Anyone with an interest in collectible motorcycles is familiar with the concept of “barn finds”—those elusive moto-myths that always seem to happen to someone else—a shirttail relative or friend of a friend. Ray St. Clair is one of those guys, his 1955 CB34 BSA purchased from a neighbor in 1972 who found it abandoned against an apartment building in an Austin, Texas, alley with a broken kickstarter. A few questions at the local justice of the peace, a quick title search, and a check to the great state of Texas made the future classic his. Total cost: $17.50.
In the great constellation of racing motorcycles, BSA’s Gold Star arguably holds the brightest position, with a racing pedigree unmatched by any other two-wheeler. Over a decades-long production run, the 499cc thumper claimed victories in motocross, International Six Day Trials, the Isle of Man, Daytona, even the San Jose Mile. Despite that record, many old Gold Stars suffered through periods of Rodney Dangerfield-levels of disrespect—like St. Clair’s alleyway treasure.
What makes St. Clair’s bike unique is the fact that this is not merely the only motorcycle the 69-year-old recording engineer has owned, but it’s the only bike he’s ever ridden. And while that statement might prompt a range of jokes (after all, he’s on his third wife), it’s a testament to his devotion that the English thumper served as his only transportation for a time. Equally amazing, despite Lucas electrics and the overall reputation of Brit-bikes, the Goldie has never left him walking—ever—and usually starts first or second kick. The one flat tire the bike has suffered occurred in St. Clair’s garage, while it sat conveniently perched on the workstand.
And the 60-year-old thumper has never been rebuilt. St. Clair himself went through the transmission back in the ’70s, and the top end and Lucas magneto were freshened a few years ago, but the Beezer’s bottom end is original—rod, piston, main bearings, and all. Through the years, St. Clair has updated the bike to reflect his own taste and to bring it a bit closer to its original kit. The fiberglass tank the Goldie wore in Texas was replaced by a 5-gallon, hand-hammered aluminum Lyta tank that befits the bike’s heritage and offers a range that extends well beyond that of St. Clair’s butt. A pair of BSA clip-ons replaced the one-piece bar the bike leaned against in that Austin alley. The Amal TT carburetor sports only a stubby velocity stack against the elements, its open mouth protected from errant bugs or nesting birds by a wood plug only when parked. Where the Goldie betrays its British heritage is in its incontinence with internal fluids, always marking its parking space.
This particular Gold Star might seem a bit tattered around the edges and likely never passed a grandstand filled with screaming fans before its appearance in that Austin alley. But it’s unlikely it will ever be appreciated more than by its current owner. It must be love.