By Tom White
When BSA (Birmingham Small Arms) introduced the “Made for USA” 1964 Trail Bronc, the ads professed the Bronc was “Ideal for those who want to go wilderness wandering, for hunting trips, or just exploring off the beaten track!” and included a picture of the machine loaded in the back of a station wagon. The ad said, “Fits in your station wagon or car trunk!”
The Bantam was based on a proven, 175cc, two-stroke engine initially introduced in 1948. Though built in BSA’s Birmingham factory, the actual design was from the German DKW RT125 (which BSA received as part of WWII reparations). Production numbers are estimated as high as 500,000 units produced by BSA from 1948 to 1971.
Originally, BSA did not consider the Bantam a race bike, but after owners began modifying their Bantams, BSA responded with a trials model and, in 1963, a stripped-down D7 Bantam called the Trail Bronc. Dunlop 300x19 tires, a semi-upswept exhaust (BSA claimed it was free-flowing), high ground clearance, no front fender and a larger sprocket were standard equipment on the 1963 Bantam. Another concession to offroad riding was the folding footrests. Power output from the three-speed, 175cc engine was eight horsepower.
BSA importer Hap Alzina in Oakland, California, asked BSA to build this entry-level machine for the U.S. market, but its release corresponded with the introduction of the Yamaha YG1 80cc trailbike (and later with other entry-level Japanese bikes), and the result was poor sales. Additionally, BSA dealers focused on the larger 500cc and 650cc four-stroke machines, and the Trail Broncs sat in the dealer showrooms. Some, like our featured 1965 Bantam 175, were never sold!
1965 BSA BANTAM FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
In 1965, the Trail Bronc sold for just under $400. Our featured Bantam was one of two purchased by a San Jose BSA dealer and was never sold. The Early Years of Motocross Museum purchased the bike for $2500.
The 125cc D1 model was offered from 1948 to 1953 (plunger suspension was an option). The 148cc D3 was sold from 1954 to 1957. The 175cc D7 was available from 1958 until 1966. Street going, trials and trail models were built during the D7 production years.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Always look for the upswept exhaust with fish-tip muffler. Also look for the long saddle, Dunlop Sport tires, and original hydraulic suspension. A bonus would be the 47-tooth trail sprocket that was included with all Trail Broncs.
Bantam parts are still available, but Trail Bronc parts are nearly impossible to find. Try the BSA Bantam Shop on eBay, as they seem to have one of the best supplies of replacement parts.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com