Monday, 21 March 2011

Project Daytona, June 2003 – “More like archaeology than restoration…”

Up until the early 70’s almost all bike racing in the US had to comply with AMA class ‘C’ regulations - basically production bikes with a few permitted modifications. So you’d think that would make restoring our Daytona bikes easy – they would be bog-standard catalogue bikes with a few permitted modifications, right?

Wrong! Apart from the special rigid frames used at Daytona that were the most visible identifier of a Daytona bike we found many other differences that made the research phase of the project long and difficult. It was in one of many late-night phone sessions to the US that team member Don Bradley remarked that as restorations go, this had been more like archaeology so far. Let me give you some examples.

In any research you go first to existing books, articles, documentation and records. But we have chosen a subject and period that is almost entirely absent from these. Forget the 70’s – this is the real ‘forgotten era’ of racing. If we suspected we might have a hill to climb this was confirmed when Gold Star technical authority John Gardner admitted he’d be learning from us, not the other way around.

We were drawing blanks all round so decided to find any BSA competition shop staff still alive – there aren’t many. A bit of detective work found Arthur Lupton, better known under his pseudonym ‘A. Golland’ as the author of the red ‘Goldie’ book published in the 1970’s. Arthur was a stalwart at BSA for many, many years who worked with competition shop staff. We were very fortunate to correspond at length with Arthur over a period of 2 years before he died.

The real star find would be Roland Pike who was in charge of developing the Daytona bikes in ‘54. We knew he lived in the US but had been suffering from Altzheimer’s disease in the last few years. We almost made it - he died 2 weeks before we got in touch with his daughter. However she gave us a copy of an unpublished autobiography from his BSA years that not only helped with the Daytona bikes but also provided a goldmine of information about other interesting BSA projects and working in Small Heath at the time.

There were also mysteries about the riders. The surviving works riders have been supporting us since the project started but there was one we couldn’t trace – Cliff Caswell. Last month we found him using one of those dodgy ‘we can find any person’ websites in the US!Recording and keeping track of all this information would be difficult in any circumstances. We were additionally handicapped by having a restoration team composed of people in both the US and Scotland.

The answer was an online web-based archive and project management tool. Documents, discussions, notes, images, details – all were stored on a web site so that team members could access it anywhere, anytime. Access was restricted to the project team or people who were helping us – we could do without the more militant Gold Star owners misinterpreting our speculations as gospel and taking us to task over them. But at the same time a public access section of the website was developed that would be used to publicise the project and provide information for BSA enthusiasts. This part of the site was launched at Daytona 2003 and can be found at

Beezagent's Note:- this website was replaced in 2006 by

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