From the mid-1930’s through the early 1960’s, BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company Ltd.) was the world’s largest producer of motorcycles. But their motorcycle division was just one small corner of the gigantic BSA financial empire at that time. Actually beginning as a gun producer, BSA grew to industries such as bicycles, motorcycles, buses, and cars. However, by 1959, Honda had taken over the market, and BSA’s last bike was produced in 1973.
The Hodaka phenomenon of the 1960s and 1970s was caused by a unique sequence of events. The Baby Boom generation was then in their teens, there were a lot of unpaved roads in rural areas and Honda had popularized riding small motorcycles. The first Hodaka, the Ace 90, was fully street legal, but it was more than capable in the dirt. It had a light tubular steel frame, the exhaust was placed high and out of the way, and there was plenty of room under the fenders to shed mud. This bike set the tone for the later motorcycles that Hodaka produced. Hodaka differentiated itself from its competitors by being a stylish cruiser with rugged, off-roading capabilities, and that proved to be successful.
Montesa motorcycles was formed in 1944 by Pedro Permanyer and Francisco Xavier “Paco” Bultó. Their first Montesa prototype was based upon the French Motobécane models of that time. Permanyer began to produce his own gas engines, which allowed for a new area in motorcycles to be explored and expanded into. Montesa only sent a small percentage of its production to the States, concentrating mostly on the European market.
The name Bridgestone is most closely associated with tires, however, they had a short stint in the motorcycle industry. After World War II Bridgestone started manufacturing motorcycles, but its main income was from supplying tires to its rival motorcycle makers such as Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha. With no desire to compete against those brands and simply supply them with tires, it was later decided that Bridgestone would cease motorcycle manufacturing.