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Monday 28 August 2023


BSA Bantam, Lightning and Thunderbird Planned By Ben Purvis

The reintroduction of the BSA brand under the ownership of Indian automotive giant Mahindra has been quite subdued so far - with initial sales focusing on the UK market before expanding elsewhere - but the first model has already proved a success, and more are planned.

Initially, BSA's offering is the single-cylinder Gold Star, using a 652 cc engine that's loosely related to the old Rotax motor used in the BMW F650, and sales in the UK appear to have been strong, with the bike topping the charts in the 'modern classics' category in March.

The current model Gold Star

Now there are hints at how BSA will follow up on the Gold Star, with new trademark applications being filed for rights to the 'Bantam,' 'Thunderbolt' and 'Lightning' names.

The Bantam name is perhaps the most familiar, having been part of the BSA range for more than two decades from 1948 to 1971. Always a small-capacity single-cylinder offering, originally derived from a DKW two-stroke design, the original provided an entry-level step into the BSA range, and the new version is sure to do the same. While it certainly won't be a two-stroke, Mahindra already has in-house options when it comes to making a smaller-capacity retro bike. The company owns the Jawa brand, offering 295 cc and 334 cc, retro-style singles that could easily become the basis for a cheaper, smaller BSA to rival bikes like Royal Enfield's 350 cc singles.

Both the Thunderbolt and Lightning titles are also steeped in BSA heritage. The originals were both twin-cylinder, 650 cc bikes in the 1960s, sitting above the Gold Star in the range, and it makes sense for the new models to adopt a similar layout and position. Originally, the Lightning was a high-performance derivative of the Thunderbolt, and the fact that trademark applications for both names have been made simultaneously hints that the same could apply to the next-generation machines. 

Since the current Gold Star already competes against Royal Enfield's 650 cc twin-cylinder bikes, despite being a single, any future Thunderbolt or Lightning is likely to be larger, potentially bringing the bikes into competition with Triumph's 900 cc Bonneville derivatives.