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Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Velocette Motor Cycle Co.

Vintage Velocette Motor Cycle

Veloce (Velocette) Motor Cycle Company History

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Velocette (nicknamed "Velo," and pronounced "velo-set") began as "Taylor Gue Ltd.," founded by Johannes GŸtgemann (born 1857) and William Gue in 1905. Johannes GŸtgemann was a German citizen who, after moving to England in 1876, anglicized his name to John Taylor, but was also known as John Goodman later in life. In 1896, GŸtgemann (now Taylor) partnered with William Gue in a bicycle company called Taylor Gue Ltd., located at the Hampton Works on Peel Street in Spring Hill, Birmingham, in the West Midlands region of England.

The first product for Taylor and Gue was the "Hampton Bicycle," but they also built an odd assortment of vehicles which included rickshaws. During the turn-of-the-century motorcycle boom, Taylor and Gue began building their first motorized bicycle in 1904, called the "Veloce" (pronounced "velo-chay," and meaning "fast" in Italian). The first Veloce was not sucessful, and Taylor Gue Ltd. disbanded. John Taylor went on to form his own motorcycle company, Veloce Ltd. in 1905. After becoming a British citizen in 1911, John Taylor legally changed his name to John Goodman in 1917.

1921 Velocette D2
1921 Veloce Velocette D 2 - Motos Anciennes

The Veloce Motor Company Ltd. (VMC) built 4-stroke motorcycles and the "Veloce Auto-Car" from 1905 to 1913, when the company manufactured its first 2-stroke model called the 'Velocette,' or 'A Series,' designed by John Taylor-Goodman's son Percy Goodman.

Velocette 2-Strokes

The 'A Series' was followed by the 'AC2' with two-speed gearbox and coil ignition, and the 'AC3' three-speed. Veloce steadily gained market share and reputation for its hand-built two-strokes, now known as the "Velocette," and the company advertised the "delights and economy of Velocetting" on there diminutive motorcycles.

Later, Velocette's two-strokes were sold under the 'H Series' name, which included the 250cc 'H' and 'HSS.' These were followed by the 'U Series,' and finally the 'GTP.' Their 2-strokes powered models were produced until the mid 1940s.

1946 Velocette GTP 250
Zoom: 1946 Velocette GTP 250 Two-Stroke

Later Velocette two-stroke models used an automatic oiling system with a separate oil tank on the right side of the fuel tank. Other distinguishing characteristics of the GTP were the distinctive external flywheel, known as the "bacon-slicer" (above), and twin exhaust pipes. 1946 was the last production year for the two-stroke GTP, with only 247 bikes being built.

Velocette 'K' & 'KTT' Series

In 1925, the company introduced a newly-designed four-stroke, "shaft-and-bevel" OHC-powered motorcycle called the Velocette "K" series. Percy Goodman's 348cc engine design won the company a title at the Isle of Man TT, for the Junior TT 350cc class in 1926.

1930 Velocette KTT 350 Racer
1930 Velocette KTT Racer

By 1929, Veloce, now called "Velocette," had garnered several Brooklands, Grand Prix, and Isle of Man TT wins, prompting the company to introduce their 350cc "KTT" replica racer.

1935 Velocette KTT 350 Racer
Zoom: 1935 Velocette KTT MK V 350 Racer

The OHC 4-stroke K series continued through the the late 1940s, in several variant forms from the KN Roadster, KSS Super-Sport, KTS Touring, to the KTP Twin Exhaust Port.

1948 Velocette KTT 350
1948 Velocette KTT 350

Velocette 'M' Series MOV & MAC

In a cost-cutting measure, Velocette redesigned its OHV shaft-and-bevel cam drive, introducing the pushrod OHV 250cc model "MOV." The single-cylinder MOV engine utilized a 68mm x 68mm square-bore.

In 1933, Velocette introduced the "MAC" 350. The MAC's 349cc single-cylinder engine had a longer stroke (96mm) than the MOV, and short rocker-arms combined with higher cam-lobes to reduce vibration.

Velocette KTT 350 MK V Engine
KTT MK V 350cc Engine

With its rigid frame designed by Phil Irving, Webb girder forks, 4-speed gearbox, and redesigned pushrod engine, the MOV was capable of a high 78 mph top speed, making it a popular machine for the time.

