PRE-PRODUCTION L.E. — HON 611 (LOOKING BACK 18)

(Click on picture to view larger image)

As soon as WWII was over, Veloce wasted no time in getting ready to put their new ‘motorcycle for everyman’ into production. A file in the Club’s archive records that the first jigs and tooling for the new L.E. model were produced in October 1945. But it was another three years before the Hall Green, Birmingham, factory was ready to assemble complete machines. The long delay was due to number of factors, including post-war materials shortages and the need to completely reorganise the factory to produce what was Veloce’s first really mass production motorcycle.

To test an entirely new production line assembly process – Veloce had previously built motorcycles on single benches – in autumn 1948, five pre-production L.E.s were produced. These were allocated engine numbers 1001-1005. Only engine numbers are recorded in the Factory records – Veloce’s practice was to identify their machines by the number of the power unit, not the frame, as follows:

Eng. no.        Registration         Allocated to

1001                   HON 598                (Press) George Denley

1002                   HON 599                    Eugene Goodman

1003                   HON 611                        Charles Udall

1004                   HON 612                       Percy Goodman

1005                   HON 613

Machine number five HON613 seems not to have been allocated to a particular individual, although it did appear in early publicity. The records indicate that this machine was finally sold via Veloce’s main agents in Birmingham, the Premier Motor Co., in November 1950.

This photograph shows Charles Udall’s machine – number three – road registered HON611. The picture was probably taken at the Factory for The Motor Cycle’s road test, which appeared in the magazine’s 4 November 1948 issue. With a current tax disc on display, this machine has obviously covered some test miles – note the dent in the lower legshield!

This machine has two interesting features. First, the bevel drive unit features a circular end cover, as did the prototype. Second, the front fork is fitted with a damping system – held in place by a bolt, its hexagon head centrally disposed at the bottom of the fork slider. Charles Udall once told me that he experimented with front fork damping – using a rod and restrictor valve, later developed for the telescopic fork used on the single cylinder models – but decided it didn’t improve the L.E.’s fork action significantly.

However the unwitting suggestion that the L.E. had a damped front fork did survive in print. A factory service manual sketch of the lower right hand slider and brake plate – to illustrate the method of cable adjustment – shows that same hexagon bolt head protruding from the slider’s end cap. We must assume that the illustrator – most likely Motor Cycling’s George Beresford, who often freelanced for Veloce on drawing projects – worked from this machine. The drawing survived unaltered, right up to the last edition of the Mk.III L.E. service manual produced in 1968. Many members have pointed this detail out to me over the years.

Dennis Frost

RETURN TO HISTORIAN'S PAGE