The BSA Hornet: A 650cc Trail Bike

One of the nice motorcycles that was on display at the 2012 British Motorcycle Show in Auburn, Massachusetts was 1966 BSA Hornet.  This is a 650cc off-road specialty motorcycle.

1966 BSA Hornet

The BSA Hornet was developed by BSA as a purpose-built off-road and desert racer motorcycle to meet the market demand for a stripped down, powerful off-road machine.  BSA Hornets were supplied without headlights or tail lights and with straight through exhaust pipes.  The models supplied on the east coast of the USA had high exhaust pipes while the model supplied to the west coast were fitted with low TT style exhaust pipes.  The image below shows a page from the 1966 BSA catalog showing the east coast version of the BSA Hornet.

BSA Hornet in the 1966 BSA Catalog

The BSA Hornet motorcycle that was on display at the Auburn show was fitted with a headlight and a tail light.  As noted in the advertisement, BSA provided wiring to allow for the relatively easy addition of these features for highway use.  This BSA Hornet has a current Rhode Island license, so I guess that Rhode Island does not have a problem with straight through exhaust pipes.

This BSA Hornet Has Been Fitted With a Headlight

The BSA Hornet had a modified engine that came from the 650cc BSA Lightning.  This engine produced about 53 horsepower.  At this time in the mid-1960s most typical off-road trail bikes had engines in the 100 to 250cc range.

The Straight Through Exhaust Pipes Would Make This a BSA Hornet a Little Noisy

The BSA Hornet had a four-speed transmission and had drum brakes.  The front drive sprocket for the chain drive was designed for quick changes to suit the needs of a particular competition.

Tail Lights On This BSA Hornet Were Added To The Base Model

The BSA Hornet was also known by its model designation, A65H.  I understand that all of the BSA Hornets came in the “Mandarin Red” color shown on the bike on display at the Auburn show.

This BSA Hornet Has Minimal Guages

The BSA Hornet was made from 1964 to 1967 and then it was replaced by the BSA Firebird Scrambler.

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8 Responses to The BSA Hornet: A 650cc Trail Bike

  1. rick savoie says:


  2. tom darling says:

    i own 2 of these. I love them!!

  3. Roger says:

    Mine’s a ’66, and everyone who rides it is really amazed at the acceleration! When I remind them that it’s simply a matter of power to weight, they ask how much it weighs. With the tank full, it’s only 371.3 pounds …. just right for the 53+/- horses.

  4. Luer Henry Hildebrandt says:

    I was the proud owner of a 1966 HORNET and rode it from 1970-1975 . I stored it after buying 1975 superglide FXE HARLEY DAVIDSON ,until 2010 upstairs at HILDEBRANDT’s in Augusta Ga. I then sold it to my cousin Dana Marschalk,she gave it to her husband Jeff Lipton who has put it back on the road. It is still in stock configuration with straight pipes and he LOVES IT.!! It gives me great pleasure to have it in the family and still flying down the highway.

  5. Dave Hammond says:

    BSA Hornets did not just come in red. I bought a brand new one in 1966. It was orange. They also came in a light blue color.

  6. Rick says:

    They were mandarin red and orange . A transition year as midway thru production BSA switched to matching frame and engine numbers as previous year All frames had a A50 numbers, Mandarin Red was more common color in 67 as used on Spitfires and firebirds. The winged side panel badge was also dropped mid 66, along with the 1 1/8 Amal Mono block carbs for concentrics

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