Fannying about

From Cyril's memoirs dated 4 April 2008

'BSA enters sex toy industry' is not a headline you’re likely to have seen, but only because fate dealt the project an early conclusion, to the relief of women everywhere, I should imagine.

In late 1963 BSA was pretty healthy, but the smarter people high up knew that the future held stiff challenges. To that end, a scheme was set up for workers to put forward ideas, which could be as wide-ranging as their imaginations (which, given mid-1960s Birmingham, led to a pretty conservative haul). However, among the two-stroke shopping trolleys and automated dog bathers was a racy suggestion for a, well… a motorised phallus. BSA had a reputation in some circles for being a stuffy firm, but there must have been something in the tea that week because a development engineer was put straight onto it, so to speak. Although phallic pleasuring devices are as old as mankind itself, the first battery-powered ‘widow’s comforter’ was still a few years away, so there was certainly a hole in the market, and BSA intended to fill it.

A lad was sent up to Soho and returned, still blushing, with a duffle bag full of samples ranging from the ludicrous to the frankly unfeasible. The development team disappeared into the workshop and after a few months of intense beavering a fully functional prototype was ready.

Development manager Terry Sheldon presented the creation to a special assembly of the board and managers, but initial impressions weren’t good. Many were surprised by the sheer bulk of the thing, made clear when Sheldon yelped on trapping his finger beneath it when heaving it onto the boardroom table. The ‘business end’ looked normal enough, complete with convincing veins and ridges, but the alloy casing beneath, equipped with steel grab handles sporting fat, anti-vibe grips, made the thing look like a two-horsepower AC generator – with a knob on it – an image only enhanced when, to everyone's horror, Sheldon turned a petcock, grasped a pull cord and yanked the beast into life.

After the initial shock, someone shouted above the din that the banshee wail of a 25cc two-stroke engine running on pre-mix would take some explaining to the neighbours, and by the time the 'Beeza Buzza' had vibed its way across the polished boardroom table, leaving an unsightly gouge, most people had left the haze-filled room
in dismay.

In late April 1964 we were summoned once again and this time Terry Sheldon placed a much more compact contraption on the table. He explained how he’d worked closely with the chaps at Joseph Lucas to come up with a battery-powered alternative, the 'Beeza Teeza'. But initial enthusiasm began to sour when Sheldon produced a battery pack the size of a large loaf. He strapped this to his waist then, using cables and clamps akin to jump leads, he connected it to the 'spinster's companion' which sprang into life with a fizz of blue sparks. Sheldon gripped the thing with grim determination while maintaining a bravado grin, despite quite clearly having his teeth rattled.

Now, I’m no expert on these matters, but I have to say that the movement created by the various cams and cranks would have been sufficient to mix a small batch of concrete and the thought of it going anywhere near a person’s more delicate regions was quite disturbing. Very quickly, the room began to fill with a smell familiar to generations of youngsters, that of burning-out Scalextric cars, and we watched in bafflement as Sheldon, his vision now blurred beyond use, grappled with the beast in an effort to switch it off. Thankfully, the Small Heath fire brigade swiftly brought the resulting blaze
under control.

Unbelievably, Sheldon was given one last crack at it and in early August he brought us together one last time in the refurbished board room. This, it was clear from the start, showed far more promise. Very compact for the day, weighing just four pounds, it gained nods of approval as it was passed around the various members. Then, with not a little showmanship, Sheldon produced an ‘adapted’ honeydew melon, inserted the device, turned a Bakelite knob and off it went, thrumming away happily as Sheldon slid it in and out with some skill. However, batteries weren’t then what they are now, and within about a minute the 'Beez-o-Gasm' was struggling in its death throes like a giant drowning slug.

It was quickly decided that 60 seconds with a floundering gastropod would not be sufficient to pleasure even the most desperate of ladies and that far more fun could be had in a couple of miles on the pillion of any of the wildly vibratory BSA range. Sheldon was suspended on full pay pending enquiries.

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