The BSA 441 Victor, or Victim, depending on who you are, was introduced in 1966
to capitalize on the BSA that Jeff Smith won two back-to-back world
championships on. Smith’s Victor was factory trick, with such items as:
- 7" rear brake
- 20" front wheel
- Reynolds 531 tube frame
- Wet weight of 225 lb
- All alloy motor with a chrome
Realizing that to produce a true race replica of Smith’s
bike would put BSA into more dire financial straights, the boys at Birmingham
did the next best thing: they produced a motorcycle that looked like the
factory MX bike, but shared none of its winning attributes, such as handling,
reliability or light weight.
One thing it did share with the factory race bike was power. The production 441
was fast, but that motor was housed in a 320-pound package that flexed, bounced
and tank-slapped its way from one near disaster to another. Forks and shocks
were straight from the “street” department of BSA, and had the dubious
distinction of blowing seals, sacking springs and other nonsense that didn’t
endear themselves to going fast in the dirt. Rear shocks were street Girlings
that would fade on a busy bar room door, and had a true operational life span of
around 2 hours.
It took a mighty leg to start the Victor, and BSA saw
fit to use a valve-lifting mechanism that would sometimes stick, and wreck the
top end. The points wore like an eraser, with the points cam supported by a tiny
bronze bushing that BSA offered no replacement for. If it wore out, you had to
machine one from scratch. Electrics were handled by Lucas, with the fabled
Zeiner Diode/Alternator set up that caused more cursing than a Bosuns Mate Chief
with his crank stuck in the zipper of his khakis. But wait, there’s
With no air-box to speak of, large mice could walk through the air
cleaner without bumping their heads, but the paper filter and devious path the
air had to take strangled the motor.
A rather short wheelbase of 52 inches made handling at speed nervous, and a
whole aftermarket industry sprung up around the Victor to make it handle within
One could spend hundreds of 1970 dollars on new swing arms,
shocks, forks, frames, etc. and still have a motorcycle that no one wanted.
Resale value was a joke, and back in the day one of these tricked out Victors
could be had for three hundred dollars all day long. If you really wanted one.
A British 32mm Amal monobloc or concentric carb dealt with the mixing
chores, and proved to be a pain in the a$$, with floats sticking and slides
breaking and getting themselves ingested into motors. The usual Amal stuff. How
we put up with this crap is anybody’s guess.
And yes, I too owned a 1969
441 Victor, bought for $300.00 from some guy who belonged to my gun club.
Unfortunately the Victor was a very good looking motorcycle, with the canary
yellow and polished aluminum gas tank, and trick flip-up gas cap. A chrome
up-pipe with the baloney shaped silencer, nice conical hubs, minimal lights and
no other foof on the forks and frame. The bike looked right, but sadly
even on the street it didn’t deliver the goods.
The last ride on my
Victim went something like this: Kick it until I’m blue in the face and
sweating, finally bump start it down a big hill. Stop at a red light, and notice
the screws in the primary case are falling out and dropping on the street. Pick
up the screws and put them in my coat pocket. At the next red light the bike
dies, both bolts holding the carb on are gone, the only thing holding it on is
vacuum. Push the bike to a gas station and cross thread SAE nuts on the metric
studs. A mile or two later the top of the carb comes apart, the bike goes full
throttle and scares the crap out of me before dying again. Duct tape the carb
back together try to make it home before dark, when I might have to use the
Three miles from home the battery died, zeiner diode? I push it
the rest of the way, and it’s in the Recycler that next Thursday. Some Swedish
guy buys it for $400.00 and I never saw it again.
The BSA 441 Victor was only produced for four years, and was the last of a dying
breed. The boys at Birmingham never thought their beloved double-knockers and
long stroke singles would be surpassed by anything from Japan, and scoffed in
their ale when Honda or Yamaha was even mentioned. Sadly, it was on bikes like
the Victor that most of us cut our teeth on, and why the Japanese took over the
industry so quickly.