Return of the prodigal police Thunderbolt


I am a retired police officer and a rider since 1966. I was looking for a classic when I saw a BSA Thunderbolt advertised near Taunton.

The ad said it was an ex-police bike and I saw the number was KAX, which was a Monmouthshire number, where I live. I remember the BSAs in our bike section but not this this particular bike. I ended up buying it and traced its history as far as I could.

It started life with the Monmouthshire Constabulary and was one of three in the batch, and in 1969 Monmouthshire and Newport amalgamated to form the new Gwent Constabulary, which I joined shortly afterwards.

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In our force, bikes were allocated to individual officers and mine was the mount of the late Paul ‘Bootsie’ Heaton. Paul has written a number of traffic-related books, including ones about our local haulier, Wynns Heavy Haulage of Newport, with whom he had many dealings while escorting their huge vehicles through our police area.

He also wrote a book called “Not all coppers are ” which tells of his adventures, and chronicles his police career. I managed to get a copy and my bike, along with many others, is mentioned.

I also advertised in our Gwent Police pensioners’ mag for info on the bike and had a very good response from ex-colleagues with reminiscences and photos from many years ago and now have a nice history of the vehicle.

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It has had a few owners in its 54-year life, and when I bought it it had been civilianised, probably many years ago.

It needed a cosmetic overhaul when I bought it last August and over the winter I spent some time on it.

It’s had new wheel rims and spokes (Central Wheel Components), seat beautifully covered by Leightons (front cover of OBM), paintwork by a local company (Mostyn Lewis, a family friend) some rechroming, new silencers etc.

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The bike has been standing since last August and, due to a faulty trickle charger, the battery was beyond help. Ray Cowles Motorcycles of Pontypool provided a new battery, Selwyn Griffiths at the bike shop was a well-known TT rider in the 1950s and 60s riding Matchless and AJS machinery. Selwyn’s son Jason is also a TT rider and has a bike dealership on the Isle of Man.

Anyway, I replaced the battery and stole some petrol from my mower, crossed my fingers and started kicking it over. To my amazement it started on the fourth kick, and sounds beautiful. Just waiting for this lockdown to end before insuring it and giving it a run.

Here in Wales we are still in lockdown so don’t know when my first ride is going to be.

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I attach some pictures, one being Paul, one being the fleet of BSAs and the last is how the bike looks now. It is not a bike that is in concours condition, or has the correct bolts and screws, and neither is it meant to be kept in the front room and polished to death!

Rob Williams

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