GoogleCustom Search

1970 Mike Hailwood Daytone BSA 750cc Rocket III

1970 Mike Hailwood Daytone BSA 750cc Rocket III

History has many instances of British brains and sinews performing best with backs against the wall and the enemy on the hozizon. This machine recalls the period in 1970 when sales in America were vital for the future of the British motorcycle industry and the Daytona, Florida, annual 200 mile race was the battle ground on which machines fought for prestige and future sales. British 500cc machines, particularly Triumph twins had done well at Daytona in the post war period and dominated sales by the Americans had constantly wanted bigger faster machines and the Triumph stretched to the limit at 650cc and vibrating badly at that, had reached its limit.

The demand was for a 750cc machine with no time for a completely new design and its development designer Bert Hopwood and his brilliant development engineer draughtsman Doug Hele hit on the scheme of cutting a 500cc Triumph twin down the middle and inserting another cylinder in the middle to make a quick triple. It was quick too but by the time the many cooks of the combined Triumph-BSA conglomerate had stirred it, it was rather heavy and clumsy, not exactly the sporty bike they wanted in the USA .

The news that Honda had produced a 750cc four cylinder machine for Daytona 1970 shook the Triumph-BSA management and they demanded a batch of racing Triples to be built. Hopwood and Hele had just three months to turn a heavy road bike into a slim racer. It was another backs to the wall job and they succeeded in increasing the power and shedding weight. Some were badged Triumph, others BSA, it was engineering at its best.

So much depended on the results of the Daytona race that top American riders with the experience of the track were engaged but the BSA trump card was to hire Mike Hailwood, nine times World Champion. His fee was never revealed. He didn't win but he led the race on this machine, Race No 50, for 12 laps before a hole burnt in a piston. American star Dick Mann won on the lone Honda 750 four cylinder with an average of 102.68mph but Triumph badged triples were second and third. A BSA Rocket II was 12th but another also holed a piston. In pre-race qualifying tests the Hailwood BSA did 152.99mph a shade faster than the winning Honda.

The badge engineered Triples went on to a sucessful career in the US and at home and Hopwood begged Management to build lookalike sports models for sale to the public, convinced they would sell all they could make. It could have saved the two great names in British motorcycles from collapse. Instead they made the Ariel Three.