The BSA Bantam: A Basic Two-Stroke From England

At the 2012 British Motorcycle Show in Auburn, Massachusetts I saw a BSA Bantam on display.  This particular motorcycle was a special motorcycle that had been used by the Royal Post Office in England.

1954 BSA Bantam D-3 Royal Post Office Motorcycle

This motorcycle is not what you would typically expect from a BSA motorcycle.  There are two things that distinguish this motorcycle from what most people would think of when they think of a BSA motorcycle – the size of the motorcycle and the two-stroke engine design.

The Leg Shields Gave Some Weather Protection To The Postmen

The two-stroke engine design actually came from the DKW RT 125 motorcycle as part of German war reparations as a result of World War II.  As a result of using this German design, the BSA Bantam first appeared in 1949 as a 123cc motorcycle.  The model was designated as the Bantam D-1.  This was a very basic motorcycle as can be seen in these photos.

The BSA Bantam model on display at the Auburn show was a 1954 Model D-3.  This differed from the D-1 in several ways.  The engine in the D-3 was increased up to 150cc and the ride was vastly improved by the addition of a plunger-type suspension.  The D-1 had no rear suspension at all and the rider had to rely on the seat springs to soften the effects of bumps in the road.

The BSA Bantam D-3 Had a Plunger-Type Rear Suspension

The 1954 BSA Bantam D-3 engine produced 5.3 horsepower and provided the Bantam D-3 with the capability of a top speed of 50 miles per hour.  These engines had a three-speed transmission. For a motorcycle used to travel from mailbox to mailbox, this would be adequate performance.

The End of the Exhaust Pipe Looks a Little Strange

The BSA Bantam line was available up to 1971, with the final version having a 175cc engine.  Throughout the 1960s, the BSA Bantam had stiff competiton from the many small two-stroke and four-stroke Japanese motorcycles.

The BSA Bantam D-3 Is a Very Plain Motorcycle

In addition to the larger engine and plunger-type suspension, the Bantam D-3 on display at the British Motorcycle Show in Auburn, MA had a less imposing fender design than the original Bantam D-1 shown below.

This BSA Bantam D-1 Had a Rigid Suspension

Below are a couple of advertisements for the BSA Bantam motorcycles.  Both of these advertisements were from 1950 and show the first BSA Bantam, the D-1 – not the post office BSA Bantam D-3 at the Auburn motorcycle show.

In advertisement below that was directed to the Australian market, the fuel economy characteristics of the motorcycle were touted as the Bantam apparently got a little over 200 miles per gallon.

The BSA Bantam appears to have been a basic motorcycle that was appropriate for its time in urban areas where its low speed was not a problem.

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8 Responses to The BSA Bantam: A Basic Two-Stroke From England

  1. Rod says:

    Hi… A few mistakes in the description and my explination of fact is to help. The plunger model was both D1 and D3 1st being a rigid D1 then a plunger D1 and nothing special to the D3, the d3 had minor differences and yes a 150cc engine. The post office used the bikes to deliver telegrams and NOT to collect mail from post box to post box as stated. There is no “Royal” post office allthough the queens head is on our stamps, the correct term and company was calletd: The General Post Office as seen on the legsheelds “GPO”…. I have just built (allmost) a Bantam with a D1 plunger frame dating to 1952, i have added the front forks and wheel from a 1971 Bantam B175 (D14b) handlebars from a Triumph and a DIESEL ENGINE. My understanding and knowlage of the humble Bantam has now been shared and you can view my creation at Kind regards
    Rod (England UK)

  2. Alan scully says:

    Not sure the legsheilds are correct. They were mounted on a crash bar that came down from the frame and connected to the footrests. We used to scrape them on cornering to try to wear them through, much to the annoyance of the garage. Great days, I was at Chatham in Kent from 54 to 56. Alan Scully.

  3. peter lanckmans says:

    I used to repair the Post Office Bantams in the early 70’s [Aiding the technician who maintained them] At the end of 72/73 they [The Post Office as it was then] binned / slung the whole lot, including spares on the dump here we worked, as they were no longer viable. Telegrams disappeared, and so the bikes became surplus to requirement. If only I had the money and foresight then!!!!!!! I was only 18.

  4. Bill Dempsey says:

    I’m going to design my own leg grads for my new T120 ,what do you think

    • Hi Bill,
      I think that it is a good idea especially for riding in the rain or to extend the season a little. I think that the issues will be making them big enough to be useful, but not so big such that they take away from the overall lines of the bike. Getting the compound curves right will be a challenge. I would like to see them when you finish. Good luck!
      Steve McKelvie

  5. Lionel (Dag) Saunders says:

    I was a ‘Telegram boy’, in Southampton, from 1953 to 1956 and in 1954 graduated to riding the Bantams. They were never used by ‘postmen’ to deliver letters….only by we boys to deliver telegrams. When we were outside the city limits we used to remove the washer ‘governor’ from the carb’ inlet (to increase speed) and unscrew the exhaust system so that it sounded like we were riding a bigger bike! Sparks from the leg shields on a tight bend were always fun to generate. The bus and taxi drivers hated us and called us the Red Devils. Great days!

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