The Don Jones TT Special
1956 BSA Gold Star Catalina Scrambler
Frame no. DB32GS540
Engine no. CB34253
There's never been a more versatile motorcycle than the BSA Gold Star. Introduced in 1938, the bike really hit its stride after World War II, available in either 350 or 500cc displacements and outfitted from the factory in various specifications, including touring, trials, scrambles and roadracing. Fitted with its signature "big fin" alloy cylinder from 1954, the Goldie went on to competition glory in every venue from the ISDT enduro to AMA flat-track racing to outright domination in the Clubmans class at the Isle of Man TT.
It was a California race that gave the Gold Star yet another variant, one of its most famous. In 1956, BSA rider Chuck Minert added a 5-gallon gas tank to his 500 scrambler, plus a scooped front brake and 19-inch front wheel, coming home first place in the prestigious Catalina Grand Prix ahead of almost 1000 other riders. BSA west coast distributor Hap Alzina, never one to let a marketing opportunity go to waste, lobbied the factory for a production replica of Minert's winning bike. Thus the Gold Star Catalina Scrambler.
This Catalina special has a rich and unique provenance in that it was owned and assembled by AMA Hall of Fame honoree Don Jones, who died in 2008 at the age of 84. A BSA and Matchless dealer in Rosemead, California, Jones supported many riders over the years, not least of those being his sons DeWayne and Gary, the latter a four-time AMA national motocross champion.
Jones configured his Gold Star for TT racing using a combination of the best components he could find. According to the serial number, the crankcase is from a 1956 350cc Gold Star, identical to the 500cc iterations. Atop this Jones affixed a later head and larger cylinder from a 500. The crankshaft was changed to one unique to trials and off-road versions; unlike roadracing cranks, the dirtbike versions were heavier and rebalanced to augment low-end torque. The standard steel engine mounts and dowel spacers were replaced by lighter aluminum components. Jones incorporated a trials-type gearbox that featured better bearings and closer spacing between the first three gears, with a large jump in ratio to fourth. This allowed for quicker starts and higher top speeds. The frame was altered to accept a centralized oil tank and a side-mounted air cleaner with quick-change elements. An Amal Monobloc carb with smaller diameter bore was fitted to improve tractability.
Though unrestored cosmetically, this bike was made to run within the past few months and the vendor reports that it performed flawlessly, shifting up and down through the gears smoothly and crisply. The Jones brothers, who are still active and successful vintage racers, have both autographed the gas tank of this very special motorcycle.
- Please note that the correct frame and engine numbers for this motorcycle are CB34253 and DB32GS540 respectively.