When Dick Mann is taken by a motorcycle, you know it’s something special.
In fact, the legendary racer, who scored 13 of his 24 Grand National victories aboard British-built BSAs, was so enthralled by the reputation of this 1936 BSA Y13 that he bought it, sight-unseen, when he came across a classified ad for the machine in 1985.
Mann had good reason to act fast. The Y13 wasn’t exactly common even in the late 1930s—and it’s gotten considerably rarer since.
BSA originally built the 750cc V-twin bike for the British army, but the Y13 was passed over for a simpler 500cc side-valve design. With the largest intended customer out of the market, there was little demand for the bike, and the company built only 1,600 Y13s from 1936-’38.
The Y13 was designed to be stout from the inside out, starting with the engine. Featuring aluminum alloy pistons and roller bearings for the main shaft, the pushrod V-twin was built to last.
The dry-sump lubrication system, fed from a four-pint under-seat oil tank, kept the overhead rocker arms and big end bearings moving smoothly. The four-speed, right-side-shift transmission had two ranges, one for solo riding, and another with lower gearing for use when a sidecar was mounted.
The sidecar option dictated the use of a cradle frame, with sidecar mounts, and a girder front fork with a steering damper, plus quick-adjust shock absorbers.
Nice touches included a rubber-mounted handlebar to reduce vibration, a twist throttle, an adjustable spring seat, metal toolboxes and a tank-mounted instrument panel.
Although Mann’s Y13 closely matches the original, he modified it to his own liking. Mann’s bike features a staggered custom exhaust, 19-inch wheels, a U.S.-style taillight and license plate, and luggage only on the left side.
Now owned by John Sawazhki, this BSA is on display as part of the “SuperMann’’ exhibit in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio.