Historian's Notes.

March 2014

Turning out tinware: last time it was legshields, now it's pannier frames

Birmingham was once the metal-bashing capital of the world. The country’s central city rang to the sound of hammers on steel and Veloce contributed their part to the din. Hall Green’s massive American Lake Erie press – so tall that it filled the single storey building’s roof space – spent its time spewing out all sorts of pressed parts, including the L.E. model’s pannier frames.

Times have changed, of course, and a new batch of frames have been manufactured for us recently – this time by skilled human effort in more domestic surroundings. Our ever active member Charles Beney has been busy. “A week of hammering and I now have a right arm like a squash player!” he writes. Charles is always game for helping the Club in practical ways. A few years back he made us a stock of Vogue footboards – rather different in construction from their L.E. forbears.

Just like those complex folded aluminium legshields I wrote about last time, we’ve not been able to find someone prepared to make pannier frames in any quantity. Until now. The new frames are finished in an electro zinc coating (Zintec) which is suitable for normal primers and paint finishes. Look out for our Spares Scheme’s announcement about price and availability.

Now: my Club night question about L.E. legshield top covers. In February’s Historian’s Notes, I asked; what was the tenth version – so obscure that we didn’t think it worth making? Charles Beney – it’s that man again – made a brave stab on the Club’s on-line discussion forum, wondering whether it was a right-hand cover, pierced for a single ammeter. A good guess, but not right. The answer is indeed a right-hand top, but with the positions of the single Miller switch and ammeter reversed.

This odd layout was only used on the first order of Metropolitan Police machines, supplied between January and April 1958. This batch of 3-speed, hand-change models totalled 137 and resulted from a two year effort by Veloce to persuade the Met that mobile motorcycle patrols were the answer to their manpower shortage. This hazy view, produced by Tony Wright, the Club’s long standing IT manipulation expert, shows Bertie Goodman discussing the L.E. experience with its Police sergeant rider. In the centre of the shot, there’s that legshield top cover with the switch inboard of the ammeter. Tony managed to extract and enlarge this tiny photograph from the original 17 October 1957 Motor Cycling article in which it appeared. The full feature will appear in a future instalment of my Looking Back series.

Peter Goodman, Veloce’s works director, once told me that over the years the Met asked for all sorts of changes to the standard L.E. specification. Many of these improvements are well known, such as gaiters over the rear spring units and metal box panniers. However this reversed instrument panel was one of the first.

So, do any of these machines survive with this unique switch and ammeter layout? If you own one of these machines please let me know. Perhaps we will have to make a batch of these tops after all.

Dennis Frost