1969 BSA 441 Victor single
Motorcycle News and Reviews 1969 BSA 441 Victor single From Motorcyle Models. Motorcycle News. Victory Motorcycles.
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The BSA 441 Victor. or Victim, depending on who you are, was introduced in 1966 to capitalize on the BSA that Jeff Smith won two back-to-back world championships on. Smith’s Victor was factory trick, with such items as:
* 7 rear brake
* 20 front wheel
* Reynolds 531 tube frame
* Wet weight of 225 lb
* All alloy motor with a chrome bore
Realizing that to produce a true race replica of Smith’s bike would put BSA into more dire financial straights, the boys at Birmingham did the next best thing: they produced a motorcycle that looked like the factory MX bike, but shared none of its winning attributes, such as handling, reliability or light weight.
One thing it did share with the factory race bike was power. The production 441 was fast, but that motor was housed in a 320-pound package that flexed, bounced and tank-slapped its way from one near disaster to another. Forks and shocks were straight from the “street” department of BSA, and had the dubious distinction of blowing seals, sacking springs and other nonsense that didn’t endear themselves to going fast in the dirt.
Rear shocks were street Girlings that would fade on a busy bar room door, and had a true operational life span of around 2 hours.
It took a mighty leg to start the Victor, and BSA saw fit to use a valve-lifting mechanism that would sometimes stick, and wreck the top end. The points wore like an eraser, with the points cam supported by a tiny bronze bushing that BSA offered no replacement for. If it wore out, you had to machine one from scratch.
Electrics were handled by Lucas, with the fabled Zeiner Diode/Alternator set up that caused more cursing than a Bosuns Mate Chief with his crank stuck in the zipper of his khakis. But wait, there’s more…
With no air-box to speak of, large mice could walk through the air cleaner without bumping their heads, but the paper filter and devious path the air had to take strangled the motor.
A rather short wheelbase of 52 inches made handling at speed nervous, and a whole aftermarket industry sprung up around the Victor to make it handle within reason.
One could spend hundreds of 1970 dollars on new swing arms, shocks, forks, frames, etc. and still have a motorcycle that no one wanted. Resale value was a joke, and back in the day one of these tricked out Victors could be had for three hundred dollars all day long. If you really wanted one.
A British 32mm Amal monobloc or concentric carb dealt with the mixing chores, and proved to be a pain in the a$$, with floats sticking and slides breaking and getting themselves ingested into motors. The usual Amal stuff. How we put up with this crap is anybody’s guess.
And yes, I too owned a 1969 441 Victor, bought for $300.00 from some guy who belonged to my gun club. Unfortunately the Victor was a very good looking motorcycle, with the canary yellow and polished aluminum gas tank, and trick flip-up gas cap. A chrome up-pipe with the baloney shaped silencer, nice conical hubs, minimal lights and no other foof on the forks and frame.
The bike looked right, but sadly even on the street it didn’t deliver the goods.
The last ride on my Victim went something like this: Kick it until I’m blue in the face and sweating, finally bump start it down a big hill. Stop at a red light, and notice the screws in the primary case are falling out and dropping on the street. Pick up the screws and put them in my coat pocket. At the next red light the bike dies, both bolts holding the carb on are gone, the only thing holding it on is vacuum. Push the bike to a gas station and cross thread SAE nuts on the metric studs.
A mile or two later the top of the carb comes apart, the bike goes full throttle and scares the crap out of me before dying again. Duct tape the carb back together try to make it home before dark, when I might have to use the lights.
Three miles from home the battery died, zeiner diode? I push it the rest of the way, and it’s in the Recycler that next Thursday. Some Swedish guy buys it for $400.00 and I never saw it again.
The BSA 441 Victor was only produced for four years, and was the last of a dying breed. The boys at Birmingham never thought their beloved double-knockers and long stroke singles would be surpassed by anything from Japan, and scoffed in their ale when Honda or Yamaha was even mentioned. Sadly, it was on bikes like the Victor that most of us cut our teeth on, and why the Japanese took over the industry so quickly.
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