Some reminiscences from Bruce of his Velocette connections

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At Bowling Green Lane, the London HQ of Temple Press, the publishers of "Motor Cycling", the staffmen were required to ride motorcycles whereas if you worked for "Motor" you got a car but it is not true that the editorial chaps on "Commercial Motor" had to go by lorry. All this seemed unfair when the weather was foul.

The rule was Buy British and stay within the periodically-reviewed purchase budget. My fellow staffman John Panter Griffith, ever friendly with Bertie Goodman at Hall Green, had convinced the Dog Kennel makers that Griff should be allowed the second prototype Venom on condition he reported experiences and fitted any modified parts Veloce Ltd chose to cough up.

He often had a chair and was a hard driver. I had a succession of roadtest sidecars on my personal V-HRD 1000 and considered myself quite quick. Forever breaking rear wheel spokes on it, despite going as thick as 8 swg butted. These spokes were laced up almost radially (like Triumphs) whereas Griff's wheels were spoked tangentially. His outfit never ever broke spokes. Moral there somewhere?

But he broke engine plates. The Udall remedy was to fit two such plates in lieu of thicker ones. That worked. I presume it was duly adopted?

I had his Venom out (close-ratio gears etc) and was full rattle across the Hog's Back (no 70 limits then) and it came to a huffing standstill with slight smoke coming out of the primary chain case and a distinct absence of compression. Hands up, all together now, for the first correct diagnosis. Yes, a holed piston. Hall Green decided the fire started too close to the piston crown at a thin point in same (was it Hepolite or Wellworthy?) and the successful remedy was to thicken all Venom piston crowns in that area.

Mind you they could have moved the plug hole? Not likely. Might have avoided too many plugchangers burnt fingers which is how you can also identify the genuine Velocette owner as well as by the oilstained left boot.......

One day I had his Velo out with a roadtest Steib attached. Griff never altered gearing despite it being so easy on that outboard sprocket so he used it with solo close-ratio cogs on the principle he could treat a close 3rd as top and what the hell, he wasn't paying for clutch plates when it came to getting under way with a laden chair and a TT bottom gear on solo sprockets! Ouch.

Going up Pain's Hill, Cobham (all altered now) flat in two (chair & on solo teeth remember) when Mike Hawthorn steamed alongside (we both lived in Farnham and knew each other). He looked me up and down, listened to 6000 pushrod rpm pouring out of the fishtail, assumed I was in 3rd and gave me a big grin and a wave when I shifted up one --- into 4th he reasoned. Rider going well is how the reports come from the Mountain Box? This rider was going all he could go, down the A3 to reach his Farnham workshop I shared with two mates.

But I was flat in 2 and changing into 3. Such fun it was in those days. Griff's Velo stood it all and it was he who showed me how you can always kickstart one. First time.

Because of the crank being on the layshaft --- this harks back technically to a desire to get the mainbearings close and to avoid the crankcases oilpanning etc --- the ratio is l-o-w.

Find full compression. Release kickstarter. Using valve-lifter, gently press the crank down the full swing being careful not to put any momentum into the flywheels. Allow kickstarter to return. NOW lunge. This is so at variance with bikes that are kicked up with conventional gearboxes, and very especially Vincent V-twins which always stop on the wrong stroke, that it foxes the non-Hall Green aficionado everytime.

Do you want to hear how Bruce filed down car-size dynamo brushes to Miller dimensions one dark night on the A5? Of course not. Nor how the dedicated Miller-man had a matchstick-sized hole, strategically placed over the cutout, or even grafted on a Lucas avc. You have heard it all before. It is called the joys of owning a Velocette.
It was Bertie Goodman himself who told me, probably in 1971, that two factors contributed to Velo's demise. These were the loss of the Standard Triumph drum-brake machining contract upon the advent of disc brakes; and the drop-off in their mudguard-rolling business to the m/c industry generally for many makers put such a task out to a contractor and Velo was one such. Few m/c firms had press tools big enough to squeeze mudguards though AMC at a late hour bought Wico-Pacey's surplus press (no longer needed for Wipac headlamp shells) and hoped to press their own mudguards. The cost of this acquisition and worse, the problem of getting it into the Plumstead factory, did AMC's precarious finances no good at all. Was it a case of a big player on the block having to have the biggest toy?

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