Thursday, November 4, 2010


A recent press release from Bonhams piqued my curiosity, as the sale is in Sydney, Australia: had the Aussies got something good on offer?  A short search was rewarded with my favorite BSA 'Gold Star' model, the one which started the whole iconic line from 1938 to 1962 (the ones of note anyway, a few counterfeit 'Goldies' were made with unit-construction engines later in the 60s and 70s, but they're not the same animal at all...).

This 1938 M24 Gold Star is fully documented from new and one of 15 imported to Australia that year.  It appears to have its original magnesium-case gearbox, which is one of the most difficult items to source when building up a fake - nobody casts these up nowadays.  The seller includes a dossier of the machine's history and restoration...sounds like a peach to me.

As with many 'sporting' motorcycles, the Gold Star takes its name from a racing victory (think Thruxton, Bonneville, LeMans...), which in this case was movie-star handsome Wal Handley (above) riding a tuned BSA M23 'Empire Star' at the Brooklands track on June 30th, 1937, averaging just over 100mph for at least a lap during the race (102.27mph), earning him, and the BSA, a 'Gold Star' - the coveted brass medal from the BMCRC ('Bemsee') which recorded for eternity your 100mph lap during a race at that storied course.  The Empire Star in question was basically an ordinary roadster with a few mild hop-ups (13:1 alcohol piston, hot cams, TT carb), and BSA were justifiably proud to have...finally...added a super-sports roadster to their lineup of solid, dependable machinery.  When the M24 appeared the following year, it had the radical, for the day, aluminum cylinder barrel and head, and magnesium gearbox; the frame was lighter too, made from Reynolds 531 tubing, with no sidecar lugs (and that is truly a radical omission for a BSA of the period).  Quite a few bits are totally unique to this two-year-only model, and it remains a very rare bird indeed.

I'll be curious what it fetches at the auction; if you'd like to have a look, click here.
If you're curious to read more about pre-war BSA Gold Stars, here is a website devoted to them.