Velocette is the name given to motorcycles made by Veloce Ltd, in Hall
Green, Birmingham, England. One of several motorcycle manufacturers in
Birmingham, Velocette was a small, family-owned firm, selling far fewer
hand-built motorcycles than the mass-produced machines of the giant BSA,
Norton or Triumph concerns.
Renowned for the quality of its products, the
company was "always in the picture" in international motorcycle racing, from
the mid-1920s through the 1950s, culminating in two World Championship
titles (1949–1950 350cc) and its legendary and still-unbeaten (for
single-cylinder, 500 cc machines) 24 hours at 100 mph (161 km/h) record.
Veloce, while small, was a great technical innovator and many of its
patented designs are commonplace with motorcycles today, including the
positive-stop foot shift and swinging arm rear suspension with hydraulic
The company was founded by John Goodman (born Johannes Gütgemann and
later known as John Taylor before formally changing his name to Goodman) and
William Gue, as "Taylor, Gue Ltd." in 1905. Its first motorcycle was the Veloce
Later that year, John Taylor set up Veloce Limited, to produce
cycles and related products and services. Veloce Ltd initially produced
four-stroke motorcycles, first with Belgian 'Kelecom' engines, then an
F-head design of their own, with an integral two-speed gearbox.
1913 Velocette Model A
The first two-stroke, built in 1913, was called a Velocette. This name was
used for all subsequent models.
John was joined in 1916 by his sons Percy
and Eugene Goodman. Between 1913 and 1925, Veloce produced expensive,
high-quality two-stroke motorcycles of (nominally) 250 cc, which gained an
excellent reputation and were entered in competitions such as the Isle of
Man TT, with some success. The single-cylinder machines had many advanced
features, such as a throttle-controlled oil pump, which set them apart from
other manufacturers' products.
The factory gradually developed this machine
from the "A" series and variants (A, AC2 - coil ignition, two-speed gearbox,
AC3 – three-speed gearbox, etc.), then the "H" series, the model U and
variants, culminating in the model GTP in 1930, which was produced until
1946. The GTP was a reliable lightweight motorcycle with good steering and
Velocette 'K' series
In the early 1920s, Veloce realized that in order to grow as a company, it
needed a new machine of advanced specification and developed an overhead
camshaft (OHC) 350 cc engine, which became known as the 'K' series,
introduced in 1925. After a year of teething troubles with this new design,
Veloce entered slightly modified 'K' models into racing events such as the
Isle of Man TT and Brooklands races, and the reliability and sweet running
qualities of their new engine led to a long string of racing successes, and
the introduction of a production racing model, the KTT, built between 1928
The 1929 KTT was the first production motorcycle to feature
positive-stop, foot-actuated gearchange. The roadster models developed
from this initial model K were the Velocette KSS (super sports), KTS
(touring sports, KTP (twin exhaust ports), KN (normal), and a few
A notable change in engine design was introduced in 1935, the 'KSS
Mk2' with a fully enclosed aluminum cylinder head. The OHC engine series
continued as roadsters until 1948, when the final KSS Mk.2 versions were
produced, with rigid frames and Dowty air-sprung telescopic forks. Accurate
valve timing was accomplished through the pioneering use of stroboscopic
lamps. The 'K' series showed excellent turn of speed and reliability and
soon the factory developed racing models to compete in the Isle of Man
In 1933, the company decided to introduce a new line of overhead valve (OHV)
machines, in order to cut production costs and make a more affordable
motorcycle. The K series was expensive to produce, requiring hand
assembly of the shaft-and-bevel camshaft drive; it was determined that a
simpler OHV design would be quicker to build and require less skilled labour
The first of these new machines was the MOV, using a 250 cc
engine with 'square' dimensions (68 mm bore and 68 mm stroke). It was an
immediate sales success, having lively performance for the time (78 mph or
126 km/h), and proved a reliable machine with excellent road manners. From
this machine, by lengthening the stroke of the crankshaft, the Velocette MAC
350 cc was introduced in 1934. It proved even more popular than the MOV, and
became a real money spinner for the company, bringing much needed capital
into the firm.
In 1935 an entirely new machine was introduced, based on the
two previous OHV models, the Velocette MSS with 500 cc engine size. A new, heavier frame
was utilized with the intention that the machine could serve as a sidecar
hauler. This new frame was developed from the Mk V KTT racing machine which
was shared with the KSS Mk II of 1936–1948. The MSS also proved very popular
and profitable for Veloce.
A 350 cc version of the MOV was the basis for
the company's World War II military motorcycles.
1953 Velocette LE
After the Second World War, the company sought to capture what it saw as a
developing need for personal transport and created the LE model (for
"Little Engine"). This was a 149 cc water-cooled flat-twin with side-valves,
a pressed steel frame and telescopic forks and swingarm.
Director, Eugene Goodman, planned an innovative and radical design that
would appeal to a new market that needed cheap, clean and reliable
transport. Designer Charles Udall developed the Velocette LE as a
"conceived-as-a-whole" design, with engine, gearbox, drive shaft and bevel
box in a single unit to do a specific job. It was sophisticated and
expensive. Unfortunately it proved less successful than the
firm had hoped and, although it became Veloce's best selling model ever, the
high tooling costs for this all-new machine were barely recouped.
It did see widespread adoption by British police forces for urban patrol.
At the time Metropolitan Police Officers on foot patrol were required to
salute sergeants and inspectors. With the introduction of the Velocette LE
this became dangerous, requiring the officer to take his hand off the handle
bars, and so the rider was to allowed to show his respect with a smart nod.
It has been suggested that this is how Velocette LEs became known as "Noddy
Bikes". However, Noddy (the popular cartoon character created by British
children's author Enid Blyton) who famously had frequent run-ins with the
Policeman Mr. Plod, is also credited with being the origin.
The market for sporting machines was still strong, and Velocette continued
to produce the 349 cc MAC for racing. At the 1947 TT, the company won the
first four places in the Junior race, and in 1950 they were the 350 cc World
The 1954 499 cc Velocette MSS proved a successful export to the American
desert racing scene, prompting the development of scrambler and enduro
versions of the bike, the 349 cc Viper and 499 cc Venom, both introduced in
1956. A 1958 review in The Motor Cycle, an English weekly paper, called the
Viper "a remarkably fine motorcycle, all round performance well above the
average" and declared it capable of speeds over 90 mph (144.84 km/h). In
1961 a Velocette Venom became the first motorcycle to cover over 2,400 miles
(3,900 km) in a 24-hour period, averaging 100.05 mph (161.01 km/h).
In 1960, Velocette introduced the Viceroy, a very unusual 250 cc opposed
twin two-stroke scooter. Unique to the Viceroy was the front mounted
twin-cylinder engine, and the fuel tank mounted under the front legshield.
The engine itself was extremely compact, and connected to the rear-mounted
clutch and transmission by a drive shaft from the engine-mounted flywheel.
With electric start, 12-volt electrics, a very low centre of gravity, power
over 15 hp (11 kW) and a reported comfortable cruising speed of 65 mph (105
km/h), performance, handling and features of the Viceroy were first class.
Unfortunately the scooter came as market forces and rider preferences were
changing, and the Viceroy was not a sales success.
The late 1960s were the
last years of production for Velocette motorcycles, production for the
Velocette Viper and Vogue ending in 1968, "Special", Scrambler and Endurance
in 1969, and MSS Venom and Velocette Thruxton in 1970.
Veloce Ltd. closed in