Sunday, May 18, 2008

2008 Velocette Owners Club 'Spring Opener'

It seems we went straight from Spring to Summer in the Napa valley, where John and Sue Ray hosted the VOC on their 40-acre spread atop a hill overlooking the magnificent wine growing region. The property had formerly used a few grazing cows for a tax shelter, and thus has a very nice barn (handy for motorcycles!) at the entry, with a short hillclimb of a driveway to the main house (see photo of Dana Shatts flat out in 1st up the drive on his Thruxton).

Velo club owners in the States have mostly post-war swingarm models; MAC, MSS, Venoms, Vipers, and Thruxtons, as these were the mainstay of US sales (not many sales to the US pre-war, although we do have quite a few which were imported later). As our rides tend to be long-ish, there's a high concentration of 500cc Venom Clubman and Thruxton models. The ohc 350cc KSS models are often enlarged to 450cc or more, to keep up with the bigger bikes - this was a common mod in the 1940's and 50's especially, when American buyers were clamoring for larger displacement engines from British manufacturers. Several small motorcycle parts suppliers (such as Webco) provided their own cylinder barrels and pistons to bring the 350cc MAC and KSS engines up to 400-450cc. My own mkIV KTT has been brought up in a similar manner, by fitting a 79mm Norton International piston, which gives almost exactly 400cc.

A few hardy souls brought out their rigid machines on Saturday to brave the rough CA roads, and the heat - Kevin Burrell rode his tuned '47 MSS (which I want back!), Kim Young her '30 KSS, plus two more later KSS as well. I rode my '28 Sunbeam; always the oddball, but it's less oily than the KTT... At over 100 degrees, some of the bikes were baulky starters as fuel evaporated from float bowls, but there were no real mechanical troubles on the ride.

Although pleasantly warm at 70 degrees at the 9am start, by noon the temp had climbed to 101 degrees, as we roared through the canyons and along Lake Berryessa; I'm certain a few nooks in the canyons were 110 degrees, as it felt like a blast furnace at times. My Sunbeam objected a bit by nipping up (too much fast fun and no oiling on the top end), so the remainder of my ride was sedate...

We were graced this year with the presence of fellow blogger Dennis Quinlan, whose site I frequently poach for excellent articles on Velocettes, Chronometric speedometers (used to be Dennis' business), and TT history. Dennis has an interesting KSS-engined special in a Scrambler swingarm frame. We were too busy taking pictures of each other for our respective blogs to get a good portrait shot...

About 25 Velos showed up, with a few interlopers like my 'Beam, a couple of Commandos, and two newish Guzzi v twins, which go like stink, and were ridden down from Canada by Cory and Vivian Padula for the weekend (!). That lovely blue Venom will forever be know as 'Denise's bike', as it formerly belonged to Denise Leitzel, who deserves a post of her own. Now it's owned by Don Danmeier, who has done a cracking job of restoring it. It was painted a Volkswagen blue by Eddie Anton in 1987 - Eddie was a professional model maker, being hired by advertising and design firms to make 3d prototypes, so he possessed great skill in making a motorcycle look brilliantly detailed. But, his models were prototypes, and weren't meant to last, nor were his paint jobs with rattle-can lacquer. I nearly bought a Vincent Black Shadow from him, until I rode it, and found the black engine paint lifting from a leaky carb... didn't fancy repainting the motor, or the rest of the bike, so passed on it (which curiously has happened 3 times with Vincent twins...Not Meant To Be).

If you're in the Napa area at the end of May next year, drop me a line, and come for a ride.


Auntie Pretzel said...

Thanks Paul.....this brought tears to my eyes.

Auntie Pretzel said...

This brought tears to my eyes. That's a good thing.