The BSA Gold Star that conquered Daytona Beach

Dailies, Galleries -


Who knew sitting in front of a computer screen pecking away at a keyboard could be so dangerous? No physical threat from my gig writing catalog descriptions for the upcoming Bonhams motorcycle auction in Las Vegas, but I am in deep danger of moto-lust about every third bike. A Munch Mammoth TTS, an Excelsior Big X board-tracker, a Brough Superior Black Alpine, a Suzuki RG500 Walter Wolf, a Condor Swiss Army bike… all tug at my heart. But none more so than this BSA Gold Star, a factory-prepped Daytona 200 special, the best Beezer at the beach each time it ran.

The first time was in 1957 when “Slidin’ Al Gunter,” a supremely talented, later suicidally troubled individual, put it on the pole with a 116-mph dash down the sand – not bad for a 45bhp 500cc Single shouldering into a prevailing headwind. The race itself was a ding-dong affair between Gunter and Joe Leonard, the national champ with his marquee good looks and (some might say, cheater) 750cc Harley KR flathead. The two went at it ’til the mid-race refueling stop when Gunter’s guys gave away 21 seconds to the tidy-as-clockwork H-D crew, and that was that. Still, both riders had lapped the field several times and even the third-place man was a lap and a half behind!

Next time we see the potent Goldie is Daytona ’58 being straddled by an 18-year-old rookie in the 100-mile Amateur finale. Bobby Sirkegian (top photo), maybe the best all-around American racer you never heard of, was a teenage phenom on nascent NHRA circuit, winning championships and setting records – against full-grown men – from California to Kansas. By 15 he had moved up to a nitro-burning Triumph 650 so fast and evil that Child Protective Services should have been called – had such a thing been invented back then. Now he was going AMA Grand National racing on a trio of top-notch Gold Stars, a miler, an Ascot Park half-miler and the ex-Gunter machine, used for TTs, roadracing and, of course, Daytona.  Conveniently, Pa Sirkegian ran the Los Angeles BSA franchise and had some pull at the factory.  His son Bobby was not going into battle on second-rate stuff.

Already the nation’s top-ranked Novice, Sirkegian ran a clean, no-flubs race to take fourth in the Amateur 100-miler at Daytona.  Crisscrossing the country with his BSAs in tow, he finished the year seventh in points and qualified for his Expert card. Unfortunately, Bobby would only have two seasons on the circuit.  When a heart attack dropped his father in 1960, Sirkegian was forced to hang up his steel shoe and take over day-to-day operations of the family motorcycle business.

What of the Daytona Gold Star? It’s been with Bobby all these years. Now 71 and still teaching part-time at a trade school, Sirkegian dug the old bike out of storage and treated it to a full mechanical and cosmetic restoration. An important racebike brought back to life by the very man who rode it a half-century ago? How often does that happen? Now it’s on the auction block.

Of course, I want it. Of course, it’s out of my price range. See? That hurts.

This BSA Gold Star will be auctioned by Bonhams in Las Vegas on January 6, 2011.

  • James Dean Meyer

    Nice bit of History. I believe Mr. Sirkegian was selling one of his old drag race Triumphs recently too. Beautiful bikes both.

  • Wes Siler

    Let’s play Fantasy eBay!

    This BSA or the Death Spray Triumph TR25?

    • Mr.Paynter

      If we’re playing FANTASY eBay….

      I’ll take both!
      The triumph for about town awesomeness, the BSA for classic runs and to stand in my bedroom room the rest of the year!

  • boxofbits

    I’m seriously tempted to stick in a bid for the Death Spray but in a world of fantasy and with that pedigree, it’s got to be the Beeza.

  • Peter

    Moto-Lust… you’ve honestly coined the phrase that explains it all. so neet so succinct, I love this page.

  • DoctorNine

    I don’t care how historic it is. The simple fact of how much love and time that he gave, to restore this machine of his youth, is enough for me to proclaim it a masterpiece. Just look at his attention to detail!

  • David Edwards

    In fact, Sirkegian has recently sold three of his 1950s drag Triumphs–a gas 500 and 650, and his fuel 650, which may be the coolest-looking Triumph ever. All were immaculately restored by Bobby.

  • Deltablues

    For those of us who ask because we will never be able to afford…How much would the BSA bring considering the provenance of being restored by the original owner/racer? Also, the proportions on the BSA are beautiful. Sexy.

  • wwalkersd

    Nice placement job, David. I’ve now seen this auction bike here, in Motorcycle Classics, and in Motorcyclist, all under your byline. And of course, you’re now working for Bonham’s. This is journalism?

  • David Edwards

    Delta, pre-auction estimate for the Daytona Goldie is $35,000-$45,000, admittedly a big step.

    WWalker, not quite getting your beef. My pieces for HFL are not news stories but rather downsized columns. Just like the “Up Front” page I did at Cycle World for 21 years, I write about what I’m doing, and as stated in the lead here, I was cataloging bikes for the upcoming Bonhams auction in Las Vegas.

    Or maybe you don’t think a factory, polesitting BSA Gold Star special that went underground for 50 years and has just re-emerged fully restored by the man who raced it is in the least bit noteworthy?

  • wwalkersd

    Yeah, David, the bike is significant. But the wide dissemination of the story feels to me like free advertising for the auction disguised as commentary.

    • David Edwards

      Not sure that a 1-pager in Motorcyclist and a news item in Motorcycle Classics counts as “wide” but okay. All I can tell you is that I’d be writing about this bike regardless of if it was going to auction or not. My work for Bonhams got me access to the Gold Star and Mr. Sirkegian is all.