EARLS COURT SHOW - NOVEMBER 1948 (LOOKING BACK No.24)

After six years of development, Veloce's L.E. model was ready for its public unveiling at the 1948 Cycle and Motor Cycle Show. WW11 had put paid to the industry's annual showcase it has been ten years since the UK's motorcycle and cycle manufacturers and traders last held their annual show at London's Earl Court exhibition centre. Not surprisingly after such a long break, almost every firm was keen to show off their latest designs. Philip Vincent exhibited his updated HRD models. BSA launched the ubiquitous Bantam and Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) unveiled their parallel twin range.

Velocette's new 'everyman' machine was the star of the show and this Looking Back includes two photographs of the company's stand. Our past President Tom Greenwood, also Mike Payne - one of our foundling members - visited Earls Court intending to place an order for the L.E. They recalled that Velocette stand was packed; making it difficult to inspect the machine which had so impressed them following its Press launch the previous month. The second picture confirms, amusingly, that the little water cooled twin demanded very close inspection.

The show was opened by Bernard Montgomery wartime hero of El Alamein. The field marshal was presented with a Sunbeam S7 - the Erling Poppe designed in-line twin. Ethel Denley, who was Veloce's finance director at the time, once told me she was irritated by the show organisers' decision, demanding they should have given Monty, "a really well designed motorcycle" a Velocette twin, of course. She needn't have worried. Years later, the Sunbeam was discovered unused and neglected in Montgomery's garden shed.

Velocette's programme to market the L.E. followed conventions of the time. The October unveiling to the Press was followed by road tests in the rival weeklies. The Motor Cycle and Motor Cycling, and also separate technical articles illustrated with detailed sectioned drawings. Veloce took a full page colour advertisement in the Motor Cycle's 18th November show issue - a bold and no doubt expensive move.

Right up to the last moment, Veloce were juggling with the L.E's sale price, to keep it below 100. The tax disc holder on the machine in the first photograph appears to show a figure of 99 16s 8d, whereas the factory brochure of the time records the price as being 99 10s 0d. Of course UK customers needed to pay additional purchase tax, intended to choke off home sales of luxury goods in an era of 'export or die'. Velocette's export performance with the L.E. was in line with other motorcycle manufacturers. The Club's archive shows that of the first 300 machines, all but a tiny number were dispatched abroad. Home sales only began in earnest during March 1949 with Tom Greenwood and Mike Payne having to wait until the early summer before receiving their machines.

Dennis Frost

 

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