ADVANCE INFORMATION BULLETIN No.3 – SEPT 1948 (LOOKING BACK No.23)

In this final bulletin – the previous two appeared in OTLs 463 and 467 – Veloce concentrate on the L.E.’s cycle parts. A motorcycle with a fully sprung frame was far from commonplace in early post-WWII Britain and the Factory were right to proclaim its advantages, particularly when combined with the Phil Irving designed adjustable arcuate rear suspension. But it was ironic that despite pioneering rear springing on its racers in the mid 1930s, Veloce’s other production motorcycle at the time, the 350cc MAC, retained a rigid frame for some years after L.E. production began.

A pressed steel frame was undoubtedly the L.E.’s most distinctive design feature. The bulletin proclaims that, “the new Velocette has no frame in the accepted sense,” although I doubt if many readers could have quite visualised what removing the frame actually involved. The bulletin says that this is done, “by undoing eight bolts and simply lifting the frame clear.” However it wasn’t until the early 1950s that Veloce published that now well known picture of the two factory staff wheeling the L.E.’s frame and front end away from the engine. Of course the lightweight twin’s potential owners were not meant to be bothered with stripping the machine down. They would have been more interested in how the design of frame and front mudguard made the machine easy to clean. Nevertheless everyone would have been intrigued at the description of how easy the L.E. was to take apart, even if they didn’t quite understand it.

Perhaps the most prophetic comment is on the first page; that hitherto, lightweight motorcycles were cheaply priced by skimping on their specification. How true – and in more ways than Veloce could have hoped. The L.E. was a far from cheap and cheerful design, which translated into a far from cheap selling price – well over a third more than BSA’s rival, the very basic Bantam. Little written evidence survives about how Veloce priced the L.E. for sale, but Charles Udall once told me that the factory simply couldn’t get the selling price below £126. There’s no doubt that the directors made a brave effort to streamline production, spending in the region of £1m on re-equipping the Hall Green factory to build what was their first real mass production motorcycle. But Veloce were a small firm and their 300 a week planned production total for the L.E. (never achieved) was tiny compared with their competitors.

The machine shown in this third bulletin is HON 598, the first of the five pre-production models, listed in the factory’s records as being for George Denley (Veloce’s sales manager) and the Press. The large, unsightly headlamp brackets were soon replaced with the more familiar thinner versions, although this early design made it into one of the sectional drawings which appeared in the weekly magazines at the time.

Dennis Frost

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