1940 BSA M20

Formed from the Birmingham Small Arms factory, supplying guns to the British Army of the Crimean War in 1862, BSA later became the largest motor cycle manufacturer in the world, making bicycles from 1880 and producing its first powered machine (a motorised bicycle) in 1903 and first true motorcycle in 1906.

BSA’s first machines were all single-cylinder, but the company later became well-known for its’ V-twin models, although perhaps the most famous BSA of all was the single-cylinder Gold Star introduced in 1938. With the outbreak of the Second World War production turned to the all-purpose M20 dispatch rider ‘bike.

The M20 had a single cylinder, four-stroke, side-valve engine which was noted for its high torque and staying power. A plate protected the engine base which had only four inches of ground clearance.

The M20 was a smooth running and reassuring motorcycle to ride and by 1945 more than 100,000 had been produced. In post war years it was found to be ideal for touring and many were made available for civilian use and could be bought for as little as 50 shillings (£2.50).

Post-1945 BSA production continued with the 500cc Gold Star models, a 654cc twin-cylinder range and also the lightweight Bantam two-stroke. When financial problems struck in 1972 the company was absorbed into the Norton-Villiers-Triumph conglomerate.



This example was used by the British Army and carried the post-war census number of 72 YD 20. It was donated to the Collection in August 1968 by Jill Jones. It is currently painted in WW2 colours, carrying the service badge of the 21st Armoured Group on the petrol tank and is in full working condition.

The British service dispatch rider played a vital role in delivering messages and instructions to forward areas and leading and escorting convoys, at times under hostile fire and in appalling weather and road conditions. The motorcycles ordered for military service in WWII had to be of a robust and basic design that could be relied upon to operate in all circumstances and which required little maintenance.



Manufacturer: Birmingham Small Arms (BSA), Smallheath, Birmingham, England
Model: M20
Engine: 500cc, single cylinder
Top Speed: 60 mph
Price new: £60