As a kid I always felt there was something about Velocettes that set them apart from the usual run of motorcycles. Maybe it was the sleek lines or the lovely single cylinder soundtrack that seemed to get inside you somehow. There were never many of them about and when you did see one, it was almost always immaculate and obviously loved.
So, when I came across a notice for the Velocette Centenary meeting at Brooklands a few weeks ago, I made a promise to myself to go and wallow in some serious nostalgia!
The stars of the show (for me) however were quite different beasts from those that were abounding in the main display area.
The 500cc supercharged TT racer nicknamed the “Roarer”; a unique supercharged machine, upright parallel twin with contra-rotating geared together crankshafts, shaft drive, a Ram-Air cooling System for the cylinder heads (remember the Suzuki 380/550 triples?), air rear shock absorbers and reversed cylinder heads.
The bike raced in the 1939 Senior TT where it suffered from overheating but was never to compete again, as the post war regulation changes prohibited the use of superchargers. The basic layout, parallel twin, contra-rotating geared cranks inspired the development of the O series, which unfortunately also became a casualty of war.
The ‘O’ series 688cc parallel twin, the only existing example of which is EOX 29 seen here, was built as a prototype in 1939 using the basic engine layout of the ‘Roarer’. It has shaft drive, Contra-rotating geared crankshafts, adjustable rear suspension, twin carburettors and very modern lines. Just look at the bike, and imagine there are telescopic forks at the front; it wouldn’t have looked dated against most of the British twins of the 1970s.
Floyd Clymer, an American publisher who bought the Indian name in 1967 decided to revive the marque. After a couple of false starts he sourced 500cc Velocette power units (Venom and Thruxton) and had them installed into frames specially designed by the Italjet company; wheels and brakes were supplied by Grimeca and the carburetion by Amal.
Unfortunately they were released the same year Honda unveiled the 4 cylinder 750, which changed the entire motorcycle landscape from then on.
The death of Mr Clymer in 1970 saw the end of the venture with only around 100 bikes made.
© M Hallam 2014