Chris Swallow on the new twin cam Velocette Teratonga february 2018.

Building a works 350

Words by Phil Price

With the exception of a few gems from the BBC, free to air television is pretty much rubbish everywhere. Certainly this is true in Australia and New Zealand where I spend the bulk of time. I sadly admit to catching a few episodes of Australian Ninja Warrior, a kind of sports game show where pumped individuals test themselves against a kind of confidence course carefully designed to have them falling unceremoniously into the drink. The contestants get to have support from a friend or family member who runs along beside them offering advice on strategy, motivation, and often condolences should they fail. The failures are of course the best part, the crowd with hands over mouths, tears, the compères offering insincere condolences. It’s a fairly pathetic formula that apparently makes good tele. What becomes quickly apparent is the undeniable truth that there is a certain body type that is capable of scaling the obstacles and arriving in good time at the big red button. Its all proportional power to weight. The cute little one no matter how determined is not going to cut it with those short arms, neither is the over proteined upper body builder. Unsurprisingly it’s the wirey around 70kg — 1.7 metre types who without too much fuss and motivational pumping just get on with the business and get to the end quickly and efficiently.

Now then, if you are not interested in vintage and classic racing Velocettes best you sign off here because its only the power to weight analogy that’s of interest from above.

New Velo twin cam 350 engine and frame

Early days. Note the frame as per the factory late works bikes, a production bottom half, in our case a road front diamond with new duplex top tubes complete with removable brace tube

So, you are going to build the best ever 350cc Velocette road race machine capable of and specifically built to tackle the Isle of Man mountain circuit, the oldest, most respected and challenging motorcycle road race. You must stay faithful to the Velocette factory efforts and simply carry on where they left off. You can’t and don’t want to use many (if any) ready to go bolt on bits largely because that’s just too easy and waters down far too much the idea of this being a genuine effort. Plus you’re a kiwi so you’ll want to do it yourself the hard way.

Just about everything we get in or on these days has a double overhead cam engine, that is unless you are a clean green modern thinker committed to batteries not petrol, in which case you should also sign off here.

The very little yet capable racing department at Velocette’s designed and built two versions of a twin cam single cylinder junior engine for racing, nearly two decades apart. Neither of these efforts it could be argued were optimized for different reasons.

one of the three junior twin cams built for the 1936 TT

Peeking under that gold pinstriped black tank you can see the unique cam box, note the through tank rear mount necessitated as the engine is too tall.

The first debuted in 1936. Once the KTT engine achieved mechanical reliability during the twenties, valve control would have been the next big thing on the mind of Percy Goodman who would have been on his straps with business and highly committed to racing. He had already not only conceived, put into production and tested with great success in the preceding ten years the single overhead cam K engine but was already at the mk5 version of it.

Cambox hewn from billet

Cambox hewn from billet, new cast head, and freshly machined crankcases in magnesium.

Harold Willis was in charge of the race department at this time and his fertile mind and practical abilities both in the workshop and on the track would have been a key ingredient, and let’s not forget Charles Udall who I always pictured as something of an engineering oracle that no hair brained idea was going to get past. Add to this hotpot rider feedback from the likes of Stanley Woods who had become the first modern professional, controversially working with the Italians and riding the red devil Moto Guzzi to senior victory in 1935. He knew his mind and on it was the clear advantage of rear suspension. So in 1936 Velocettes come up with a brace of three what could best be described as superbikes of the era, double over head cam 350 singles with 4 speed positive stop gearboxes, as many magnesium castings as possible, gearbox, crankcase, wheel hubs and brake plates, this was fairly new and experimental even though Harold Willis called the stuff ‘electrified dirt’. Full loop frames, a rear swinging arm with air and oil suspension units the design of the former pretty much unchanged in your Thruxton.

We’d have to agree that the 1930’s was the most exciting for Velocette road racing both for design development, new materials, and a real spirit of progress. All fuelled and motivated by commercial successes from the factory and marketing efforts.

Possibly with war coming but for whatever reason the dohc was not pursued beyond 1936 even though Ted Mellors on the only rigid of the three built had had great success on the continent that year. The three engines were put back under the bench and eventually given to Frank Musset to take back to Australia, one of which formed the basis of the Sid Willis 250 twin cam on which he gained a creditable fourth? place in the 1953 TT. The factory pursued the single cam for 1937 which was in Ivan Rhodes’ words “as dull as dish water”. They got it wrong there is no doubt about that: the early ‘dog kennel’ and twin cam had steeper valve angles, the general consensus of the day was to go for deeper combustion chambers wider angles bigger valves and finning projecting out into the cool air, hot and heavy stuff, no red button for that ninja.

