After dominant victories on the 500 Gold Star in the late 50’s, BSA Motocross Champion Jeff Smith decided that they needed to move in the Lighter direction. With Brian Martin’s expertise, a C15 Trials and a B40, they got to work on building a lighter motocross machine.

Jeff had been testing a 250cc BSA C15. The C15 was based on a street-model 250cc four-stroke, and the only changes were to take off the street gear and fit motocross tires. BSA decided to compete in the British 250 Grand Prix on these modified street machines. To Jeff’s surprise and quite unexpectedly, he came second behind Rolf Tibblin who won the British 250 GP using the works Husqvarna. John Draper was fifth on C15 machines. As a result, BSA built a 342cc version of the B40 engine for Smith to race in the 1963 500 World Championship while working on the 441cc design.

Brian Martin, head of BSA’s competition department, started a project to enlarge the B40 engine. Initially, the engine was enlarged to 421 cc and for the 1964 Motocross season, the engine was fitted in a lightweight frame that carried the oil in the top tube. Smith took this machine to 3 victories in the championship and, with 3 rounds to go, the displacement was increased to 441 cc. The extra capacity was obtained by increasing the B40’s 70 mm stroke to 90 mm, the 79 mm bore was retained. The cast iron barrel of the B40 was changed to an alloy item. With just three rounds remaining in the 1964 FIM 500 Grand Prix season left, Jeff with the newly configured motorcycle he was looking for, beat the winner of the two previous championships, Swede Rolf Tibblin, to the title by a narrow margin.

In 1965, Jeff Smith was able to retain his championship by winning six GPs. In the final race, the East German GP, Smith used a pre-production C15S-framed model with the 441cc engine and finished sixth. On the strength of Jeff Smith’s two World Championships, BSA introduced a replica at the 1965 Earls Court Motorcycle Show, and christened it the: B44 Victor GP and the following year (1966) BSA introduced the model to the public.

B44 Victor GP

On the strength of Jeff Smith’s two World Championship, BSA introduced a replica at the 1965 Earls Court Motorcycle Show, the B44 Victor GP. The model was discontinued in 1967 and around 500 GPs were produced in total.

For collectors, it is important to note that the Victor 441 GP is very rare in America, so make sure the oil tank is built into the Reynolds 531 frame and the bike has a flat-bottom alloy tank, fiberglass airbox, conical hubs, 20-inch front wheel and rigid footpegs. Mudguards should be aluminium, and look for a 4-inch gap between the tank and short seat. 

B44VE Victor Enduro/B44VS Victor Special

A road legal on-off-road version with lights was introduced in 1966 as the B44VE Victor Enduro in the UK and the B44VS Victor Special in the US. From 1967 the Victor Special name was used in all markets. The fuel and oil tanks were made in alloy. Production continued until the model was replaced by the B50 Victor Trail in 1971.

B44VR Victor Roadster/B44SS Shooting Star

A roadster version, designated B44VR Victor Roadster in the UK and B44SS Shooting Star in the US was introduced in 1967. The model used fibreglass fuel and oil tanks and was fitted with a 7″ half-width front brake. From 1968 the model was known as the Shooting Star in all markets, the tanks were changed to steel and a larger 8″ front brake was fitted. A 7″ full width twin leading shoe front brake was fitted from 1969. The model was discontinued when the 500 cc B50 models were introduced in 1971.

Press Reports

“The Victor … has the weight and general handling usually associated with 250s, while it does have the urge of a 500.” — Cycle World, April 1966

“The 441 single is a rare jewel of simplicity and a masterpiece of performance.” — Cycle, April 1968

“For those of us who like to potter about with old bikes, motorcycles like the Victor still deliver satisfaction in spades.” — Cycle World, August 1989

“Bash it, thrash it, even trash it, the 441 Victor was proof positive that the British could build a highly stressed, reliable power unit.” — Rider, July 1993