BSA Lightning Custom by Jesse Bassett




Motorcycles never die and when they are revived they are painstakingly restored to look as brand new or re-dressed to look even better than the originals. This 1965 BSA Lightning belongs to the second category and is a very fine example of custom vintage motorcycle work. its builder Jesse Bassett from the Gasbox Shop in Cleveland, OH was rewarded for his custom fabrication skills by winning the Freestyle Class in the International Motorcycle Show. A creation that be shown in Sturgis during the 2011 AMD World Championship Of bike Building. It was a 2-year project and Jesse told me about the main issues he had to resolve while rebuilding, repairing, restoring and customizing this original production motorcycle from the Birmingham Small Arms Company (BSA)

“I began the1965 BSA project in 2009 when one of my customers brought in a rigid chopper to be customized. After disassembling the entire bike all that was left was the engine, frame, and stock BSA QD rear wheel. My customer, Brett Scully, had to have a girder fork, so I found one from a BSA M-20. I had to fabricate a new top clamp, neck stem and new linkage. I used antique faucet handles for the friction ride control because of the look of the porcelain and brass. By adjusting the rake, offset and height of the fork I was able to obtain the correct frame stance.

The rear wheel is stock BSA 18” powder-coated black with stainless spokes and
Coker tire. The front wheel is a thirty-six spoke 21” laced to a BSA Bantam hub and Avon tire. Both front and rear drums were windowed out in the mill, then the shoes were drilled. The fuel tank began as an oil in frame Triumph item that has been chopped and fitted with late model Harley style rubber mounts. I found a local die maker to duplicate the BSA golden flash emblems and cast them in bronze for the tank. I fabricated the oil tank from scratch, then fitted with the cap and fittings of a 1960’s BSA stock item and rubber mounted.

The entire engine was disassembled and polished. The sludges were cleaned. The notorious BSA crank bushing was upgraded and cylinders were fitted with the next size over 9:1 compression pistons. I fabricated the exhaust from stainless steel and styled it after the BSA high scrambler pipes. All of the electrics were upgraded. The handlebars were made to act as part of the top clamp for the girder. The levers are Cook replicas of pre-war British bikes. The grips are made of the same leather as the seat. The headlight is a fender light from an early MG car and had to be modified to adapt to the girder.

The paint is black with gold leaf and red striping by Jerry Koenigsmark of Jerry’s House of Kolors. The leather work was done by Jason’s Custom Upholstery. All of the polishing and nickel plating was done by Jason’s Show Quality Metal Finish” The GasBox. (pictures courtesy Scott Pease Photography)