The Birmingham based Goodman brothers founded the Veloce company in 1905 after their previous company was wound up. They had already pr
oduced a viable two wheeled machine, the 2hp Veloce, so the name was used on the letterhead of the new company, albeit to make cars in the early days. In 1913 a small capacity two-stroke machine was designed and named the Velocette but sales were poor, as motorcycles hadn’t really caught on as a viable means of transport.
The First World War interrupted plans and the Veloce Company was turned over to munitions production for the war effort, after the hostilities the Velocette name was used for the company as it had become a recognised brand and motorcycles were fast becoming a popular way of getting around. A breakthrough came for the Velocette concern when a new, 348cc overhead camshaft, K series engine was developed. Once a few teething troubles were overcome the new engine saw success in the 1925 TT races, returning the following year to win, thus starting a 40-year dynasty that would see the KTT in its various forms take victories all over the world. Velocette dominated 350cc racing between 1938 and 1949, winning all five Junior TT races of the period.
The post war KTT MKVIII racer owed much to the pre war KTT as development ground to a halt during and immediately after the Second World War, the production version using the exact engine as 1938 model. It was hugely popular on the UK race scene however as very little else was available for the common man to purchase and remain competitive.
The works specials built after the war had enough speed and reliability to take two European Championships, in 1947 and 48 with Fergus Anderson and Freddie Frith respectively, and two World Championships titles in 1949 and 1950, Frith being the first rider to win the honours for Velocette and Bob Foster the last. Although never officially backed by the company these factory specification machines were supplied to selected teams to run and largely develop themselves. Using the same chassis as the production KTT, the factory race bike is clearly distinguishable from the over the counter machine due to its larger fuel tank and Cylinder head to accommodate the two camshafts.
The ex Freddie Frith “Factory” racer seen here has the double overhead camshaft power plant first used in 1936 but with mixed success due to the extra strain placed on the valve train. The bottom end remained largely unchanged from its originally spec so adding an extra camshaft and vales soon overwhelmed the design.
Once sorted, and with the demands of the war effort out of the way, the gains where apparent and the new engine could be safely revved an extra 1000rpm with a healthy dollop of horsepower provided simply by this increased headroom.
Production of the customer KTT ended in 1950, 49 MK VII machines had been built before the war and a further 189 after, while numbers of the Works engine are not fully known it is thought that just 6 units were completed in the post war period. Velocette quit developing machines for GP racing soon after this initial success and any race success in the future came with modified road going machinery, due mainly to the high cost of competing at the highest level.
Another factor in the company’s decision was the illness and subsequent death in 1952 of the chief race designer and company principal, Peter Goodman, he had been working on a four-cylinder, liquid cooled, race engine that was well ahead of its time but, following his demise all efforts ion this radical power plant was halted. The factory did build a 250cc version of the KTT but it was too heavy to offer a serious threat to the fast emerging competition and 1952 marked the swansong of the KTT racer with numbers fast disappearing in the following years as more affordable and competitive race machinery became available.
Freddie Frith was born in Grimsby in 1910 and became a keen competitor at trials and other motorcycle events during the late 20s. Riding a production KTT Velocette, Frith finished 3rd in the 1930 Manx GP junior event, eventually winning the Junior race in 1935. His success soon attracted the factory teams and he joined Norton in 1936, winning the Junior TT that year along with an impressive Grand Prix victory in the 500 Ulster Grand Prix. Frith became the first rider to lap the TT course when he won the 1937 senior race. When war broke out in 1939 Frith joined the Army as a motorcycle instructor but returned to racing as soon as competitions resumed in 1947, as a works supported Velocette rider he had lost none of the form seen before the war and he went on to be the first ever 350 World Champion in 1949. In 1950, Frith retired from competition and the following season was awarded the OBE for his work in motorsport, he continued in the industry running his own motorcycle retail outlet and died in 1988.
Velocette KTT factory racer Specifications
Engine – Single Cylinder, Air Cooled, Double Overhead Camshaft
Capacity – 348cc
Bore & stroke – 74 x 81mm
Compression Ratio – 8:1
Carburation – Amal TT
Max Power – 39bhp @ 7500rpm
Torque – 28ft-lbs @ 5000rpm
Ignition – contact breaker
Transmission – 4-speed, wet clutch, chain final drive
Frame – Steel Tube
Suspension – Girder forks, twin shock rear
Wheels – 3.00 x 21, 3.50 x 19
Brakes – single leading shoe drum front and rear
Wheelbase – 1350mm
Weight – 145kgs
Fuel capacity – litres
Top speed – 115mph
Velocette KTT Race Bike Gallery