BSA 650L


Been Around the Block
My neighbor told me about a 1967 BSA A65 Lightning he had in his shed that hadn't seen light of day in 20 years. One thing let to kinda followed me home:






First Order of business was to give it a good wash:







Bugger. First order of business was to give it a good wash:







Now I'm fairly experienced with stuff from the 80s on, but not with 60s British, so I have a lot of learning ahead. Can I ask you guys on the forum who know about these things to comment on the following:

1. What tools do I need to add? I have a fairly well equipped home garage that has all the metric tools you'll ever need for modern Triumphs, Hondas and Guzzis. What do I need to add for an old Beeza?

2. My only resource is a Haynes manual from the 60s also :). What web or print resources do you recommend I read for good background, other people's restoration blogs etc? I'm sure there's good stuff on here and I'll be using the Search, but any pointers to good threads and/or authors is greatly appreciated

3. What modifications should I do to the engine, or make sure have already been done to the engine? I'm not planning a rivet-perfect restoration, and already intend to convert to 12V negative earth, electronic ignition, solid-state rectifier etc. What's the shopping list for mods for a well-sorted, happily running Lightning?

4. Can the eagle-eyed spot any non-stock parts? The forks don't look like OE gear, and the headlamp bracket sure ain't. Just curious what the photos might say to an expert.

Anyway, thanks for any and all help,

- Mark
Cool find... hope you got it cheap.. these brit bikes can add up quick.

You are probably going to need a basic set of Whitworth wrenches and sockets. There are some other specialty tools that you'll need if you have to really get into the motor. Assuming the motor turns over freely... I'd rebuild the carbs, replace the battery, set the timing, clean the tank, drain oil and freshen that and make sure the oil pump is pumping and not sumping. Then get it running before going too much further. Then you can decide if you want to go in for the restore or just doing maintenance, fresh tires and brakes and a really good cleaning and polishing and ride it.

Positive earth isn't a big deal.. just remember it when working on it. I stuck with it on my '69 Bonneville. Boyer ignition still works with positive ground. The SS rectifier is a must in my book. I'd not "mod" anything unless you are going in for a full cafe, chop or bob. Engine mods I'd not get into unless you gotta strip it down for a rebuild, even then I'd prob just keep it stock, stock has some great charm.

Mufflers and headlight bucket and lack of instruments are the first things that jump out at me.

Just watch your budget, these BSAs don't command the money that Pre '71 Triumph Unit twins do but can cost just as much to restore.

The Britbike forum at is a good resource. Grandpaul and Goldie here hang out there too and are great resources.

Have fun and keep us posted with your progress.
Thanks 3Dog! I know all to well the moneypit side of old bikes :D

The front forks and triple trees don't look original. The forks look kind of long, and the triple trees look like they have been milled not cast. It may not be a bad thing, as I understand it the original triple trees used loose ball bearings held between cones, so I'm hoping a previous owner upgraded to something with real bearings. Time will tell.
Can you give it back? Just kidding...maybe! The worst money pit I've owned was a 1967 A65L. Now that I have that out of my system. Your bike cleaned up pretty good. The fork is not stock and I'm thinking the front wheel is off a smaller BSA or Triumph. I think the forks have Italian or Spanish heritage. The exhaust is also not stock, but TT pipers were typical of the time period. It makes me think it was a club bike in the Midwest. During the mid to later 60s, some of the non Harley clubs gravitated toward the larger Brit bikes and they were usually setup similar to your bike. This was not a bad thing since they handled better and had lost some weight. Don't worry about engine mods until the thing is running. Roy Bacon wrote a series of books that may be helpful Personally I'd get it running good, clean it up some more and ride the hell out of it.
Thanks Rider52. My neighbor said something about Spanish forks, but wasn't very clear. Were these an upgrade of the time, or just a POS?
I'm with Rider52: Clean it a bit more, fix anything broken, arrest the rust.

Genuine wear is the badge of a survivor ...

Could those be first gen REH forks? It would make sense for the era of that bike and possibly the direction of the mods. If so, those are Brit forks.
Pretty sure they are BETOR forks which came from Spain and they should be better than stock BSA fare. Nothing wrong with loose balls in the steering head. That's still how they make bikes including GSXRs.

