Saturday, February 02, 2008


I saw a photo of a mkVII KTT Velocette recently, and asked Dennis Quinlan of Sydney if he knew the owner or the history of the machine (Dennis knows more about KTT's than anyone I know, and I love picking his brain about particulars of their rider history and mechanical changes).
The upper pic shows the bike, which looks like a fairly correct mkVII - the factory only made about 39 of these machines in 1938. Veloce developed the KTT engine from it's all-iron origins in 1929, to this all-alloy configuration with enclosed cylinder head (something Nortons never got around to on the Manx, even in 1962!). The frame is still rigid and based on the mkV KTT, which is geometrically identical to the road-going KSS/MSS frame. Stanley Woods was contracted to ride the Velo in the TT in '38, and after a few test rides of the works machines, complained of poor handling with the KSS frame, and suggested moving the engine further forward for better balance. Thus, the mkVII front downtube sits at a steeper angle than earlier models, and apparently does handle better - it should be called the 'Woods' frame.

While the works were playing around with the frame geometry of the last of these rigid racers, Harold Willis had the brainwave of contacting the Oleo strut company, to make miniature airplane landing gear hydraulic shock absorbers, small enough for a motorcycle, as he thought this would work well at the back of a bike. Thus was born the modern rear swingarm/shock setup found on all motorcycles to this date, and the MkVIII KTT created, which was certainly good enough to win the Junior TT for Stanley, and come second in the Senior!

See second pic, showing a confident Stanley at practice for the '38 Junior TT. The photo has some great details if you look closely, including the bike's handgrips, rivet details on the mudguard, and the 'Huntley and Palmer' cylinder head, used on the works machines. (This photo is from the 'Keig Collection Vol.3', which is an invaluable resource for old IoM racer photos).

The third pic shows the 'before', an earlier incarnation of KTT701 (and who would want to alter it?); basically it's a mkVII with a mkVIII frame. In fact, everything barring the frame and petrol tank is mkVII - you'll note that the wheels have steel hubs and steel rims, and the engine is KTT 701 (the first production mkVII), etc. It all fits nicely around that swingarm frame, but a mkVIII would have had magnesium hubs and alloy rims, and an engine starting with 8xx or 9xx (or at the very end in '49, 10xx). As an aside, note the Andre damper attached to the swimgarm, Guzzi-style - the shocks pictured are from a batch produced by Phil Irving, which aren't hydraulic at all, but rely on friction from stacked fiber washers on the internal rod - Paul Zell has a pair from his mkVIII KTT, which he promptly replaced, as they don't work too well. Hence the damper in the photo (which is very odd, since the shock is all-friction damped as well as the Andre).

Dennis thought he recognized that rear hub with a shrunk-on aluminum muff in the bike for sale, as perhaps being the same as the bike in the second picture. He knew that the 'special' shown above had 'found' a mk VII rigid frame (#7TT2), and had been converted back to a proper mkVII, making the bike complete and correct as in photo #1.

The correct frame (#7TT1), by the way, sits in the Bathurst Motor Racing Museum, with a 500cc 'Dog Kennel' works engine inside, see pic 4! I took this photo in 2005 at the Velocette rally in Sydney. Interesting bike, to say the least, with a lot of factory special bits. The bike in a prior incarnation was known as 'the Monster', and was assembled for the museum in this configuration; the engine is an ex factory 500cc sohc 'dog kennel' engine (#KTT624), so called because of the pent-roof shape of the cambox. The Bathurst bike is owned by a trust (Western Suburbs MCC in Sydney), so there's little chance that the frame will reunite with engine KTT701.

The lower two photos are of Cown Shennan's mkVII KTT, which his family has owned since new. I crawled all over the bike at the Velocette Centenary Rally in 2005, outside of Sydney - a lovely machine, and it stirred up a deep desire to own one myself!

After contacting the owner of KTT701, it turned out that Dennis' sleuthing was correct, and that his memory of a finned rear hub was enough to track down the history of the machine. Pretty impressive, Dennis!

Below is Dennis' thought process, straight from his email:
Interesting pic...the rear brake drum with alloy finned muff looks horribly familiar.
I had a 6" dia. & a 7" dia. rear brake drum with just such muffs.
The 6" drum I used on a Smith framed Carey headed MAC racer which I ultimately sold & which is owned still by a chap in Sydney & makes cameo appearances, although in fairness he has taken it to Pukekohe in NZ etc.
To the 7" drum.
I no longer have it & really can't remember who I sold it to. If I sold it to somebody it would have been for a racer.
I certainly sold a 20" rear wheel with Avon racing tyre ( cracked & so only suitable for parades etc) to Ian Brock for his Mk.7 & this makes me think I may have included the drum, so the bike could be the ex. Bill Roepke/Brock bike.
See the attached photo, before Ian & I did a frame swap.
Hullo.... "Stop the presses..." I was not quite right...when I found the Roepke pic to attach, you can see the rear muff appears to be identical to the Roepke bike, so who knows where the 7" drum & alloy muff I had went.
This therefore is the Ian Brock, ex Roepke Mk.7.
I'm pretty hazy about it's history with Roepke, who came from South Australia & the KTT was likely imported into Adelaide by the SA importer Lou Borgelt.
His sales records are in the SA State library archives.
How it came to be in a Mk.8 frame...??
Those Andre dampers Ian insisted on keeping & the rear units, which were one of a special batch of three made/organised by Phil Irving while at Veloce I kept & are now with Chris & Graeme Roberts, to who I disposed all of my KTT stuff/bikes to in 1996.
These units came into Sydney on one of two KTTs imported in 1939 by P & R Williams.
Strange how they ended up in Adelaide...
We also swapped petrol tanks. I gave him a Mk.7 tank & he gave me back a mk.8 tank from memory.
Checking now my records....
The Roepke KTT engine number was KTT701, the frame I swapped to Ian was 7KTT2.
The frame I got from Ian was SF55.
The correct frame should have been 7KTT1, which was owned at this time by Ron Kessing & who wouldnt swap it with us.
'Kesso' gave it to Gavin Campbell for his restoration of "The Monster" ..." on permanent loan..."
'Kesso' is now dead.
7KTT1 now has the ex works 500 SOHC racer ( know as "The Monster"), e/no.KTT624 ( this was sent out to Sydney to P & R Williams & notated in the factory KTT records as such, but with no date or frame number, but it was after June 1936) & is in the National Motor Museum at Bathurst. You would have seen it when you visited it at the Centenary Aust. Velo rally.
Last owned by Gavin Campbell of Goulburn NSW & who seeded it to the Western Suburbs MCC & not to be resold. They have legal tenure.
I also see in my notes that Ian sold the mk.7 to Mike Farrer in Qld..

Here is a video of Roger Loyer's MkVII KTT being revved up!


chopretard said...

Great post! Love reading your stuff Paul, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Lovely - just lovely - need this in the winter - just gorgeous - more more please