Fast forward through the war to around 1950. Velocette won the junior world championship in ‘48 and ‘49 largely on machines of prewar design similar to what took Stanley Woods to TT victory in the 1939 junior. Bertrum Goodman son of Percy is now in charge of the racing department following the unfortunate loss of Harold Willis. Percy himself is an old man and the racing budget is very tight with the board changing direction toward mass production of scooters. Just five special twin cam engines are built at 250 and 350cc using the MK8 as the basis and extensive use of magnesium. The other big change was a modified frame, using a MK8 frame as the starting point, removing the cast steering head and replacing it with a machined version from the LE project, lowered and with additional support from two near horizontal tubes a la McCandless and another angled brace all the way from the top of the steering head, through the tank to the seat tube. And for the first time a special 5 speed gearbox which no doubt helped keep the little engine on the boil.

Its worth making note of the climate of the two dohc efforts. Prewar the factory was relatively rich working with the “win on Sunday sell on Monday” philosophy, they steadily progressed technology and design year by year since the mid twenties on successes, the minds and hands that developed the K more or less from the beginning directly involved. Post war there were other factories throwing big money and progressing the racing motorcycle largely on the back of what Velocette and others had achieved. The Mk8 and factory pimped racing Velocettes were a highly developed machine that was advanced in the 30’s but not anymore. Money was very tight and Bertie while having some good ideas and encouragement from dad may not have been able to optimize and develop the thing properly.

So, you are back in the Hallgreen nae Ngaio kitchen choosing your ingredients. You have at hand one Nick Thomson, for this effort the most essential component as this cake won’t bake itself. Nick is a lifelong Velocette engineer extraordinaire so we’re in good hands whatever the ingredients.

Chris Swallow aboard the ex Arthur Wheeler Mk8, Burt Munro Classic, Invercargill Street Races, November 2015.

We know that a MK8 can deliver as an excellent vintage racer and if you read about our “hotrod” which is essentially a standard Mk8 with roller followers on methanol and a 6-speed Nova box nestled neatly into the original housing, oh and one Chris Swallow aboard. Unheard of and embarrassing for others (sorry JC) results came out of this combo here in NZ. My own unproven theory of its capable handling being that this bike had had a front on stove somewhere in its history in Victoria thus providing a few precious extra millimeters of trail. We had to ask the question what if this hulking 325lb motorbike could shed a few kilograms and have the girders reworked to optimize not only trail but essentially have actual hydraulic damping not just the normal tightening of friction washers so that nothing much moves up front? Would we then have a real ninja warrior vintage racer with power to match weight and good handling to boot? A combo capable of playing at the sharp end of any classic 350 field?

First outing for the twin cam Pukekohe 2018

First outing for the twin cam Pukekohe 2018, note the felt pen and masking tape tank livery, only the best at team Velo.The creator Nick Thomson stands astride the machine.

As you know the 73x81mm bore and stroke of the K never changed throughout its 25 year run, although the Rhodes’ believe there was at least one special engine near the end that had a short stroke. And history tells us when any British 350 was downsized to a 250, the short stroke version was always superior. Really to be at the high end of power output a short stroke has to be on the agenda, so after much musing about the highly successful Guzzi 350s at 75x79mm, a bore and stroke of 80x69mm was settled upon.

Raw head magnesium casting

Raw head casting thanks to Colin Quartly and Mace foundry of Christhurch

Now in making all these special castings I must send a very big thank you to Colin Quartly of Christchurch who followed our wish to have the patterns made very much along the factory lines, that is with the feeling of the handmade over something spat off a CNC mill. Colin must be the most experienced and capable patternmaker in NZ and the foundries all respect him which is quite a plus. Back to the cases, with the exception of a bigger mouth capable of the venom stud pattern and our desired bore we changed nothing, that goes for the gearbox too. At every turn we took the approach only to change a thing if it truly needed it, and one thing you can say about the early design on a Velo, it was mostly thorough and correct. On a KTT engine the oil pump bore which is a slight interference fit and is very close to the main bearing on the timing side, quite an achilles heel for the engine as most main bearing bores end up not being round even if they start out that way.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

Picking up where the factory left off in 1936, they made three special machines based on this engine, two with special rear swing arms for Stanley Woods and Ernie Thomas.

