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14th March 2006

Velocette Since 1950: The Big Singles, by Steve Wilson Velocette Since 1950: The Big Singles by Steve Wilson

Rowena Hoseason reviews Steve Wilson's historical overview and nuts and bolts guide to the most popular of Velocette's big singles...

Searching for information about a pre-war MAC, I discovered a scary thing about Velocette books. They tend to be fabulously detailed to the nth degree. Had I wanted to write a 15,000 word dissertation about the engineering of the overhead cam K-series machines, or a complete history of the marque's track successes, I would've been off to a flying start.

The comprehensive volumes published by writers like Ivan Rhodes and Jeff Clew gave me plenty of background information - too much, in fact - and reams of data about the more glamorous racers and Roarer and so on. You'll also find many pages, even some whole books, devoted to Velocette's flat twins, the LE and the Valiant, and yet more information about the doomed Viceroy scooter.

If what you really need is a synopsis of the marque and a mini-profile of each model then it's very easy to find yourself drowning in all this detail. So I turned to Volume Six of Steve Wilson's 'British Motor Cycles Since 1950', which contains his chapter on Velocette. Again, I wasn't too hopeful because a 1939 MAC would appear to be somewhat previous for this book's purview but, luckily for me, Steve starts off with a potted history of Velocette and the Goodman family's most popular models. You get a concise and informed overview of the marque, from when the Veloce company was formed in 1904 until its liquidation in 1970. Hurrah!

This history has been out of print for some time and, in its original form, is unlikely to be re-issued. Panther Publishing realised this a little while back, saw a gap in the market, and so produced a new volume taken from the original chapter, a re-print from the 1992 Haynes series. The result is a slim A4 softback, with the majority of its pages being direct copies of the original book, plus a new introduction and a useful appendix of owners clubs and contacts.

The title of the new book, 'Velocette Since 1950: The Big Singles', isn't therefore entirely accurate because the first half of the volume is taken up with that very historical overview for which I'd been searching. So the text starts way before 1950 and it includes all the Velocette models regardless of how many cylinders they had - it would be daft to deal with the singles in isolation, so the LE and others are placed in their correct historical position. Steve attempts to explain why the Veloce business eventually went under, despite the success of the MAC and the unswerving loyalty which other bikes of the marque, like the Venom and Viper, inspired. So why did Veloce go bust in the end? Read it and find out…

The second half of the book is devoted to the singles and to their evolution from 1950 onwards. Now you get the nuts-and-bolts, year by year development history of the MAC, MSS, Venom, Viper and Thruxton, including technical details, roadtest feedback, weights, measures, clutch troubles, occasional oil leaks and all.

All the chapters are well illustrated by masses of mono photographs and drawings, which clearly show the development from the rigid rear end of 1950 through to the patented Velocette adjustable rear suspension system; from stripped down, postwar austerity models to fully-enclosed Veeline bikes of the mid-1960s.

Steve's prose is always easy to read - and he tries to relate his technical descriptions of the bikes' development back to a rider's experience of using and maintaining the machines. The quality of the re-printed pages is far better than many we've seen; the images are still crisp and the paper is satisfyingly white! Some reprints tend to fade into one big blurry muddle which makes reading them hard work, but this is of a higher standard. I'm a little concerned about the binding, however; after a couple of sessions with my copy propped open I've noticed that the spine has cracked and the pages are feeling a little loose - so it needs handling with care…

I suspect that most Velocette enthusiasts will already know everything covered by this book. It was written some 15 years ago and, as I discovered, there are several other titles which examine the marque in far greater detail. But if, like me, you were looking for an introduction to Velocette - perhaps with a view to making a first purchase and deciding which model might be the right one to buy - then 'Velocette Since 1950' ticks all the right boxes.


Velocette Since 1950: The Big Singles, by Steve Wilson

  • Published by Panther Publishing, ISBN 09535098 8 5, in softback with 63 pages, price £11.95

  • Buy direct from Panther Publishing via this link and a small commission will go towards the running costs.

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