    I'm definitely going to try to find a 39mm narrow glide front end. I want to do some measurements this weekend. Do you know what the bottom bearing to axle measurement is?
    The 39MM has generally better damping/performance and benefits from stiffer tubes, The brakes are better as well (Generally, but vast room for improvement for forks and brakes) the downside of the 39mm is 2 things,, A) Prices tend to much higher B) No front speedo drive on most

    Price is relative, and some deals out there so not a deal breaker, the speedo drive on earlier models is very NICE because it makes it easy to run any number of Speedos instead of the rear wheel on most Brit bikes (although some earlier ones go off the tranny which i like)

    For a around town bobber you dont intend to carve canyons with, the 39mm while nice is overkill, Big difference in weight (Mass) between a Big Twin or Sporty HD and a limey bike

    35 mm HD sporty front ends are cheaper and easier to find and can be optimized quite nicely 2 types apparently Kayaba and Showa (Stay away from earlier 34mm forks). But a 35mm will be more than good enough and there is a better selection IMHO of parts to optimize.

    Stock, all HDs suspension is crap, they ALL need work, depends on how far you want to go, but progressive spring kit, good lightweight performance oils help, and there is some nice drilled stainless rotors out there as well as upgrded caliper and master cyls or adapt some asian 2 pots or 3 pots
    (Nissin, Brembo, etc)

    There is a wide variety of asian bikes with excellent forks out there for CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP and stock far exceed stock HD by a mile. ( Just sayin')

    I got some measurements from some of my Sporties, hope this helps:

    My 1998 w/ 39mm dual discs is 20 1/2' from bottom of fork stem/tree to axle center line, the distance from floor to axle centerline vertical is 11 1/2" with a 100-90/19" tire, bike is semi complete so factor in weight

    Spare parts 39mm of unknown origin/year on the shelf is 21 1/2"

    1986 EVO Sporty w/ 35mm is 21 1/2" and 10 1/2" with 19" tire, Bike is fairly complete and weighted accordingly,

    I have some other 35mm forks assys as well, but that should get you a ball park, ** Note height can vary by tire cross section, and going from a 19" to 21" is an algorithm basically and not a linear 3" or 1.5" boost as you might assume. Rake angle is a major factor here.

    The yellow-white BSA I posted above is one that came out years back and in several magazines and websites. I like the styling but not all the execution but is a nice example... But I have seen variables of BSAs with that paint job so not sure if others copied it, or its ALL the same bike and been changed and updated over the years, but its not uncommon to see a bike go explode in $$$$ on ebay and soon after nearly exact replicas emerge hoping to cash in.

    For what its worth, Years back with my shop I used to often cannibalize Kawasakis,, KZ750, KZ900, KZ 1000s and I liked their forks and wheels, Both the mags and wire wheels, The damping tended to be soft but very useable so they made good donors for forks, wheels and brakes. Now, such bikes are rare and collectible, but they made good swap material for a variety of Brit bikes. Wheels came in 19, 18 and 16" depending on model (750 LTD was a HD cruiser bike style so, tended to have a rear 16" and suspensions were soft, but very nice ride!)

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