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From box of bits to the Brooklyn Invitational: 1951 BSA C11

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
Everyone loves a good barn find. But the story behind this adorable BSA has a different twist: It’s a charity find.

When Hurricane Sandy tore through the Eastern seaboard of the United States in 2012, New York was hit hard. In an effort to help displaced residents in Far Rockaway, Brooklyn, the local motorcycle community came together, and held a fundraiser.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
This BSA went under the hammer—and Brooklyn resident Tim Harney, took it home. “The bike was literally a pile of broken bolts and bent metal,” Tim tells us. “Hidden inside its warped cases, however, beat the heart of a 1951 BSA C11.”

With just 12 max horsepower and a top speed of around 45 mph (72 kph), the pile of parts did not look very enticing. “But the idea of buying a generator with the proceeds of the sale, and supplying power to two city blocks, sounded great!” says Tim. So, with his pocket lightened to the tune of $500, the 250cc pre-unit British single became Tim’s new project bike.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
With customer work keeping him busy, Tim couldn’t make the BSA his #1 priority. It just sat in his shop, getting a little bit of attention here and there, month after month. Then, years later, Tim suddenly found the incentive he needed.

“I was invited to show a bike at the Brooklyn Invitational,” he says. “The show is more gallery and less garage shop. Some say it spawned the modern ’boutique motorcycle show.’”

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
“Honored to be showing amongst industry legends, I knew I had to try much harder then I typically did!”

Many hours of labor later, Tim had transformed the BSA into the handsome resto-mod you see here. Like most of Tim’s builds, it’s sporting monochromatic finishes—and an honest, hand-built vibe that keeps us coming back for more.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
Tim gutted the BSA from top to bottom, and rebuilt it with a few tasteful upgrades. He’s also spent time on the engine, which has been re-sleeved, balanced, shimmed, tightened and polished.

There’s all-new, handcrafted aluminum bodywork too, but Tim avoided doing anything wacky. “I wanted to ‘stay within the vocabulary’ of the original bike,” he explained.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
The new fuel and oil tank fit together neatly, and are both plumbed with AN fittings. There’s an abbreviated fender out back with a swish little ducktail to finish it off, and a headlight-less shroud at the front.

The wheels have gone down in size, from skinny 20” rims to slightly beefier 19” versions at both ends. The rims were custom extruded, before being laced to the stock drum brake hubs by Buchanan’s Spoke & Rim.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
Keen BSA historians will note that the 1951 C11 did not come equipped with this girder-style front end. This particular one’s from a 1939 Harley-Davidson Hummer; Tim restored it, and made it fit the BSA.

The handlebars are equally curious: they’re from a Raleigh pedal bike, circa 1919. They’ve been heavily modified to take an internal throttle—and a brake and clutch lever that could support the stress of motorcycle cables.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
Additional touches include a custom-made, goat leather seat, and a high-slung exhaust header, capped with a Cone Engineering muffler. There’s a sprinkling of smaller details throughout the bike—like safety wire on some of the bolts—which reward close inspection without crossing into overkill territory.

After paint, polishing and chrome, Tim’s Brooklyn show entry was finally worthy of its invitation. The little BSA had been fully reborn—although a little quirkier than before.

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show
It’s an unusually creative reinterpretation of old British iron, and that’s a good thing. “Giving new life to a historic vehicle doesn’t always have to have the same conclusion,” Tim says—and we couldn’t agree more.

Tim Harney Motorcycles | Facebook | Instagram | Photography by Adam Lerner

This elegant custom BSA C11 was built by Tim Harney for the Brooklyn Invitational show