K81/TT100 tires used to be the hot ticket but after 20 or so years, not so much any more. The hot ticket in the motor department was to convert the main bearing but that takes some serious machining and is probably not required for a bike that isn't raced or ridden hard. There was a company in Wales IIRC that specialized in those motors SRM I think they were called.

You may not need to upgrade the electrics, but a more modern R/R and ignition would be nice to have if the stock ones are dead.

Re-line that front brake but don't throw it away. It looks like an 8" brake and they are relatively valuable. For the street you may want to upgrade to say a Suzuki GT750 front brake but if everything looks OK inside the drum, get new linings and see how that works. Brakes are one thing that has really changed on bikes. Remember that racers used to fit street RD disks on their TZ racers and sold off those great looking drums because a street disk was better than a race drum. We have better lining material available today.
My bike has no battery, so tell me: does the 1967 Lightning use 6V or 12V.

Agree if electronic ignition will work with positive earth no need to change polarity.
Psychopasta said:
My bike has no battery, so tell me: does the 1967 Lightning use 6V or 12V.

Agree if electronic ignition will work with positive earth no need to change polarity.

Should be 12v I'm pretty certain. Though you might have 6v coils as that is a popular thing... (I run 6v coils and electronic ignition with my 12v Triumph)

the Zeener and headlight/tail light and points condensers are really the only things voltage dependent and you are going SS Rec/Reg... just make it 12v.

I couldn't find a '67 service manual but found a '66 which should be nearly identical. (
Rider52 says he thinks the front wheel is from an earlier BSA. I did some trawling on eBay and found this: which claims it's early A65. Anyone recognize it? It seems to be what I've got...
That looks correct. I want to say that only the Spitfire had the full width 180mm drum and others used a full width hub that was not so good. IIRC, my Goldie had that drum too.
Took the tank and seat off to get a closer look. The old girl does look a bit knackered:


and can you believe it? No toolkit!

But basically sound. I do not like the exhausts that it has. Note how they are held onto the head:


and the way they go below the frame rails:



You can see why it has no center stand, and I'm going to have to remove the exhausts in order to be able to support the bike on its frame. Nice use of a piece of wire to keep them connected!

Next thing: I can find no evidence of a frame number:


Took off the side panel. I have three of the four Oddie screws


Does anyone have any idea why it has three condensors?

In other news, the tank is in good shape. A few small dents, any suggestions fro removing them?






Though all the mounting rubbers are more depressed than Marvin the paranoid android. All thoughts and observations gratefully received
You should be ashamed of yourself young man. Old ladies should not be exposed to the world without their clothes on.

It's been a few decades since I owned a BSA but for some reason I want to say that the frame number was stamped on the rear engine mount part of the frame.

The rust and dents can all be fixed fairly easily - if you want to. Motor might need to be freshened up though and fresh rubber and other consumables would be a good idea. TT pipes are a nice touch - albeit they will be noisy.

Was that filler cap stock on that bike? Looks like the type fitted to many aftermarket tanks back in the day.

Condensor pack may have come from a Rocket 111 and probably so that there's a spare for when one fails.
Hah, we'll be getting further under the skin than this

Closeup of the exhaust going into the cylinder head:

Spring removed:

Remove this one bolt:

Off it comes! One spring, one bolt:

same on the other side, of course. Peek-a-boo:


This bike's been raced, and so I'm going to assume she's knackered and needs a lot of love. It won't be a full resto, but I would like to get her back to working well and looking alright, if showing some age
While you are in there cleaning up that mess in the right pot, might as well shorten those fat valve guides and clean up the ports a bit.

Maybe check the cams and see if they are Spitfire profile and if not, maybe get them reground. Keep the outside patina and add a few (reliable) horses inside just to surprise people.
You've got an easy's all there! This has a lot of potential, whatever you decide to do with it, keep us posted please. :)
Will do Goldy. I'm looking forward to getting tore into it, and I need to organize some space in my garage before getting too carried away. Goal is to make it safely rideable, and not a showroom resto. IMHO, bikes like this were meant to be ridden, and updated by their owners. Nobody kept them 'authentic' back in the sixties :)
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