1944 PROTOTYPE L.E. OFFICIAL PHOTOGRAPH

(Click on picture to view larger image)

Every new motorcycle design must have its official photograph taken. This is Veloce's view of the new L.E., dating from early 1944 when the prototype was finished and ready for the road. Today we would call this a studio shot - a side view against a plain, white background. Like most motorcycles firms, Veloce created their own impromptu in-house studio, using a couple of white sheets. The first sheet was laid on the ground and the machine wheeled onto it. Then , while the photographer focussed his lens, two helpers would hold another sheet behind the subject - blocking out a typically cluttered factory background. As the camera shutter clicked, the helpers would gently shake the vertical sheet to give an even, blurred backdrop. Back at the photographer's studio, the developed print would be touched up with water-based paint called process white. This was often necessary, covering embarrassing imperfections including tyre tracks on the bottom sheet as the machine was being positioned. The finished photograph would then be ready for use - perhaps in Factory publicity, or for sending to the weekly magazines in London.

This nicely clear view - unusually of the L.E.'s left hand side - comes from the Club's photograph album. Long-time member Frank Quinn, custodian of our photograph collection, confirms that the print has been in the Club's ownership for many years. It was probably donated to us by Factory service manager Bob Burgess, who was also a Club member. The picture reveals some interesting details not previously seen in other prototype views. First is the circular bevel drive cover, bolted to its casing by six nuts. The design cues for this circular shape were the Factory's pre-WW11 parallel twins, the racing Roarer and the road going Model O. Production L.E.'s - of course - have the lower section of the bevel drive casing (and cover) squared off, to avoid the cover being replaced wrongly - misaligning the filler and level plugs.

A perfect surface finish to the frame's front section - formed from a single folded steel sheet - contrasts with the panel beating marks on the rear mudguard, a far more complex shape in comparison. I showed this photograph to Charles Udall recently and he pointed out the array of 2BA pins that held the two sections of the handmade frame together A stubby rear brake pedal, about half the length of the production version, has its foot plate in line with the crankcase/clutch housing joint. The black painted silencer's tail pipe appears to exit horizontally to the right, rather than curving downwards. The BTH generator's two high tension leads exit from the unit's front cover, curling back over the crankcase. Production generators re-sited the ht pickups to the casing top. Wartime austerity dictated the fitting of canvas, rather than rubber handlebar grips.

It appears that the double sided stand has no feet. However Charles Udall confirms that the prototype did indeed have the familiar welded feet. Perhaps an over-enthusiastic photographer's assistant inadvertently painted them out.

Dennis Frost

RETURN TO HISTORIAN'S PAGE