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.