Designed as BSA’s versatile all-rounder, the A65 Lightning had twin-carbs compared to the Thunderbolt’s single-carb set up for improved performance at high rpm. It was considered the more conservative choice when compared to the competing Triumph Bonneville, although the flashy chrome tank panels look pretty striking today. Even though BSA and Triumph were technically owned by the same parent company by this point, clear attempts were made to create distinct brand identities for the Lightning and Bonneville, with a more “reliable” image for BSA, though such things are relative…
With similar displacements, power and performance were closely matched: the undersquare Triumph motor was a bit more torquey than the slightly oversquare BSA and both were OHV engines with the BSA featuring more modern “unit” construction behind those distinctive egg-shaped cases. Period riders often slotted the Triumph’s more easily-tuned engine into the lightweight, rigid BSA frame to create the TriBSA, a bike in the spirit of the more well-known Triton.
The BSA’s 654cc twin put 52hp through a four-speed gearbox and was good for 108mph. Unfortunately, although the oversquare BSA was revvier, it was still a big parallel twin and using the higher revs broke bulb filaments with irritating regularity when chasing that power.
From the original eBay listing: 1969 BSA 650 Lightning for Sale
I am offering for sale this original and unrestored 1969 BSA 650 Lightning. I received the bike in non running condition, with a 12 inch over extended front end, after market head light and brackets and one shorty muffler. The engine turned over with weak compression , but smoothly. The odometer indicated just over 2000 miles, and it`s last state inspection sticker was from 1974. The tires were original Dunlop `Made in England ` K70`s and the wheels were badly rusted on the bottom side from having been buried in earth. the bike had been in a barn, but apparently with a wet muddy floor. I proceeded to disassemble most of the bike , with the intent of leaving it as original as I could. I replaced the wheels with other ones from my stock, and cleaned and greased the wheel bearings. There is an almost new Asian K70 replica tire on the rear, and an original K70 on the front with good tread but has some sidewall checking. I sourced an original 1969 BSA front end with all correct components from my inventory, disassembled and cleaned it thoroughly and reassembled with new seals and all good component parts. I cleaned and polished all of the chrome parts to the best of my ability, and rubbed out the original vintage custom paint, which had apparently been done when the bike was still fairly new. I removed the top end, and found the rings to be stuck in the ring lands, and some rust in a couple of valve seats causing the low compression. The bottom end was clean and tight and still wet with oil from 1974 so decided not to disassemble it. I removed and thoroughly cleaned the pistons, and replaced them with new Hastings rings, honed the cylinders, replaced all gaskets, and removed, reseated and replaced the valves. Everything looked good. crankshaft end play is minimal and timing side bush shows minimal wear.(.002 clearance measured with a feeler gauge.) I also removed, cleaned thoroughly and replaced the oil pump, entire transmission, and primary drive and clutch assembly. I installed a very nice set of vintage Bates cocktail shaker megs with no baffles. They have a very pleasing exhaust note, but not annoyingly loud.
The end result is a bike which starts right up on one or two kicks, runs strong and smoothly, has good clutch action and shifts cleanly through all of the gears, does not smoke, and leakage is very minimal. (chain oiler drips as it should). It is clean and looks presentable, but surely no show bike or trailer queen. It has it`s fair share of ‘patina’ which is the cool way of saying worn chrome and paint, but is well sorted mechanically and electrically. I have no way of knowing if the odometer mileage is correct, although the bike appeared to have low miles.
There’s plenty of pitting and mild corrosion as described, but all that could be repaired if the new owner desired and the bike would work well as a rolling-restoration, since the issues are all cosmetic: as can be seen from the video, the bike starts and runs well, with a nice British twin snarl. There are no bids yet with plenty of time left on the auction, so I’ve no idea if this bike is realistically priced, but this looks like a very nice, rideable example of a late 60’s British icon.