There aren’t many bikes from the 1950s still being used as daily riders. But this BSA B34, some 62 years old, stretches its legs several times a week with owner Nate Hudson on board. “My father rode the same model back in the 50s,” he says, “and I’ve always been on the hunt for one. I found this bike in Eureka a few years ago and we did a ground up restoration on it here.”
Nate runs British American Motors in Long Beach, a custom shop right next door to Lossa Engineering. He usually works on more modern machinery, but has resisted the temptation to chop the 1951 BSA up. Instead, he’s given it a sympathetic restoration that retains the charm of the original.
The bike is a 500cc thumper with a factory rigid frame. “I found this bike on eBay in Northern Cal a few years ago,” says Nate. “It was pretty rough, but it ran. It was only used for off-roading, so it had no lights and was fitted with knobblies.”
Over the past year Nate has completely overhauled the engine, fitting a new piston, rings, valves and bearings. He cleaned up the cases and the gearbox, and got everything else powdercoated, painted, and pinstriped. “We also got Cycle Art in San Pedro to help make the fender stay, so we could mount the license plate and tail light, and give it a period-correct feel,” says Nate. “Earl is an expert with over 40 years in the industry, and a pal of ours.”
The biggest problem during the restoration was the charging system, which Nate describes as ‘a real bitch.’ It uses a Lucas dynamo, and information is now hard to come by. “It was trial-and-error testing that. We found that at idle the dynamo only cranks out 0.5 volts, which isn’t even enough to flicker a lightbulb.” So Nate ended up tucking a small dry-sealed 6-volt battery between the engine and transmission, basically to power the electrics when stopped at traffic lights.
Nate wryly describes the build as ‘an education,’ but his perseverance has paid off. He now rides the BSA to his shop, and it’s his favorite bike for bar-hopping too.
Not bad for a 62-year-old, huh?
Images by Scooter Photo.