Nick had the good idea instead of attempting to strengthen the bore with an insert or even more extreme changing the centres, rather to reduce the OD of the bearing by choosing a needle roller but also and importantly to shrink in a slug of steel the same size as the pump prior to boring for the main bearing, so the hole is not round without the pump in but is when it is. This example of the depth of consideration is throughout this engine where every part has been handmade. The conrod follows the tested method of being one piece not having a pressed in big end ring rather a hardened surface of the actual rod itself. Remember the ninja, its all power to weight and if you can reduce weight anywhere you should and if you are building from scratch the opportunities are literally everywhere and for the taking.

Splined vertical connection rods

Goodies from the kitchen table, the factory always used an oldham coupling to drive the vertical shaft no doubt to save the head in case of a valve failure. Here Nick has chosen a splined vertical connection to allow for expansion.

So without every detail, the top knot much like the Eldee has been hewn from a solid billet of Alloy, this simply because he can and because the level of accuracy and consistency of quality material is guaranteed. Here again although it is one of the few parts not cast I’d like to mention and thank one Steve Howell of CH tooling in Melbourne, another enthusiastic old school totally capable guy on the magnesium, he says ‘I don’t know whats in the water over there in New Zealand but I make more maggy parts for kiwis than anything.’

Train of five gears

Train of five gears sitting along the top, note the vernier fitment to the camshafts for timing adjustment.jpg

Getting back to the cambox which is in itself a wonderful piece of form and function. Here I must explain our choice of engine. We went with the 36 thinking more than anything about weight, this design has the cambox bolted onto the head where as the later is one piece and really its superior to the later version not only because its much lighter, the path of thinking from the late 30s and into the 50s was to increase the mass of the head and extend the fins out into clear air, all very nice aesthetically as Velos demonstrated with the famous ‘Huntly and Palmer’ heads of the late 30s, but it weighs far too much and there are better ways to keep the thing cool. Not least of which being a ventilated exhaust port à la late two valve Ducati engines. Plus we wanted to stand the inlet tract and valves up more, we’ve got a good quarter of an inch skull cap around the combustion chamber but other than that the vintage exterior is bang on.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

Good ingredients! Largely a Velocette design but with flywheels in one piece and conrod with hardened big end eye, note the copper masking and expansion plug inside the parallel pin.

On the delivery of all this urge we’d have to go with what has been proven through years of short circuit racing in NZ. The synchroflex belt has been faultless with Nick milling both the engine and clutch wheels, the engine pulley in one piece with shoulders complete. If you could hold one of these parts in your hand for a close look its quite a thing. If it’s possible to have less parts to achieve the result then just do it, it’s less to fall off or go wrong. Once set these belts never and that means never need adjusting. The clutch similarly a tested item with aluminium pulley wheel and off the shelf Suzuki friction plates.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

Delivering the neddies to the gearox in this set up, one piece front pulley and here a complete hi tensile aluminium clutch wheel inner and outer, japanese plates off the shelf, synchromesh belt.

On this bike Nick has made a tool plate aluminium backing plate as well, with that 100kg dry weight in site. The Nova six speed with low first has been a success and again because we can and it’s better we’ve gone for the extended mainshaft. Put simply because on a Velo the drive sprocket to the rear wheel is outboard of the clutch the mainshaft gets a hammering, and quite often operates in a state of bending. With a new shaft extended we can have an inline reamed bore and needle roller outboard and kiss goodbye to any problems pulling the gearbox forward and nothing is under stress through the box casting itself, Nick learned this lesson on his quick Venom racer and while we’ve not bothered on the smaller bikes, but for this ‘little un’ we have high hopes.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

New magnesium gearbox shell, we changed nothing in the pattern, they got it right. Note the splined not cruciform take off, this is a nova six speen cluster with extension for outrugger bearing, ever wondered why your road bike mainshaft is bent?

What else, oh yes the frame is a nice piece of work. Ivan Rhodes loaned us a proper works example of this semi duplex item and we had a measure and a think. Now you’ve heard the stories and possibly even seen the photos of Stanley Woods testing weight distribution on the rigid dog kennel bikes by fixing a lump of lead to the downtube. The outcome of his involvement was twofold, the swinging arm and a steeper front downtube to get the engine more forward, and remember here that the action of the girder is largely forward in a kind of ‘S’ line so the front wheel can be very close to the down tube.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

Front end is mostly standard MKVIII to the eye excepting the brake is internal twin leading. The girder is all new with hi tensile taper tubes, cast steel lugs and needle rollers on all four pins.

