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1949 BSA C11

1949 BSA C11

The Way We Were

BSA is an old and venerated name in industry. The Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA) rolled out a long list of BSA branded motorcycles from 1910 to the end of production in the 1970s. The ‘Small Arms’ comes from the fact that the initial business of the Company starting in 1861, was firearms manufacture.  In time, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, buses, and a wide variety of engineered products was added on.

BSA motorcycles were within the pocket reach of the masses and, with a reputation for reliability and easily available spare parts, the numerous BSA models were soon seen performing a range of activities in towns and villages. Postal Departments around the world ran fleets of the little Bantam; who wouldn’t recall with joy the instantly recognizable red-all-over Bantam riding up to your doorstep with a telegram of good news.

On a desolate stretch of road or perched on the edge of a misty mountain road the familiar yellow BSA motorcycle and the ‘sentry’ box brought instant reassurance to the long-distance motorist of old  -  the nice people of the Automobile Association are with you, the comforting message. Through the years, BSA motorcycles enjoyed fame and popularity and one C11, two years younger than EL 971, rode into the Steve McQueen classic motorcycle collection of over 100 bikes.

BSA motorcycles, sometimes outfitted with sidecars, went wherever military needs took them in the 1939-45 world conflict.  At its peak, BSA was the largest motorcycle maker on the globe, the British name proudly on a wide line-up of two-wheelers from the 70cc Dandy horizontal-engined 2 stroke step-thru to the largest production BSA the superfast Rocket 3 (4-stroke three-cylinder).

The 249cc 1949 manufactured C11 registered number EL 971 had been in use in Balapitiya, home town of its first owner most of its early days.  Then, after decades of hibernation it ended up in the caring hands of motorcycle enthusiast and restorer Lal Jayasuriya and continued to ‘rest’ till Lal’s son Isuru decided to put this bike together and put it back on the roads.

Lal and sons Kushan, Isuru and Sandalu worked on the bike for 6 busy months for the result seen in these photos.   EL 971 is now as new and clothed in the colour scheme of Black and Princess Grey which, Lal tells us, is of C11 vintage.

To bring EL 971 to as new condition, a number of components had to be sourced from BSA lovers and stockists internationally. The clutch assembly, speedometer (Smiths), headlight unit and on/off switch, piston, valves, stainless steel wheel rims, rubbers (handlebar grips, footrest rubbers, knee pads), and more.  Additionally, the Jayasuriya team upgraded some components for durability  -  silencer, fork seal shrouds/caps, plunger seal shrouds/caps, were turned out of stainless steel locally. The original carburetor has been replaced with a newer model for operational ease, the factory fitted Amal unit serviced and retained while the new Mikuni functions easily and efficiently to keep the bike running smoothly. The registration book is original and survives since 1949.

This classic BSA was scheduled to leave the Jayasuriya premises to travel to its new owner Dilan Dhanushka but stayed back a couple days to allow us to photograph this rarity to bring it to you, our Readers. Thank you Dilan Dhanushka and Team Jayasuriya for holding your BSA C11 back to give the motorcycle enthusiasts of the Motor magazine this uncommon viewing.


Dilip Vazirani


BSA  C11  1949 - Specs

Engine              :   Air-cooled 4-stroke OHV (Over Head Valve) single-cylinder pre-unit model

Capacity           :   249cc

Gears                :   3-speed foot operated

Brakes              :   Front and Rear :  Drum

Suspension       :  Front :  Telescopic fork;     Rear :  Plunger

Electrics            :   Dynamo and rectifier