TOP CLASSIC BIKE GUIDES
Ariel Arrow The Rocker's other bike...
Ariel Leader Ultra stylish British two stroke
BSA B50 Tough and punchy middleweight
BSA Bantam Well loved classic perennial
BSA Gold Star DBD34 Money in the bank
BSA Golden Flash Solid, surefooted twin
BSA M20 & M21 Britain's favourite sidevalves
Matchless G50 Big boy's classic racer
Norton Commando 750 & 850 Ride it, love it.
Royal Enfield Bullet Classic survivor
Sunbeam S7 & S8 Gentleman only please ...
Triumph Bonneville T140 "The legend"
Triumph Bonneville Hinckley, not Meriden
Triumph Speed Twin & Tiger 100 Turners twins
Triumph Tiger Cub T20 Pricey and pretty
Triumph Trident T150 Meriden's hot rod
Velocette Thruxton Pedigree performer
Classic BIKE People
Henk Joore World's greatest BSA WM20 site
Ted Simon Serial globetrotter
Judy Westacott 1928 Douglas
Pat Gill Matchless Man
Dick Smith The Barons Speed Shop
Mark Gooding 1962 Dot Demon
John Storey High-miler BSA D1 Bantam
Rod Atkins 1950 Vincent Comet
Dave Masters 1913 Veloce
Peter Allard 1950-something "Gold Star" bitsa
Mellie Triumph-KTM hybrid trail bike
Future proof Adapt and survive
Not waving but frowning Tribal etiquette
Mind your Ps & Qs Inconvenient conveniences
Number crunching What price your ego?
Camera not very obscura Seeing is believing
Classic bike guides Invested interests
The Zeppelin file On global warming
Shooting a copper The classic age is dead
Virtual insanity Ebay - the spiv's paradise
CB & the internet Are dealers selling
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It was in early 2007 when Dave Masters picked up this rare Veloce. He’d been aware of it for some time and, being a long-time Velo fellow, had patiently tracked it with that inbuilt radar common to most of the classic breed until he was finally, and quite unexpectedly, asked if he wanted to stop looking and buy it.
“Which I did, of course,” he explained.
The bike, registration number M-5054, is the only complete survivor of its type; a highly advanced design (of its day) that dates back to 1913. It was quite simply too significant a part of Velocette’s history to ignore being the first machine designed entirely by the Birmingham-based Goodman family who, along with William Gue, founded Velocette in 1905. So a deal was struck.
But with who?
“With Jim Scott,” said Dave, “a local classic bike restorer who’d I’d crossed paths with once or twice.”
M-5054 had been in the wilderness for many years before Jim Scott bought it in 1993 at auction. Parts were missing. Its history was vague. And there were numerous complexities within the engine that need a long scratch and some radical thinking.
Nevertheless, Jim set about the work with the kind of cool tenacity required to turn a heap into a hope, and after more than a decade of graft, he finally had this particular Birmingham bull by the horns.
However, Jim’s interest clearly lay more in the “before” stage than the “after”, and having run his long leg of the relay, Dave happily grabbed the baton when it was offered and sprinted off into the future.
Not that sprint is exactly the right word. This Veloce is, after all, a lowly 2.5hp, inlet-over-exhaust, 68mm x 76mm, 276cc velocipede capable of a knee-knocking 22mph cruise at 2000rpm or so—and maybe 35mph flat out (read prostrate), ideally with the wind at your shoulder and the gradient rapidly falling.
In the early days, motorcycles were measured largely by their hill climbing ability, and although this machine had sufficient gusto on the flat, it was a little less enthusiastic on the upward slopes.
“Meaning that it’s hard work,” said Dave. “It’s quite a fragile bike, but starts easily enough, and its two speed transmission, although a radical design for its day, is an imperfect one and prone to slippage.”
The fact that the engine runs backwards might at first sound like an obvious handicap. But that, apparently, is just another foxing facet of a powerplant that features an overhanging crank with a mainshaft doubling as a gearbox lay shaft.
But what’s an overhanging crank?
“It’s when the big-end journal is supported on one side only, as opposed to both sides,” explains Dave. “For low power machines, it works.”
To further complicate matters, the high gear apparently also carries the valve cams—which is so typically Velocette, meaning that when you flatten a Goodman blueprint on the desk, you have to expect the unexpected.
Lubrication, meanwhile, is handled by an eccentric vane oil pump that, according to Dave, needs repriming every time the bike stops. “So when it’s moving, I like to keep it going.”
Why make trouble?
The carburettor is an Amac. The magneto is unidentified (even by a magneto expert). The tyres are 26-in by 2.5-inch beaded edge rubbers. Fuel consumption is around 120mpg. The theoretical top speed is somewhere shy of 50mph, but theory and practice parted company some time ago and Dave, in the interests of posterity, is unwilling to push the boat out any further than the bike can swim.
There used to be a kickstarter. But the lug was sawn off some time ago. So now you have to put the bike on the rearstand, set the levers, turn on the fuel, hitch your trousers, grab the rear wheel and take a good swing. Alternately, you paddle it along the street or just march it double time into a soft and agreeable putter-putter-putter.
“There is, however, a tendency to seize up,” admitted Dave. “But you can feel it coming on, and so you turn off the power and stop. There doesn't seem to be any damage. The compression, meanwhile, is around 4.5:1, which means that once the engine is hot, you can run it on paraffin.”
So how much is this rare Veloce worth? It's a vulgar question, but everyone wants to know.
“I’ve no idea of it's current value,” said Dave, who (by the way) will be entering the bike in this year’s Pioneer Run. “And I’m not selling it for a while, so we’ll just have to see.”
Whatever it's worth, it's certainly going to be a lot higher than the 46 guineas it cost back in 1913 when it rolled off the Hall Green assembly line.