BERTIE GOODMAN WITH ROAD TEST L.E. Mk.III - JANUARY 1958 (LOOKING BACK No.31)

Those of us who knew Veloce’s ebullient managing director will smile in recognition at this photograph. This is the Bertie Goodman of memory. That supremely self-confident relaxed pose, the trim moustache and crimped hair mark out the man who was in charge of Veloce Limited during its final years.

After an apprenticeship with Alfred Herbert the machine tool manufacturer in Coventry and followed by WWII service in the Fleet Air Arm, Bertie ran Veloce’s racing programme in the late 1940s and early 50s. By the time of this photograph, he had become sales director – after the Hall Green Race Shop was closed at the end of 1953. Management changes in 1965, prompted by his uncle Eugene’s retirement, saw Bertie put in day to day charge – a role he held until the firm’s liquidation in 1971.

After Veloce, Bertie moved to Norton Villiers (later NVT) and in 1976, as part of NVT Motorcycles, he produced a range of BSA badged lightweight machines using Yamaha and Morini engines. Ten years later, and with the BSA name now owned by Bertie and his business partner Bill Coloquhoun – another onetime NVT director – the firm moved from Coventry to Blockley, Gloucestershire. More lightweight machines were produced, including an updated BSA Bushman fitted with a Yamaha power unit. After a spell in Canada, Bertie returned to the UK and retirement.

I last saw him in 1995 when I was working at The Classic MotorCycle magazine. Although debilitated following a stroke, I was greeted at the family home in rural Warwickshire with the usual warm smile and a clap on the back, while his wife Maureen updated me on the latest Goodman family issues. Bertie died the following year, and his funeral was attended by a raft of UK motorcycle industry luminaries – a mark of how much he was liked by his peers. Hugh Palin, onetime director of the motorcycle traders’ union and latterly a colleague at Norton Villiers, read the oration.

So, after this brief biography of Bertie Goodman, what about the L.E.? Well, VON 608 was the first Mk.III road tested by Motor Cycling in early 1958. Their Midlands man Bernal Osborne was in the saddle and his positive impressions appeared in the magazine’s 16 January issue – following a description of the model’s newly introduced four-speed foot-change gearbox the previous week. Osborne was depicted splashing along the roads of Hall Green in seasonally wet weather, which prompted him to comment on the effectiveness of the new spun over rim to the front brake plate, a further refinement since the previous season.

The factory production records tell us that VON 608 was allocated engine and frame numbers 1065/3 and 1065/34 respectively, and was road registered by the factory on 31 December 1957. This pin sharp photograph is a restorer’s prize, showing as it does a first season L.E. Mk.III in all its detail. Starting at the front end, there is the modified brake plate, praised by Motor Cycling's tester, and also the bright chromium plated handlebar – a 1958-59 fitment before a reversion to grey. The Amal twist grip has the square sides to the plated section accommodating the throttle cable, a design fitted to previous season L.E.s and also used by BSA on their Bantam model. The new headlamp shell now houses the speedometer, ammeter and ignition/lighting switch – the latter having an asymmetrical control lever, with its longer section facing rearwards. Note also the detail of how the throttle cable is positioned in front of the version operating the front brake before passing through a grommet into the new nacelle. This helps to give a tidy curve to the brake cable’s run. The rear number plate still has the Miller type 37 tail lamp fitted to the later Mk.II models, with the manufacturer’s diamond shaped logo in its centre and a separate reflector below the registration. The lower frame strengthening strips remain bright chrome plated; latterly they were painted as an economy measure. Above the oil filter chamber the ignition high tension lead is routed outwards, to reach the spark plug with its KLG suppressor cap from the front. I prefer the more tidy arrangement, where the lead emerges between the water hose and the induction pipe.

As with the picture of Avon’s Doug Mitchenall with the prototype Vogue shown in Looking Back 30, this photograph was given to the Club by Desne Dodkin, who retrieved it from a bundle of discarded works publicity before the Velocette factory closed – a fascinating gem which otherwise would have been lost forever.
 

Dennis Frost

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