Historian's Notes.

May 2014

Sunny AGM: a trip to Tamworth allows Dennis to meet up with old friends and celebrate Veloce’s early days

“You haven’t changed a bit”, exclaimed Robin Hambling when we met earlier this month at the Club’s Annual General Meeting. Our onetime Technical Secretary’s kind comments skirted round the matter of my slightly wider profile – acquired since our wheel tracks last crossed. Robin and his wife Margaret are well known as grand motorcycle tourers, charging the autobahns and mountain passes of Europe for weeks at a time. Nowadays they’ve taken to four wheel touring, but I could tell that the excitement of trekking the Continent was still there.

My Historian’s presentation to the meeting included this picture of Pete Young from California with his 1912 Veloce. Pete was riding this wonderfully restored machine – there is most likely only one more survivor world-wide – in April’s Pioneer Run.

In the years directly before the Great War, Veloce tried and failed to market a popular motorcycle. Percy Goodman’s 2½hp four stroke, with two speeds and automatic oiling was too advanced technically to catch on. Riders of the time liked the reassurance of a hand pumped oiling system. The machine parked behind Pete’s Veloce is one of these equally rare two-speeders. In response, the firm’s 3½hp successor was a shameless copy of Triumph’s rival and popular 500cc Model H, but this design didn’t sell either. Finally in 1913, the firm produced a tiny two-stroke of just 205cc – marketed as the Velocette. Its 30 guineas price tag for the two-speed chain driven version was competitive. As for the new name, well we all know that was the start of Veloce’s road to success.

Alan Forgie, one of our New Zealand members, wrote to me the other day. “The photos are of my Mk.I that I have finally finished. I think that I started it about 2000!!” I wrote back, “Well done, Alan – restoring your Mk.I may have been a drawn-out affair, but worth waiting for!” Here’s a photograph of Alan’s machine – a great effort.

Alan reminded me that I had been able to find him a pair of the correct Miller switches for his restoration – separate components for lighting and ignition, with their stubby control levers featuring forward facing pointers, screwed in position. The red lens of the ignition warning light completes one of the factory’s first lightweight twin’s detail fittings. Alan’s machine is a very early example – within 150 of the first L.E. made – and was supplied towards the end of January 1949 to Veloce’s Invercargill agents called Tappers, in the far south of the country.

The sun shone while we held our meeting and the Club will be returning to Middleton Hall, near Tamworth in September for this year’s Annual Rally.

Dennis Frost