1952 BSA ZB32 Special called 'Grace'

Grace @ 75th Gold Star Anniversary Brooklands 2012

2014 ~ I have just fitted modern rubber! Avon Roadrider's ...awesome!!!
3.25-19 Front & 100/90-19 Rear [note: it just fits].

Here are some notes from the previous owner, Roger Bean of Co. Durham.
Well, it used to be mine, as a collection of assorted rusty bits, and boxes and packets of new parts purchased 'at the right price' over some twenty years, pending an eventual start on my 'Project bike' - my ideal B31/2 derivative - light, nimble and quick, built for back-roads scratching, and incorporating desirable features from other BSA models (e.g. larger oil tank and proper oil filtration).

With the additional purchase of another frame, there were enough bits to build a spare bike (albeit with an iron engine). I'd been collecting bits to build this special for nearly thirty years, by which time I concluded that I was too physically fragile to wish to ride rigid framed bikes any more. Twenty miles recently, on a 1939 M23 had convinced me of that! The new owner, Martin Wheeler, has chosen almost all the bits from the assortment that I'd have chosen myself to put together a very pretty little special exactly as I'd always imagined it.

I had considered a number of options for it over the years, a Trials model would have had a smaller tank (but still too big for trials at 3 gallons), 21'' front wheel with 7'' brake and chromed brake plate which would engage in the boss visible at lower rear of the fork leg, non standard gear ratios, very flat chromed mudguards, smaller oil tank, tool box filling lower rear triangle of frame, trials 'bars of course, and other details.

The road - going ZB32 Special, as shown features the following major changes:

OUTSIDE : frame/tinware etc.
Exceedingly rare, plunger sprung Gold Star'optional accessory' 4 gallon TT special tank
M20 41/2 pint oil tank with felt oil filter - fitting of which necessitated using a non standard (BSA) toolbox from a 1930s model.
TT carburettor (10TT9)
Aftermarket accessory sprung dualseat. (I think I may have preferred a single saddle but this dualseat is really well sprung.)
Norton Commando mudguards (ignore the reflector on the front one - there's a story behind that!)
Rev counter (fitting of which necessitated some modification to the R/H crankshaft.)

INSIDE : ZB32A engine
Lightened flywheels (When found, these seriously modified BSA flywheels had a Matchless G50 con rod fitted, with a sleeve in the big end eye to accept the smaller diameter BSA bearing) a pre-war BSA forged high compression piston with alloy end caps in the gudgeon pin.
Non standard high -lift cams from a selection I had acquired over the years (road racing and scrambles, and an unclassified one, quite mild compared with the others, but noticeably higher than the standard item). [Martin: I sourced and fitted genuine Gold Star touring cams].
The R/H crankshaft, being an early type, had to be modified to suit the timing chest cover which supported the rev-counter drive.
Many other bits I'm not aware of?

Martin seems to have built it choosing almost all the special bits I'd have chosen myself. It took a long time to collect non-standard parts that would be compatible with each other and 'look right' when fitted. I think he's done a superb job, and I now wish I'd got round to it myself. It's a shame it's now so far away, I shall probably never see it, let alone ride it.

The story behind the front mudguard reflector is that in the early nineties the mudguard was fitted by me to my 1948 VP Viper sports sidecar, attached to a pal's Thunderbird to do the Beamish Trial. I was careful to fabricate mounting brackets to use existing holes in the mudguard so as not to spoil it for it's ultimate intended fitting to the ZB32. Pal Brian drove away with the outfit, and being worried about legality of having no sidecar lamp, decided that a reflector would be better than nothing and without consulting me, drilled a hole in my mudguard for a reflector! I was furious. (If I were you Martin I'd replace it with a chrome bumper bolt from a car, or even just a rubber blanking grommet - and mount the front stays further forward please.)

Use of the more efficient M20 oil tank with felt oil filter instead of the useless gauze strainer of the standard tank meant I had to find the model with a hole through it in which to route the speedometer cable, driven from the top of the gearbox. The alternative tank meant that the standard toolbox would not fit so a suitable 1930s model was sought. The alternative toolbox along with the big oil tank, TT petrol tank and carb really enhance its appearance. There was an original type (unused though rusty) silencer with the 'job lot' (I use the expression 'silencer' advisedly, since it was so light it can't have contained much in the way of baffles - more of an expansion box, it might have enhanced the performance - and noise?) I thought Martin might have seen fit to re-chrome it. I notice he's fitted a silencer for the plunger, rather than the rigid framed models with an ungainly bracket, (that little bracket at the tail end mounts to the pinch bolt at the bottom of the plunger unit). The correct silencer has a built in short bracket that mounts direct to the pillion footrest bolt. I'd have preferred the 'Spring green' on the tank rather than the darker 'Brunswick green' but this is just preference, as I say, it looks bloody marvellous, it really does.

