Intended as the all-rounder in BSA’s mid-60’s range, the A65 Lightning was sportier than the Thunderbolt and more comfortable than the Spitfire. A natural competitor for Triumph’s Bonneville, owing to similar specification and performance, the Lightning was powered by a 654cc, OHV parallel-twin that put 52hp through a four-speed gearbox and could reach a claimed 112mph.
Slightly oversquare dimensions gave the engine a more enthusiastic quality than competing machines from Triumph, but parallel twins are inherently unbalanced and BSA’s engine shook more than most: in an era before balance shafts and other mechanical trickery, severe vibration in the upper rev range would see you breaking headlight filaments with cartoonish regularity.
Interestingly, although the distinctive chrome-plating on the tank is very evocative and striking today, BSA’s image at the time was more “reliable and conservative” than rival Triumph.
From the original eBay listing: 1966 BSA Lightning for Sale
Meticulous Ground-Up Restoration by BSA Enthusiast, Thousands in Receipts, New Everything, One Owner 1966-2012, 2500 Original Miles, Matching Numbers
This 66 BSA Lightning is a two owner bike with 2500 original miles. It was ground-up restored over the last three years by a very detail-oriented BSA enthusiast, who bought the bike from the original owner in 2012. The original owner lived in Sleepy Hollow, NY and bought the bike brand new from the dealership on Main Street in sleepy hollow in 1966. He rode it sparingly, lost interest, and stored it in his house until 2012. As a result, the previous owner told me the bike only had 2500 miles on it when he purchased it.
When the previous owner got it, he assessed the bike, started ordering parts, and completely disassembling it down to the frame (pics below.) Since the bike was so original, the idea was to completely rebuild all the mechanicals, while leaving as much of the cosmetics original as possible. The frame did not need to be repainted, so it was left “stove black” with its original paint from the factory. The seat and tank and sidecovers are all original and are in great condition and display a nice even light patina.
The motor was sent out and fully and professionally rebuilt.
The bike was fitted with Mikunis and a Boyer MK4 ignition.
The suspension was completely rebuilt, as well as the wheel bearings, and he added a tapered steering head bearing.
The bike was fitted with new tires, new battery, new fuel taps, it has all new cables, and the tank was sealed.
I have thousands of dollars in receipts for all the work done, as pictured.
The bike was set up to ride, so everything was hit with blue loctite. The stock handlebars were kept, since they are so comfortable to ride with and make the bike easy to wheel around the garage. The bike starts up easily from dead cold on one or two kicks. Remarkably, it doesn’t even leak any oil (and yes, there’s oil in it.)
All the electrics function properly. Because of the new tires and freshly rebuilt suspension, the bike is the best riding Lightning we’ve had. It feels very tight going down the road, loves to corner, and exhibits very little vibration. The new owner put just over 500 indicated miles on the bike since the rebuild and told me he wouldn’t hesitate to ride the bike anywhere. We’ve sold 5 Lightnings in the last year and this one is the most impressive.
With this bike you get excellent preservation-class cosmetics with the security of thousands in receipts that come with the bike that show a total overhaul. The previous owner was very particular about the bike and any conversation I had with him about it seemed to last at least half an hour or more while he went over all the minute technical details of the restoration.
The bike comes with a perfectly preserved original 1966 BSA owner’s manual. It is matching numbers.
Take a look at the particularly nice video of the bike riding around its current home in Brooklyn, NY: you can really hear that classic twin snarl.
There are “survivors” with tons of originality and patina. But something like this, a ground-up restoration by experts with minor updates to improve reliability and function is more in line with what I would want in a dream bike. And the bike doesn’t appear to have been “over-restored”: some bits still in excellent condition were even left with their original paint to give the bike a bit of a lived-in feel.
I don’t follow the prices on these, so I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to where that reserve is set. But it’s obvious that, if you’re looking for a really nice Lightning to own and cherish and ride, this is one to watch.