Custom BSA Lightning

Motorcycles never die and when they are revived they are painstakingly restored to look as brand new or re-dressed to look even better than the originals. This 1965 BSA Lightning belongs to the second category and is a very fine example of custom vintage motorcycle work. 3 weeks ago, its builder Jesse Bassett from the Gasbox Shop in Cleveland, OH was rewarded for his custom fabrication skills by winning the Freestyle Class in the International Motorcycle Show. A creation that you should be able to admire from close in Sturgis during the 2011 AMD World Championship Of bike Building. It was a 2-year project and Jesse told me about the main issues he had to resolve while rebuilding, repairing, restoring and customizing this original production motorcycle from the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA)

“I began the1965 BSA project in 2009 when one of my customers brought in a rigid chopper to be customized.  After disassembling the entire bike all that was left was the engine, frame, and stock BSA QD rear wheel. My customer, Brett Scully, had to have a girder fork, so I found one from a BSA M-20. I had to fabricate a new top clamp, neck stem and new linkage. I used antique faucet handles for the friction ride control because of the look of the porcelain and brass. By adjusting the rake, offset and height of the fork I was able to obtain the correct frame stance.

The rear wheel is stock BSA 18” powder-coated black with stainless spokes and
Coker tire.  The front wheel is a thirty-six spoke 21” laced to a BSA Bantam hub and Avon tire.  Both front and rear drums were windowed out in the mill, then the shoes were drilled. The fuel tank began as an oil in frame Triumph item that has been chopped and fitted with late model Harley style rubber mounts.  I found a local die maker to duplicate the BSA golden flash emblems and cast them in bronze for the tank.  I fabricated the oil tank from scratch, then fitted with the cap and fittings of a 1960’s BSA stock item and rubber mounted. 

The entire engine was disassembled and polished. The sludges were cleaned.  The notorious BSA crank bushing was upgraded and cylinders were fitted with the next size over 9:1 compression pistons. I fabricated the exhaust from stainless steel and styled it after the BSA high scrambler pipes. All of the electrics were upgraded. The handlebars were made to act as part of the top clamp for the girder. The levers are Cook replicas of pre-war British bikes. The grips are made of the same leather as the seat. The headlight is a fender light from an early MG car and had to be modified to adapt to the girder.

The paint is black with gold leaf and red striping by Jerry Koenigsmark of Jerry’s House of Kolors.  The leather work was done by Jason’s Custom Upholstery.  All of the polishing and nickel plating was done by Jason’s Show Quality Metal Finish” The GasBox. (pictures courtesy Scott Pease Photography)

31 Responses to “Custom BSA Lightning”

  1. 1 Hondo Cat Feb 14th, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Now, that’s what I’m talking about!

  2. 2 Englishman Feb 14th, 2011 at 8:45 am

    Looks nice, but for what function the right side handlebar lever installed?.

  3. 3 Alex Patrocinio Feb 14th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I love it!, nice work!

  4. 4 Angry_Inch Feb 14th, 2011 at 9:32 am


  5. 5 Kirk Perry Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Where did all the real motorcycles go? This is a real one. Looks like you could get killed riding it. Choice.

  6. 6 Zipper Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Another masterpiece for the living room. ..Z

  7. 7 Tyler Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:22 am

    Nice work, Jesse. And Zipper, that bike gets ridden, it’s not some flashy living room art. I love internet smart-asses.

  8. 8 Larry R Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:59 am

    Meets my likes.

  9. 9 rebel Feb 14th, 2011 at 11:29 am

    check the website, the front wheel with brake is shown. top notch!

  10. 10 tattooeddmike Feb 14th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Perfect example of less being more! Beautiful!

  11. 11 rocker Feb 14th, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    sweet as a bag of sugar…..

  12. 12 Case Feb 14th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    Ever seen the Bullet by Falcon Motorcycles? Looks like he’s been inspired by that. I guess everybody follows somebody and it’s just a question of who you follow. He’s chosen a good person to follow and done a good job on the bike.

  13. 13 road rash Feb 14th, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Awsume job, nice lines, clean and to the point….

  14. 14 Warrior Poet Feb 14th, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    That’s a beautiful bike.
    Looks like he’s been inspired by the Bullet, eh? Really? If you READ the article, it says it was a two year project. Honestly, it does get old seeing statements like this.

  15. 15 Seymour Feb 14th, 2011 at 6:57 pm

    Looks great and reminds me of one of these new Cleveland motorcycles, I saw today in Cycle World??

  16. 16 Woody Feb 14th, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    Sweet sweet sweet! And it actually has a real rear fender and set instead of some stupid “diving board” sticking out from the back of the tank. Did I mention, Sweet sweet sweet?

  17. 17 LENNY Feb 14th, 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Great simple classic look. Great bike.

  18. 18 burnout Feb 14th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

    Personally I see nothing wrong with this machine. NICE work dude. peace

  19. 19 David Feb 14th, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Excellent !!!! This is what makes black a classic and great color !! But where is that MG headlight?

    SSDD; David

  20. 20 BPD Feb 14th, 2011 at 10:40 pm

    @Warrior Poet what does two years have to do with anything? The Bullet was built three years ago by now. I think this bike’s rad regardless but it’s definitely taken a little nod from the Falcon boys. A compliment in my books. This is definitely a nice ride tho J.B. has done himself proud.

  21. 21 Seven Feb 15th, 2011 at 12:29 am

    Very Nice!

  22. 22 Dale Feb 15th, 2011 at 7:29 am

    B E A U T I F U L

  23. 23 jatinder pal Feb 15th, 2011 at 8:14 am

    Very nice bike,love the details.I always had a soft corner for british bikes,even owned couple of BSA myself in the past.

    Good to see people trying to make them alive again.

  24. 24 Taimoshan Feb 15th, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Really really nicely excecuted bike.

    and Geeezzz who really cares if someone copies Falcon or not, if they have the skill then why the hell not….. and these guys clearly have the SKILL so hats off to them!

  25. 25 J P Davino Feb 15th, 2011 at 10:46 am

    Yeah looks good. I agree geez who cares who copies who this is pretty cycle. It takes the more skill to be original but. So is good to knowledge the original in the homage to comes after. Am sure builder would agree also is respect. Is this BSA for sale or already purchased? Do you know cost? Interested.

  26. 26 David Monahan Feb 15th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    It is amaizing how things come full circle. l was building bikes that looked like this in the 1960’s. By the 1970’s we had moved on to building cafe racers that look like the new Japanese bikes today.

  27. 27 ha ha ha Feb 18th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    This bike has nothing to with the Falcon other than they both have two wheels, its all in the details bub, ….fabulous Beezer my man.

  28. 28 jack1340 Feb 22nd, 2011 at 5:24 am


  29. 29 Q-Ball Feb 26th, 2011 at 8:12 am


  30. 30 JT Jun 12th, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Total rip off of the Bullet, even shot it the same way on the white background. This guys got skills but if hed come up with a design himself instead of copying somebody else’s then he’d have talent.

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