Sunday, August 10, 2008


The recent Velocette Rally was graced by the presence of the very last Velocette produced at the Hall Green works in Birmingham. It's not a Thruxton, or even a Venom, or a Viceroy scooter - no, it's a humble LE mkIII, frame # 9074/34, engine # 9074/3, and was assembled in early Feb, 1971, under the auspices of the Official Receiver, as Veloce was wrapping up production at the time, and preparing to be sold off (to Matt Holder).

Two LE's were made to special order by MC Supply Co, of 1715 East Florence Ave, Los Angeles CA. The bikes were ordered on October 21, 1970 (see scan of order letter).
The invoice shows the following; "2 Velocette Motor Cycles, LE 200cc Mk111 Models in Gray with stoplight, USA lighting and number plates, side reflectors and front brake light @ £243 each" (the 'USA' lighting included special reflectors for the body of the machine, plus a brake light switch on the front brake cable, which isn't connected to the stop lamp - apparently only the switch was specified by the DOT, a legal loophole exploited by Veloce).

A note from the purchasers (see scan below) indicated that the pound exchange rate was £1 = $2.40, making the total cost for both LE's $1,200.50 including shipping, plus around $200 customs duty. The invoice is from Veloce Limited, but shows 'In Liquidation'... and at the bottom, 'For and behalf of Veloce Ltd, C.R. Lunt, Liquidator', with Lunt's signature.

There is a reference in the correspondence which indicates that these last Velocettes were being purchased as investments, with long term storage in mind (I don't think this was such a good plan, as 35 years later, they might fetch 3x what was originally paid... not a very good investment!). When purchased by its current owner, this last LE had 143 miles.... but John is a game sort, and brought the LE to the rally not only to show it, but to ride the little bike on day 2 of our rally, over the Lost Coast loop, and it completed the day's run of 175 miles without incident (although he did run out of gas on Mattole Rd, just a few miles from Petrolia and a fuel pump - see photo of Historic and Irreplaceable Part of Motorcycle History being filled with a scavenged beer can!).

John says of the bike:
"[The ride is] like everything I have read, smooth and quiet. You would almost think it is driven by an electric motor. Being a 'New' bike everything is just right, and the seating position is very relaxed like a much bigger bike would be. For the little I got to ride it this afternoon, its obvious that it's perfect around town. If I like it enough, maybe I will buy another one to restore
The guy I bought it from (on ebay) had to replace the radiator hoses which had rotted, replace the battery, clean the gas tank and carb, and unstick the clutch. Apparently it had been run quite a few years ago and the gas was not drained. I will store the original tires for future museum display on the bike"
It's believed the little Velo was stored for years in the collection of O.H. Hood of Tulare, CA, who is a lifelong collector of old bikes and cars. It seems he often bought matched pairs of bikes (including a pair of Floyd Clymer-made Indian Velos, which used an Italjet chassis), then stored them away.

The letter explains: "Jolly John wanted us to keep the LE's inasumch as they will soon be classic due to the fact that these very ones are the last machines to be made by the world famous Velloce [sp] motors of England. John Boy, said he had to really put great pressure on Velloce to get them to make these two LE's. and if it wern't for his good California Cousins JV and CB - these bikes would only have been a memory instead of for real man-for real." The note from the shipping agency 'SS' is equally casual, from a day when no one seemed to take their work too seriously.

The horrible scanned xerox of the original owner with 'Velocette' crate may well be Hood, but it's hard to tell . Note hilarious correspondence between the various parties involved on the US side of the purchase - not much sentimental claptrap about these 'end of an era' machines.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I own the second to last LE! It is registered in CT and now has 330 miles on it. It is AMCA winners circle and gets shown often. Jim Barnard,,