Both these features were employed as standard on the MK8. On the late works bikes a 19 not 21 inch front wheel was used so there’s a bit more room to increase trail, plus we are not convinced about the advantages of the engine forward so choose a standard RS frame as our starting point. Chris and Nick drew up and modeled on a sheet of MDF the rake, trail and suspension travel of the girder with Chris coming up with the type of thinking we like which says we want the wheel to have constant trail everywhere on the suspension spectrum which should be in the order of 100mm so why not move the wheel through that trajectory and see if the arms and pivot points of the parallelogram either side of the steering head can accommodate this? The outcome interestingly can be achieved almost perfectly with the bottom pivot in the same place as standard on the centreline of the steering head and the top point moved forward and with a short arm. On a previous burst of enthusiasm on girders we had had punched by Southwards Tube Mills some sets of tapered tubes in 4143 grade steel.

New Velocette 350 twin cam

The factory used a rear unit up front in the fifties, here first out we have a koni unit. Note the non standard arm lengths and top yoke position delivering more trail and near to the rake parallel movement.

These in hand and with more patterns made for the lost wax steel casting process for lugs we were in business. Plus Nick went ahead and actually made what may have been a myth and that is ground pins and needle roller bearings for every junction on the girder. Everything is straight and true and with minimum friction, and did I mention rigid, wow this front end is impressively rigid compared to most teles. I’m compressing the level of effort required for all this, in particular the making of frame lugs offered reasonable challenges.

Mk8 style swing arm with the front lug machined from solid plate

Mk8 style swing arm with the front lug machined from solid plate, tapered arms, axle and suspension fitments as per road issue frames.

For example the swinging arm which we wanted to be pretty faithful to the MK8 which has quite a specific look and advantage over the RS frame version, that being the arms are connected with a strut between and just behind the pivot. The special lug for the frame down tube we had milled in two halves from solid steel with the goal of achieving even wall thickness everywhere. The special swing arm lug cut and milled from solid. Good friend and fast becoming Velocette royalty Pat Clancy spent a solid week fettling the latter just to be right, thanks Pat. Front wheel is standard late MK8 with our own brake plate with internal double leading shoe linkage and the rear hub in alloy.

There’s the ingredients boys, a blend of the two double overhead cam factory efforts, engine from the earlier and frame from the latter versions. A lot more than able to be described here has gone into this of course but how much time do you have? Outcome, a 100kg dry, cobby looking works replica. Lets go racing.

Signs from testing to date look positive. A pleasing outcome starting from the ground up making all new choices and combinations, not the usual compromised starting point.

Chris Swallow on the new twin cam Velocette Teratonga february 2018.

Chris Swallow on the new twin cam, Teratonga february 2018.

The very end of factory racing from-Velocette, this image may have been prepared for publicity or to get the reluctant board over the line to open the purse.

Built specifically for Chris to ride at in the Classic TT and as testament to the excellence Velocette had achieved many decades prior to the type of machines that are currently in use in these modern classic events. We are in no doubt there is unfinished business in terms of the development and optimization of the single cylinder junior twin cam Velocette racer and were keen to see what we can do with this package.

A slightly more complex competition than the ninja warriors on the tele, nonetheless with many a greasy pole to slip off into the metaphoric drink ahead of us.

My New Zealand Sojourns

—Bill Swallow

My New Zealand sojourns began in 2010 when I came over to join Chris and Jen for a few weeks. They had been living in an estate car but now had a shared rented house. Jen had a part time job but Chris was between teaching supply work,so off we went on a Dad and lad road trip which cemented my love of the country but also included visiting Hugh Anderson, Ken Mc Intosh and Les and Paul Delacy. Chris, on the recommendation of Miles Robinson who he had been riding a Manx for in England, had mailed his leathers to be stored at Ken’s and we had a very interesting few hours and were made very welcome when we went to collect, but with no offer of a ride forthcoming (any regrets Ken?), off we went to the Delacy shop. By chance, Neville Wooderson was there, and the rest for Chris is NZ racing history. I got on well with Les, and talked much about my Aermacchi racing days.

Bill Swallow and the Lawton aermacchi.

Bill Swallow and the Lawton Aermacchi.

