BSA brought out their overhead valve, vertical twin immediately after the Second World War in the shape of the pre-unit 495cc A7. The overall layout of the bike was to remain pretty much the same for the next three decades, undergoing gradual development, a slight change in capacity to a shorter-stroke 497cc, and detail alterations to suit the style of the times. Roger Steele's 1961 machine is one of the last of the pre-unit line, and it was replaced by the unit construction A65 in 1962.
The Shooting Star was the sporting 500 in BSA's range, and by 1961 it had reached its high point of development with a dependable and tractable powerplant sporting an alloy cylinder head, a duplex cradle frame with swinging arm rear suspension, full-width light alloy hubs and 8-inch drum brakes. The engine ran 7:1 compression (up from an initial 6.6:1), and developed just under 30bhp at 5800rpm, transmitted through the four-speed gearbox and chain final drive. This propelled the 425lb machine to a top speed of just under 90mph.
According to Roy Bacon the A7SS bikes 'were some of the nicest machines produced by the British industry. The Shooting Star has been highly rated by some of the most experienced riders around for its combination of assets. It is fast enough, has good acceleration, nice gearbox, smooth brakes and minimal vibration. All that adds up to comfort and a machine that can be ridden for a long time without aches and pains.'
The A7 was also commended for its good looks, as Owen Wright explains; 'the Shooting Star had one of the best colour schemes ever presented by BSA, a deep bottle green with contrasting light polychromatic green tank, mudguards and panels.'
Roger's bike didn't look so great when he bought it. He paid under £400 for several boxes of bits and large lumps, back in 1988. That purchase triggered a year-long rebuild which cost around a thousand pounds, and which gave Roger over a decade of 'pleasure on long and short runs.'
However, the A7SS needed more attention in 2001, but not through any fault of its own. 'The paintwork had to be re-done after White Van Man knocked me off!' explains Roger. Since then he has fitted indicators to the BSA, 'for safety, because modern motorists don't know what hand signals mean…'
Over time, the A7 has needed various other jobs done including an occasional top end tweak, and a rebuild for the dynamo and magneto. The bottom end was given an overhaul in 2005 at a cost of £600 or so and Roger has fitted a remote oil filter system, and 12Volt lighting. His A7 also wears practical touring kit - an old Avon handlebar fairing and period Craven panniers and top box.
Roger isn't a stickler for absolute originality and says; 'Don't be worried if your bike isn't absolutely correct.' If you're thinking of buying an A7 then you should make sure 'it looks right, sounds OK and is a GENUINE good deal!'
Roger's bike certainly has proved to be the real deal, as the judges recognised this summer when they awarded it a RealClassic concours prize. Your bike could be a winner, too: they don't have to be super-shiny to attract the attention of our judges.
Classic and British bikes like this one appear every month in the pages of RealClassic magazine. Our in-depth articles by expert and enthusiast authors reflect the old bikes we buy and ride in the real world: frequently fabulous; occasionally awful, but always interesting…