I'd love to hear of any particular problems he encountered along the way, I seem to recall there was to be some modification involved in the oil feed to the big end if the rev-counter timing case was to be used? Which combination of cams did you use? [Martin replies -'Gold Star Touring']. Was there sufficient clearance for the higher comp piston? Does the engine 'pink'? The reconditioned TT carb was supposedly ready jetted for that engine - was it OK? The mag and dyno were both already overhauled by FTW in Sheffield did they work OK? (Dynamos sometimes lose polarity if left unused, and appear not to work initially, re-polarising takes only a few seconds if you know which wires to swap momentarily.)

How does it go? I had visions of sweet, smooth and brisk performance, rather than a rorty roadburner. A B31 is flat out at about 70 per, I envisaged 80-ish from the B32, possibly approaching 90, but I'd have been happy at a genuine 80+, enabling easy cruising at around 65, gearing arranged to suit, with a surprising burst of acceleration to amaze the un-knowledgeable. I hope it works out that way when it's run in properly. What effect has the lightened flywheel assembly? When I salvaged those flywheels they were fitted with a shorter G50 Matchless conrod, in a BB31 bottom end overstamped as DBD34, so somebody had been up to daring deeds with them! How do you get on with the lack of a tickover setting on the TT carb? Being a racing unit it is meant to shut down and die if you let go of the twistgrip. I trust you don't annoy the neighbours with too much throttle blipping? (However wonderful it sounds to our ears.)
Handling should be fine, the original BSA set-up steered very true in the case of that model, and you had all the ingredients for a first class set of forks? - Perhaps I may see or hear it running some day?

Regards, Roger Bean.

Complete list of BSA component parts ~ that built 'Grace' purchased from Roger Bean, Co Durham

Well Roger Bean, nice to hear from you. As you can see at last I have a very nice ZB32 Special. A one off called 'Grace' (white letters in script just before GS stars on tank) not seen in this photo. The DVLA supplied me with a nice age related No. from Alloa. Good to hear you approve of the way I built the bike up, the dual seat was the only concession to my wife, can't see her throwing a leg over a bum pad. The dual seat is a genuine plunger one re upholstered and sprung by me. It does not look out of place and is very comfortable. I did not use the Omega 9:1 piston in the end the bore had to be taken to max and I used the Empire Star piston with the floating end caps. Flywheels seem fine, the engineer I use [John Clayton] did wonder where all the worm holes had come from. (They were obviously turned down to clear the skirt of whatever piston was fitted to the much shorter G50 rod - all I acquired was the bottom end with a non standard rod peeping out - the big-end had seized - big time!) - Roger.

The forks are re-bushed/sprung and feel as-new, they work fine, as you have noticed I have left the boss in place and reversed the 8'' brake bar forward as they did in the States. This is because when I get around to it I might fit the 21'' for a bit of off road riding. Silencer used is a genuine one off my shelf, and sounds fine - I am toying with putting on the GS strait through. Yes, the problem with the later timing case was overcome by club member [John Clayton] 'he's a clever chap'. The rev counter was wrong, winds wrong way, John also sorted that and other problems - (SORRY - I really didn't know that, as a matter of interest it was fitted originally to a racing Vincent sidecar outfit- ROGER).

I'm getting it sorted - Mag and Dyno I re-overhauled. (Didn't trust me huh? - Roger)
The TT carb was a problem while running in, (I'll have another go later) I fitted a pre mono off my ZB31. It runs fine but a little rich at the moment, losing power on the top end. I have fitted genuine GS touring cams. Starting is without a decompressor as one supplied and fitted was badly worn and not working.

(I've never ever known a BSA valve lifter not to work - you must be overlooking something - try moving the short arm to a different spline, and adjust the cable if necessary. They don't wear out because they only bear on the back of the rocker arm when you pull the trigger, the spring on the cable keeps the cam disengaged during running. I'll check my stock and send you another handlebar lever 'trigger' if possible. When used correctly - and very few folk do,- even oldtimer die-hards -, the valve lifter enables you to start the engine from compression with a genuinely effortless swing. I will explain in greater detail when I am sure you have it set up correctly. There is no pattern part for the valve lifter cam assembly, only the handlebar 'trigger', which should be positioned to be used by your left thumb, making sure that the clutch lever clamp does not foul full travel of the valve lifter trigger - ROGER).

She does get stuck on the top of the cam 'put in 2nd gear and move wheel backwards' does the trick, one big swinging kick usually gets her going. I have been very careful in running in 500+ miles so far. Not fast off the grid as I have geared high for touring spec with an 18 tooth engine sprocket. (46/47 B31 used 16T, 48> on used 17T as standard, so 18T should be right for your state of tune, as you say, long legged.) This bike has 'Long Legs'once in its stride it just limbers along no effort at 55/65 miles an hour. I'm convinced when run in and sorted this bike will do 80+.

