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Being a high-output 654cc twin the Lightning Clubman probably wasn’t as nimble as that legendary Gold Star single or a Dommie Featherbed, but the A65LC’s tried-n-true steel tube double cradle was tough and true. Remember, this is when swingarm pivots were bushed and hydraulic suspension technology was still young, making even an exotic Lightning Clubman feel a little dated when measured against standards ten-years ahead. Otherwise, the Beezer is more than up to the task of secondary roads with a touch of interstate. Timed at 120-mph the A65 isn’t thrilled with speeds above 80mph, but the tele fork and twin-shock rear are willing with a careful set up. Good enough for Mike Hailwood to finish ahead of Phil Read’s and his favored Thruxton at the 1965 Hutchinson 100. .
What eventually transpired changed the core of motorcycling through buyer’s preferences, but before the collapse BSA and its fellow English makers designed, engineered and released the finest, fastest selection of models ever to wear the Union Jack. Include BSA’s 1965 650cc Lightning Clubman in the mix as a limited production exotic both collectible and historically important..
1964-5 BSA A65LC
Engine: Air-cooled 2v 654cc parallel twin,
Intake: Two Type 389 Amal Monobloc
Ignition: 6v points/condenser
Transmission / final drive: close ratio four-speed / chain
Brakes: 8” or 190mm front drum, 7" rear
Weight: 395-lb (dry)
Top speed: 120-mph.
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1965 BSA Lightning Clubman
The Lightning’s twin-carb, 654cc OHV parallel twin offers all the gloss and grunt one would expect from a premium, 60s-era sports bike, and period tests enthusiastically support those claims. Modernized into unit construction those now familiar pear-shaped crankcases moved the new 500 and 650cc twins away from the beloved A10’s separate component build, even if the new engine’s full-circle flywheel, iron cylinders and aft-camshaft location followed traditional BSA practice. The original, single carb A65 was introduced for 1962, but soon BSA would assemble a vast selection of 500/650cc models for both street and dirt. Corporate cousin Triumph (purchased by BSA in 1951) also had a new unit twin released in this era, and many enthusiasts believe Triumph’s equally serious, and equally rare T120 twin and BSA’s new Clubman production racer were high points for both. Speaking of in house rivals at Meriden, it’s no coincidence the Lightning Clubman was released at roughly the same time
With a production run of 200 machines, a genuine A65LC is very rare find. Factor in the variance of optional extras and things get even more complicated. Many standard A65 Lightning have been converted to LC spec, and because the two are so similar it’s difficult for even a well-trained BSA buff to spot a forgery. So thorough are some modifiers that many have begun to insist on documented registration records before the big money is exchanged. Our advice hasn’t changed: do your homework. Unsuccessful was the search for the origin of these photographs, and no information on its originality or history makes me hope the photographer is reading this. Highly desired along with Norton’s Commando PR and the T120 Thruxton as true factory production racers, you need a sack full to secure a genuine Lightning Clubman. Happily, the following A65 Spitfire (1966-68) offers BSA fans a second chance at a true British exotic, and the standard Lightning is no slouch either. Especially the late versions in racy home market spec. Taking its place alongside the Gold Star single and A10 RGS twin, BSA’s A65 Lightning Clubman is among the very best BSA had to offer. Consider that high praise. Nolan Woodbury .
Generally speaking, auto technology in the 1950s was well ahead of motorcycles, but when both turned the corner into the new decade that gap narrowed. The process began when the cheap economy car rendered the two-wheel commuter obsolete, forcing bike makers away from basic transportation to specialized performance. Of these, no maker (except perhaps East German MuZ) produced more work-a-day punters than BSA. Those military side-valves and small OHV models formed the foundation for BSA’s position as the world’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, and simple reason suggests Small Heath might have been hit hardest by those sales-killing compacts. History shows the firm responded strongly…even if that response was quickly answered.
Truly an enclosed version of the non-unit A10, BSA held to tradition by sandwiching the two-hole iron cylinder between the aluminum crankcase and heads. The old practice continued with a single four-lobe camshaft behind the crankshaft that drove a pushrod to each of A65’s valves. The pressed together crank featured BSA’s distinctive full-circle flywheel too. For a very distinctive 1965 model year the performance A65 650 Lightning featured twin Amal Monoblocs, 9.0 compression pistons, siamese exhaust, chrome fenders/tank and gold metallic sprayed over the rest. To this the Lightning Clubman (and 500cc Cyclone Clubman) added a close-ratio four-speed with reversed 1-up-3-down shift pattern, Clubman handlebars, rear-set controls and a bumstop seat in gloss black. Depending upon the buyer’s intent or pocketbook the Clubman could be outfitted with a variety of options, including a fairing, five-gallon fuel tank (in fiberglass or aluminum) shouldered alloy rims, clip-on bars and even the Gold Star 190mm front drum. Except for carb type, the A65 Lightning/Clubman and Cyclone/Clubman share specifications.