SIMPLIFIED PRODUCTION FEBRUARY 1949 - (LOOKING BACK No.20)

Trade publications are rarely seen by the general public. Their role is to inform and commentate on the activities of particular industries and professions. By 1949, British Cycles and Motor Cycles Overseas was a long standing publication for the UK’s vehicle industry. On the first page reproduced here, a helpful explanation is given under the heading Change of Title of this journal’s evolution since the first issue in 1912.

The publication’s grouping of cycles with motorcycles mirrored the structure of the trades’ own representative organisation, the British Cycle and Motor Cycle Manufacturers and Traders’ Union. This industry body was led from 1919 until 1953 by the redoubtable Major H R Watling.

Being directed to a trade audience, this fascinating article provides a great deal more detail about Veloce’s new motorcycle for everyman than was covered in the mass circulation weeklies The Motor Cycle and Motor Cycling. A description of the water-cooled twin’s production line process is described, which involved a total reorganisation of the Hall Green factory from the pre-WWII ‘built on benches’ assembly methods.

The photographs show L.E. production in detail and concentrate on many of the mechanised methods used. For example multiple crankcases were both drilled and milled on machines bought specially for the purpose. Joseph Kelly’s academic thesis – extracted details were published in OTL some years ago – has estimated that Veloce spent in the region of £1m tooling up for L.E. production. On the fourth page, the factory’s American made Lake Erie sheet metal press can be seen. This massive machine was bought pre-WWII and demonstrated Veloce’s intention to produce motorcycles with a least some frame components in sheet metal. The parallel twin Model O and an adapted 500cc MSS single with rear springing both adopted enclosed rear mudguards, pre-empting the L.E.’s frame design. Many of these factory photographs were also used in George Beresford book The Story of the Velocette.

Not all operations were mechanised of course. One of the photographs on the last page shows a worker using a foot operated press to assemble crankshaft parts. Under his bench are umpteen wheel rims – possibly an unintended result of the mass production process not initially being trouble free. Veloce’s chief buyer Ethel Denley once told me that in the early days of L.E. production, disappointingly few machines were being completed. This resulted in the factory being awash with parts she had bought in to satisfy an anticipated production total of hundreds of machines a week.

I am grateful to Isle of Wight member Dennis Saxcoburg, who was recently able to provide a reproducible quality digital copy of this article, which complemented a photocopy that has been in the archive for some years.                                                                                     

                                                            

                                                                                                   

 

Dennis Frost

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