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Bike Review - Posted 24th June 2009
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Velocette MDD 350

Matchless and BSA were famous for building military motorcycles, but Velocette produced their own 350 single in WD trim, too...

A Velocette single in RAF blue is one of several recent additions to the National Motorcycle Museum's display. Veloce Ltd was one of the smaller suppliers of military motorcycles in World War Two. The company's first contribution was a slightly modified version of the pre-war 350cc MAC ohv model, similar to a machine intended for supply to the French government before the contract was cancelled.

There's more about the general history of the MAC here, in case you're not already familiar with the model. It was once of Veloce's longest-lived (and some say best-natured) motorcycles, and was built between 1933 and 1960.

The War Office tested a MAC in 1939 and requested some modifications to the machine's spec. French officials also observed the test and placed the first order for 1200 bikes but history overtook them and France was occupied before the order could be fulfilled. The consignment was appropriated by the British War Dept .

Velocette MDD 350: Better than original?.... Velocette MAC WD - MDD 350

Production of 1200 military singles, officially known as the MAC WD, with an MDD serial number prefix commenced in June 1940. Alterations from civilian trim included a lowered compression ratio, a tubular steel brake pedal and a cylindrical silencer to give more ground clearance than Velocette's standard fishtail type. As usual with WD models, bright chrome was not applied but rubber handgrips were specified. A severe rubber shortage following Japan's 1941 invasion of Malaya meant that later military machines had canvas grips. The headlamp mask meets blackout regulations for protection from air raids.

Girders: Made from Irn Bru.... Velocette MAC WD - MDD 350

By 1941 Velocette had created a more specialised machine, the MAF Armed Forces version of the MAC. It had a stronger frame, front fork refinements, revised cam profiles and a lower bottom gear. The Velocette MAF cost more than other WD machines, which is probably why an initial order for 2000 was cancelled after fewer than 1000 had been delivered. There's an apocryphal story that a shipment of WD MACs ended up at the bottom of the English Channel, sunk on their way to see service in France. However, this model's current rarity is more likely to be due to restricted capacity at the Velocette factory during the war years.

The performance of the military MAC was a little subdued compared to its civilian counterpart, yet a following wind would still propel it to around 75mph with help from its 15bhp 349cc motor.

Map of Africa, yesterday...
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The engine would have been revving past 6000rpm to achieve that speed, and a more realistic cruising speed would have been in the region of 50 to 55mph. The 350lb machine was braked by a seven-inch sls drum at the front and a similar six-inch item at the rear.

Most military Velocettes served on the home front and the NMM's MAC/MDD is restored in RAF blue, as documentation shows that it was supplied the Air Ministry Supplies depot at Hendon. After the war it was returned to the Velocette factory to be 'civilianised' and resold until time and tide took it to a new home in the Museum at Birmingham.

Velocette MDD 350: A Khaki bike on a khaki background, yesterday.... Velocette MDD 350 eBay project

Establishing the value of such a rare beast isn't straightforward. Very few MDDs are seen for sale; another restored example which was on display in a different museum was advertised earlier this year for sale at 6950. If you'd prefer to restore one yourself then the project pictured here has also been offered for sale (as recently as May09) for 2900. The seller is keeping another fully fettled MDD and was willing to help the purchaser with information and advice; the bike for sale came with matching frame and engine numbers and all 'the important parts'. It didn't attract any bids at that price however.

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The MDD is on display at the UK's National Motorcycle Museum, which you'll find on the M42/A45 junction.

The NMM is open every day from 10am to 6pm (except 24-26 December). Admission costs Adults 6.95, Senior Citizens 4.95, Children (under 15) 4.95, Family Tickets (2 adults with 2 children) 20. www.nationalmotorcyclemuseum.co.uk/museum


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