In 1935 Velocette introduced MSS, a 500cc motorcycle with a stronger frame designed for sidecar use. By 1940, Velocette built the MDD and MAF — two military versions used during WWII.

In the late 1940s, Velocette discontinued use of the Webb girder fork, replacing it with the Dowty Oleomatic air-sprung fork assembly. The Dowty forks were again replaced in the early 1950s, with an in-house oil-dampened telescopic fork unit. Velocette discontinued the MAC line in 1959.

Velocette 'LE' Series

In 1950, Velocette introduced the model "LE," powered by a water-cooled, 192cc side-valve flat-twin engine. The LE was designed primarily as basic, inexpensive transportation, but with the "Velocette" name.

1921 Velocette LE
1960 Veloce Velocette LE - Twentieth Century Cycles

The LE's chassis had a pressed-steel frame designed by Phil Irving, a swingarm rear suspension, and telescopic front-forks, with a semi-step-through design and swept body-work.

The LE went on to become the company's largest selling model, which was extensively used by the British police who referred to it as the "Noddy Bike." The LE was also known as the "Whispering Willie," for its ultra-quiet motor - advertised by Velocette as the "siLEnt" LE. Unfortunately for Velocette, the LE's large R&D costs made it a financial looser for the company.

Velocette Venom Thruxton

The Thruxton, named after the Thruxton racing circuit in Andover, was also introduced in 1960, and was one of Velocette's last great motorcycles, and the company's swan-song. Although the Thruxton was the 'flagship' of the Velocette line, its design was strictly old-school.

1967 Velocette Venom Thruxton
1967 Velocette Venom Thruxton

The Thruxton's powereplant was a single-cylinder 500cc four-stroke, OHV push-rod engine. With its faster cam and Amal GP carburetor, the 'Venom' high-performance version was introduced in 1964. The Velocette's distinctive fish-tail exhaust became a signature feature of the marque.

Velocette Engine
Velocette 500cc Single-Cylinder Pushrod Motor

Although the Thruxton was behind the times technologically, it did garner some significant distinctions. In 1961, a Venom was the first 500cc motorcycle to average over 100 mph for 24 straight hours. The record-setting bike is displayed at the British National Motorcycle Museum in Coventry. Only around 1,000 Venom Thruxton's were produced until they were discontinued in 1970.

Velocette 'Viceroy' Scooter

The 250cc two-stroke 2-cylinder "Viceroy" Scooter was introduced in 1961, but it was also a financial looser for the company. The compact 15 hp motor was capable of a 65 mph cruising speed, but consumers were looking to larger-displacement motorcycles by this point.

1961 Velocette Viceroy Scooter
1961 Velocette Viceroy Scooter (image: public domain)

Velocette's Demise

The Velocette Motorcycle Company, located on York Road, at Hall Green in South Birmingham, ceased operations in 1971. The York Road factory was demolished, and the site is now occupied by Lucas Industries.

Velocette Thruxton CafŽ Racer
1968 Velocette Thruxton CafŽ Racer

Velocette's demise took place during the same period that the restructured Norton Villiers Triumph conglomerate and other independent British or European manufacturers were undergoing enormous financial and R&D pressure due to the steadily increasing competition form Japan.

Throughout Velocette's history, the company made several lasting contributions to overall motorcycle design, patenting such universally utilized technologies as the rear fork-type swingarm/hydraulic shock combination, and 'positive-stop' foot-shift mechanism.

Velocette Motorcycle Links

Velocette MKVIII KTT

Velocette Owners Club of Britain

Velocette Owners Club of North America

National Motorcycle Museum in Coventry

Dave Smith Classic Motorcycles - Velocette Restoration & Parts

Velocette Catalogue and Brochure Photographs

Classic Engines and Spares

VOC Spares Co. Ltd. - Online Shop

Euro Spares - San Francisco, California

Velocette Fibreglass Replica Parts

Velocette 350 MAC

1933 Velocette KTT

1969 Velocette Venom Thruxton

West Midlands Motorcycle Spares, Accessories, & Mechanics

History of the Birmingham Motorcycle Industry

The Annual 'Birmingham Testers Run' Factory List

The LE - Vintage Ad

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