With my appetite well and truly whetted, I retired from teaching and came back the following year for a 3 month stay. Les had been busy with his new babies and had built an Aermacchi. Stopping with Neville for a couple of weeks meant that I could get to Hamilton easily, and I spent quite a bit of time with Les working on and talking about the little pushrod beauties, and raced the first one at Taupo. After a steep learning curve for me on new machine and unfamiliar circuit, and with the bike still manifesting teething troubles, we got a win at the end of the meeting and Les has never looked back since. I am very grateful for the fact that he always has a bike for me, which was the case again this year.

Bill Swallow, Rider 82, 1962 Norton Manx, NZCMRR 2012 Classic Festival, Pukekohe Park Raceway

Bill Swallow, 1962 Norton Manx, 2012 Classic Festival, February 2012, Pukekohe Park Raceway.

Dave Kenah offered me a ride on his beautiful Manx, which gave me a win in my first race in NZ, went to Eastern Creek with the Kiwi team, generally finished 2nd to Chris riding Peter Lodge’s ES2, and persuaded Dave over more than his usual beer limit, to take it to the Isle of Man. (he has never forgiven me, but keeps going back, and Peter is taking the ES2 team there too in 2018!)

The other big experience of that second year was being invited to the Velocette rally by Cheryl and Neville Mickleson. I did hundreds of miles on a range of great bikes, notably Neville’s Venom, and engendered a relationship with the racing Velo fraternity, primarily Nick Thomson, Phil Price et al,from which came a ride on the unique 250 Eldee Velocette.

So New Zealand has become a second home, full of what appears to be now old friends, and I will keep on returning as long as I can do so, which conveniently brings us up to 2018.

A very ambitious plan by the Price/Thompson Velocette team to take the Eldee for me and a 350 for Chris to the Classic TT is underway. Three years ago I rode the 250 in the Junior Classic in the Isle of Man. Isle of Man Classic T.T. Junior Race. Bill Swallow tipping into The Creg aboard Eldee 2, 26 August. A2 Landscape Poster. Photo Credit: Dave Kneen manxphotosonline.comThe Manx fairies were not kind and after a troublesome practice we stopped on the 2nd lap. But subsequent rides at Pukekohe have shown it to be pretty well sorted now. I was beaten into 2nd in the first race this year by a Benelli 2 stroke twin, to be expected really, but then went faster than I had ever done to take the next race, before the meeting was unfortunately stopped due to bad weather. It is such a lovely bike to ride hard, handles impeccably with its Manx rolling chassis, has good brakes and a fault free gearbox. I could take it full bore all the way from the Hairpin, up on to the start straight, and round Turn 1, carrying enough speed to ease away from the faster strokers. So I am looking forward to another TT. Problems with fairing, seat and general riding position the last time have been addressed, and Phil Price has the bike in Lyttleton to rework all that.

But it is the 350 that is really exciting. It will be an exact replica of the 1951/2 Works bikes, as ridden by Les Graham, Bill Lomas and others. It has an engine based on the pre-war DOHC works motor, generally acknowledged to be better than the post-war type (difference of opinion amongst Velocette management and the untimely death of genius designer Harold Willis meant that the 1936 works motor was shelved, much to the disgust of Stanley Woods who knew it was better, but it has now been resurrected by that Kiwi genius, Nick Thompson).

Nick has actually made it—all of it. Last year he borrowed the Works frame from Ivan Rhodes in Derby (I took it back as hand luggage!) and fabricated a new one, very authentically as it uses typical brazed lugs, including swinging arm. The motor has been carved from solid, in effect, gears, cams and all in Ngaio, the tank is laminated by Phil to replace the heavy steel unit, but the forks are the pièce de résistance. Velocette, the first company to put a swinging arm on the rear of their racing machines, before the war, when Nortons and others were using the horrible plunger system, finally fitted tele forks in 1952. The riders didn’t like them and asked for the girders to be refitted; which is what the Thompson 350 will have for the Island. They are authentic copies, but use a modern single hydraulic spring unit. However, Chris did some drawing and model making, and found that he could replicate the wheel action of a telescopic fork and obviate the loss of trail that occurs with the typical girder movement, so it has top and bottom links of different lengths, not quite parallel, nor pivoted on the same axis. A lot of new stuff there, and you never take an untried bike to the Isle of Man. So it had to be tested as soon as, and the Festival at Puke was the target. I landed from the UK and had no time for jet lag, spending the rest of the week along with Phil, