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BSA Dandy

The BSA Dandy was very well received at its launch in 1955. Combining styles of both scooter and moped, the motorcycle press considered it to be ahead of its time. To quote Motor Cycle magazine, of November, 1955, at the Earls Court Show:

I walked to the second raised, revolving platform at the other end of the large BSA stand – and I was in another world. Herbert Hopwood, BSA’s brilliant designer, has conceived and made two scooters to cater effectively for two different markets. The Dandy is cheap to buy, cheap to run. The Beeza is nearly three times the price and probably as expensive to run as an ordinary lightweight roadster motorcycle...

British manufacturers had been forced into the scooter market by the Italians. The success of Vespa and Lambretta had created an enormous market for scooters, which, by the mid-fifties, seriously affected sales of motorcycles.

Worse for motorcycle manufacturers was the fact that scooters were so much more popular with young people, women and first-timers. Whereas the entire British motorcycle industry had been founded on principles of masculinity, self-sufficiency and amateur mechanics. It was nothing less than a major culture clash.

The BSA Dandy was revolutionary in its design. It should have been in pole position defending the Realm against so many imported two-wheelers. Unfortunately, despite some success at its launch, it was soon apparent that the Dandy had been dumped on the public without sufficient road-testing. It suffered from gearbox problems, and became a typical example of British industry’s inability to match foreign competition in the new 1950s lightweight motorcycle/ scooter/ moped market. The British lost the battle, first to the Italians (scooters) and Germans (mopeds), and soon to the Japanese (everything else).

Fifty years on, though, with the benefit of nostalgia, the Dandy is finally seen in a more favourable light. We now enjoy the models that were unsuccessful first time around.

Maybe it’s just typical British sympathy for the underdog? Or it might be our eccentric nature. But probably it’s what’s sometimes described as ‘one-downmanship.’ What’s the point of owning, riding or restoring the same model as everyone else?

Let them keep their expensive 500cc Nortons and Triumphs. Why ride in a pack of identical imported Lambrettas? These days, a BSA Dandy is owned by someone who treasures individuality.