A Brief History of Velocette Motorcycles
The story of Velocette begins with Johannes Gutgemann who was the son of a merchant from Oberwinter in the Rhine area of Germany.
After his father died, Johannes moved to Birmingham, England in 1884. (apparently to avoid compulsory military training in Germany).
Johannes adopted the name of John Taylor and under the trade banner of Isaac Taylor & Company, he started a pharmaceutical business.
Profits from this business enabled John to start a business in cycle manufacture.
The business flourished and a meeting with another cycle manufacturer, William Gue, resulted in the formation of Taylor, Gue & Company.
They manufactured cycles and sold them under the trade name of “Hampton”.
The business became a limited company in 1896 and in 1900, the name was changed to Taylor Gue Ltd.
Taylor had been making frames for a motorcycle called “Ormonde”, the engine of which was designed and manufactured by Paul Kelecom.
However, when Kelecom suffered financial difficulties in 1904, Taylor Gue took over the Kelecom company.
The following year, John Taylor used the name “Veloce” for his motorcycles, however after failure at the 1905 Stanley Motorcycle Show, Taylor Gue went into voluntary liquidation later that year.
John Taylor had, however, formed Veloce Limited that same year and had received financial backing from Edward Williams, a chain manufacturer.
John’s two sons, Percy and Eugene had become involved with the motor car trade and formed New Veloce Motors to produce a 20hp car at the same premises as Veloce Limited.
This was not a success and the company was taken in by Veloce Limited in 1916.
Both Percy and Eugene became more involved with motorcycle design and engineering, and continued to work with their father.
Before World War I, Veloce were manufacturing a 276cc motorcycle. They also manufactured a 499cc motorcycle under the name of VMC (Veloce Motor Comany).
There was increasing demand for lightweight machines and in 1913, the first motorcycle to carry the Velocette name was introduced.
This was a 206cc two stroke.
In 1917, the Taylor family had changed their name by Deed Poll to Goodman after John had applied for naturalisation.
World War I saw the larger capacity machines being dropped from production as the factory switched to manufacturing munitions.
After the war, production concentrated on the two stroke machines.
The capacity was increased from 206cc to 220cc and continuous improvements over the next few years earned them a reputation for reliability and efficiency.
By 1923, the capacity had increased again to 249cc.
In 1925, the company had entered three 348cc four stroke machines in the Isle of Man Junior T.T. Race, however all three machines retired before the end of the race.
In 1926, the two stroke production stopped in favour of further development of the four stroke machines known as the “K” series.
This paid off as Alec Bennett rode an overhead camshaft 348cc Velocette to first place in the 1926 IoM TT more than ten minutes ahead of the second placed rider.
Shortly after the 1926 TT, the company moved premises to York Road, Hall Green, previously occupied by Humphries & Dawes of the OK marque.
Further TT success came in the next few years.
In 1928, development engineer, Harold Willis invented the positive stop foot operated gear change which was used in the 1929 TT and on production models soon after.
Also in 1929, Veloce Limited introduced the KTT, a production racer available to the public based on the TT winning machine.
Riders of the KTT took the first eight places in the 1930 Manx Grand Prix.
Such was the success of the “K” series motorcycles, that production continued through until 1948, with improvements throughout the years.
1928 saw the return of the two stroke with the appearance of the model “U” with a super sport model, the “USS” appearing in 1929.
These machines did not have the appeal of the “K” series machines and, to move stock, were sold off cheaply at £32 and renamed “Model 32”.
In 1930, a new two stroke was introduced, the 249cc GTP.
At the same time, the four stroke KTP was also introduced.
As customers were now starting to expect full electric lighting on their machines, it became obvious that machines were going to be heavier.
Manufacturers had to move with the times and work was carried out to the engines to develop more power to overcome the extra weight.
As the overhead camshaft engines were expensive to produce, 1933 saw the introduction of the MOV model with a 250cc pushrod operated overhead valve engine.
This was an instant success and was the forerunner to the 349cc MAC model and the 495cc MSS model.
The performance of the overhead valve engines was approaching that of the more expensive overhead camshaft engines.
However, as some customers preferred the OHC engines, the factory stopped OHC production for a short while between 1935 and 1936 in order to redesign them.
The redesigned engine had an alloy cylinder head in which all the valve gear was fully enclosed.
Two models were available, the sporting KSS and the KTS which was more suited to touring.
The engines of the racing Velocettes passed through various experimental stages including the use of rotary valves and double overhead camshafts, neither of which proved successful.
These designs led to the Mk VII and then the Mk VIII version with a swing arm frame.
Stanley Woods rode a Mk VIII to victory in the 1939 Junior TT.
World War II saw the factory again being involved in work for the war effort, however this time, some motorcycles were produced but mainly for use by the fire service.
When full production resumed after the war, only the MOV, MAC, MSS and KSS models were listed.
As the Webb girder forks were no longer being manufactured, the models were fitted with Dowty telescopic foirks.
From 1949, of the “M” series, only the MAC model remained in production.
1948 saw the introduction of the LE (Little Engine) Velocette.
This unusual machine had a 149cc water cooled engine mounted in a pressed steel frame that included footboards and leg shields.
The engine was started by a hand operated mechanism that also retracted the centre stand.
Power was transmitted by a shaft to the rear wheel via a hand change gearbox.
The general public did not really take to this machine and in 1950, the engine size was increased to 192cc and further changes included the use of a kick starter and a foot change gearbox.
Percy Goodman died in 1951 and Velocette had now stopped their racing activities.
Two new sports motorcycles were introduced for road use in 1956, the 350cc Viper and the 500cc Venom.
“Clubman’s” racing versions of both these motorcycles were also available.
The Viper and Venom motorcycles were offered with the option of a fairing and were known as the “Veeline” models.
In March 1961, a team of riders took a Venom Veeline Clubmans model to Montlhery in France to establish a world record for 24 hours at an average speed of 100.05mph.
Velocette made further versions of the LE.
The “Valiant” was an overhead valve version produced between 1956 and 1963.
In 1963, the “Vogue” appeared. This featured glass fibre two tone bodywork with twin headlamps, however, less than five hundred were made.
Orders for the LE were never as high as first expected.
In 1964, the “Thruxton” was introduced. This was the ultimate in the development of the “M” series.
By this time, Veloce Limited were starting to struggle financially.
It had not helped that the company had experimented with building a scooter known as the “Viceroy”.
Although the”Viceroy” was advanced in design, it could not hope to compete with the Italian manufacturers who had a firm hold of the scooter market.
In 1971, Veloce Limited went into voluntary liquidation.