Sunday, February 24, 2013


My 1965 Velocette Thruxton, VMT260, 'La Courgette', pictured in 1988
(The following was written for the Southsiders MC blog on the occasion of a lovely set of photographs taken by Guerry/Prat images of an all-black Velocette Thruxton):

Only a monumental fool would deny the Velocette Thruxton its rightful place upon the mount of Olympus, to drip oil beside Zeus and Apollo, glowing modestly while the gods beside it trouble the earth. I know all this because I am a Thruxton's caretaker, so blessed for 25 years now, and the machine told me so.

I retain my marbles, nor is my walnut cracked; the Velocette spoke over tens of thousands of miles in my company, providing an embarrassment of pleasure, enough that should she take on human form, I would feel compelled to give her my wages entirely each week, and happily so, while protecting her from the burden of children and other mundane obligations, retaining her in a gilded, perfumed, and pillow-strewn room for the sole purpose of my selfish excitement.
A youthful Pd'O atop Mt.Tamalpais in Marin County, just north of San Francisco, at sunrise on Easter Morning, 1994
I was introduced to Velocetting via Classic Bike magazine, discovering that formerly-essential quarterly Bible of Old Bikeism in its earliest days, the first years of the 1980s. I'd never seen a Velo in the metal, but I studied those magazines until the pages turned to ragged tissue and the staples wore holes in the covers, which I mended with clear library tape. I have them all, from issue #1; they were equally my education and my pornography.
Not pornographic, but unfortunate, as the anonymous model's hair obscures the 'Velocette' logo on my ancient leather jacket.  Sound of leg and firm of buttock, are these girls. 
The first Thruxton I encountered was all-black with gold pinstriping, plus a half-fairing and shortened hump seat; it had been ridden 90 miles from Sacramento to San Francisco for an unworthy local swap meet in 1985; day was spent gazing rapt, annoying the owner with questions. Not long after, a friend gained employment at an open-secret motorbike museum deep in Oakland; a visit revealed this cave of moto-gems contained a green Thruxton, in truth the lowliest machine among the 300 ultra-rare Broughs and prewar Vincent twins which crowded those dark halls. Yet it was that green bike which I coveted, longed for, dreamed about.

The 'museum' owner was caught with $3M in cash and 3 tons of amphetamines, necessitating the scurried removal of 300 machines to a new, secret, location, and the rapid sale of same to pay lawyer's fees.  As I'd made my desire known (many times), the Thruxton was offered in exchange for an $8900 bank cheque, within 24 hours. At 27 years old I was an under-employed layabout, earning just enough to cover my rent, my fun, and my motorcycle parts, but I borrowed the money, and my sweaty and nervous palms shortly held the title to that green Velocette.  It cost 8 times any motorbike I'd ever bought, and I was actually scared to ride it those first few days. Trepidation soon disappeared, and within the month we'd cracked across the Golden Gate Bridge at 4am, at over 115mph.
The author with his 'Velocette' jacket with Josiah Leet, jacket art by Pd'O.  1989.
My Thruxton gained a name ('la Courgette') and a reputation, as I attempted piecemeal to duplicate Velocette's famous 24 hours at 100mph.  She let me down once only - my fault - being otherwise flawless and peerless, even enduring a two-year stint as my sole transport and daily commuter. We have been from Los Angeles to the Canadian Rockies and every twisted road between, earnestly scrubbing away sidewall rubber as her gaping carburetor sprayed petrol vapor on my right knee. She fires right up and scampers away, is dead smooth at 80mph, with the confluent sound of intake, exhaust, piston rattle, and valve gear symphonic beneath me.
Somewhere near Nelson, BC, Canada, ca.1993, during a Velocette O/C Summer Rally
Together we are invisible to police, having never been stopped, and I am revealed as a half-green Centaur of prodigious speed and agility. She is as important to me as my own liver, and as familiar. My greatest blessing to bestow would be to wish you a long a fruitful marriage to a Velocette Thruxton, such as I have experienced, and its a great pity more riders who imagine they enjoy motorcycles will not have such an opportunity.  The beasts are simply too rare, so I am required to tell the truth about this machine, as it has been told to me by the Thruxton herself, all these many years.


Hairy Larry said...

Was just looking at a pic of Leno's Velocette, wise fellows for striking when the iron was hot...
They are beautiful creatures.

jerrykap said...

Paul, I'll always remember your green boots that matched your Thruxton. I think it was an early Fred Twigg ride or one of the 1st Danmier birthday bashs'? But after reading this lovely paean to your Velo, I think it possible that we may have ridden together before that? I'll explain: On a beautiful mid summer night around 1985 or 6? While living in Woodland, CA I took a visiting young lad from New Zealand for a refreshing ride along the levee road between Woodland and Old Sacramento. We were on my `68 P11A and on the return leg leaving West Sacramento climbing back on the levee I merged with a magnificent Velocette. We rode side by side on the river road all the way back to the outskirts of Woodland. I tried my best to get the Velo man to stop for a chat, but he paid me no heed and made a dash for interstate 5 before I could make him pullover. WAS THAT YOU?

William said...

Well, with digital camera's we're all photographers now.. whereas with filum.. we certainly weren't.
I looked at the Southsiders article and found gorgeous photo's.. give a pro' a studio and some lights and that's what you get. As good as I've ever seen.
Really good article, gorgeous photo's.
Yet again, thank you.

Anonymous said...

That was Ben Kulka's place. At that time the greatest collection of bikes in America. It was amazing to behold!


Buck Pennington said...

Ah... MOST brilliant!