You never know - I might take a long ride some day! (and I might visit you one day and steal it for a while - ROGER)

 Above left; 1973 on my trusty 49'ZB31 on St. Marys I.O.S [with Porter, who use to ride on the tank]. I use to run from
Staines to Timsbury near Bath, stop off at auntie Dorris for food and get dry infront of the Raburn,
then off through the night to Penzance to catch the early ferry,

Right; 2015 on my 52'ZB32 called 'Grace' saying goodby to friends at The Merry Harriers Inn, Cullompton [thanks for great pic].

"Thats over 40 years riding ridged BSA ZB's"

Q. where is LKN 923 now??? Would like to here from you if you have this bike.

 DAAT RUN ~ 2016

Thanks go to Devon Air Ambulance for photo

 Well 'knock me down with a feather' ~ 'Grace' won a trophy!!

I entered on the day, had a non stop 'great' run from Trago Mills to Dawlish Warren around <100 miles.
'Grace' [52' BSA ZB32 Special] ran well, making very good progress, supprising many modern bikers,
with a combined age of bike and me of 131.

My thanks go to DAAT for an interesting run, the sort us older bikers from EBMCC like, with nice twisty bits.
Also to all the Marshals from DAM, unfortunatly on the run with getting on for 1,000 motorcycles, there were some spills.
My personal observation would be that many on that ride out could improve their riding skills by
contacting Devon Advanced Motorcyclists [DAM].

"They are worth it ~ get skills for life"

Ride withing your capability, ride safely with consideration to other rides, have fun.

Well to date this 52' ZB32 [Grace] has done over 10,000 + miles on the roads of beautiful Devon, a lot of the miles on runs out with the 'Exeter British Motorcycle Club'. 'This 350 goes very well, built to ride, (not show) and I am very pleased with it, will cruse comfortably at 55/60 mph and keeps up well with the big twins on club runs'.

'I have been a member of the club for a few years now, first involved in this club's first 'Exe Valley Run' (as a non-member). I find the club to be very friendly with a mix of all sorts of characters with a liking for British iron. The Club has members with knowledge and expertise to sort most problems involved with these 'Classic', 'Vintage' and 'Veteran' historic bikes. My advise to anybody who has a British bike from an honest 'Bantam' to a 'Brough' (wishful thinking) contact the club, you will be made welcome.

Have owned and riden the following bikes:

BSA's - C15; ZB31; M21 [unit]; A10 SRR;
Harley Davidson - Sportster 883;
Matchless - G3LS [ex AFS];
Moto Guzzi's - Sessantacinque GT; Cali. 111;
MZ's - TS250/1; ETZ250; ETZ125;
PM - Panther 120 [solo];
Triumph 21;
Zundapp 75;

Current road bikes: BSA - ZB32[Grace];
Moto Guzzi - Cali. EV Special Sport Titanium.
Project in the 'micro shed' BSA - ZB33 Trials.
Martin is also the EBMCC webmaster

Has anybody out there got my old BSA A10 SRR reg. XYO 794

My Motorcycling Heroes

Wal Handley rep @ Brooklands ~ Gold Star winner

Steve McQueen ~ THE GREAT ESCAPE...Hero, Idol, Legend. 'The first time, I'd take a run at it and jump maybe two feet off the ground. Then we would take a shovel and dig this natural ramp, changing the angles on it. And I'd jump four, six, eight feet and then when we reached 10 feet we said that's it! Nobody else from the crew knew we were up there. So when it comes to Monday none of us said we'd already done it' [picture'Bud Ekins' Steve's stunt rider].

T. E. Lawrenc ~ a few weeks later, aged 46, he was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident in Dorset, close to his cottage, Clouds Hill, near Wareham (now run by the National Trust and open to the public). The accident occurred because of a dip in the road that obstructed his view of two boys on their bicycles; he swerved to avoid them, lost control, and was thrown over the handlebars of his motorcycle. He died six days later. [Courtesy of Wikipedia].

Lawrence on a Brough Superior motorcycle at Cranwell, ca. 1925-6.

1949 ISTD Gold winer

L. Wedgbury's ~ actual machine, 1949 BSA ZB 32 Gold Star, bought new through Jayne's Garage in Brynmawr, with an undertaking that he would ride it as a private entrant in 1949 ISDT. LW had seen the machine at the previous Earls Court Show!, where he had been told that delivery was very restricted. 'Machine came with documentation stating it's full performance details along with several sheets detailing adjustments and modifications to enable the machine to be Road Raced and Scrambled. My thanks to Leonard George Wedgbury for proudly achieving the chronicled data on the BSA Gold Star EU 9915, I have just placed it on record with the aid of Steve Wedgbury and his family. With thanks to the following site:*session*id*key*=*session*id*val*


 1950 Clubman Events





Jack McEwen ~
1950 BSA 348cc ZB32

Jack McEwen of Calver on his ride to fourth place with £8 prize money in the Clubmans event. (photo kindly provided by Mrs. Nancy McEwen).


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