In the motorcycle world, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for classic motorbikes. They are timeless machines that are admired for their performance and beauty. Britain have produced an impressive amount of classic motorbikes, such as the Norton Commando and Brough Superior.
But not every machine has to have a high-powered engine to be successful. The BSA Bantam was one of the bestselling motorbikes of all times, and though no official number exists, it’s estimated the number is close to half a million. We’re looking into the history of the Bantam to see what made it so appealing.
A British model with a German design
Originally, the Bantam was seen as the classic ‘truly British’ lightweight motorbike. But it actually came from a German design known as the DKW RT 125 that was received as part of war reparations. BSA designers changed the DKW to meet British standards by changing the gears to the right side. This was carried out in the Birmingham factory.
The D1 Bantam was brought out in 1948 and came with a small 125 cc engine. It also came with direct electrics, telescopic forks, shovel front-mudguard and fishtail silencer. The D1 was available in a ‘mist green’ colour. The original model was very successful and inspired BSA to create different versions.
The D1 continued to be produced for several years, but other models were brought out as well. The next step in the Bantam’s evolution was the D3 Major. Created in 1950, the D3 featured a 150 cc engine, foam-filled pillion seat and improved front suspension.
In the late 1950s, the D5 Super and D7 Super were introduced. These models featured a 175 cc engine. Further developments occurred in 1966 with the D10 Supreme. The D10 came with a new Wipac alternator and rotor. Two variations of the D10 existed. The first was a Sports model that came with Chrome mudguards and a fly-screen. The second was the Bushman and it featured a modified frame for better ground clearance.
The Bantam was produced for 23 years and developed a cult reputation. It’s a reminder that motorbikes don’t have to be massive and powerful. The Bantam’s design won people over and it remains one of the most influential British classic motorbikes of all time.
What do you think of the Bantam?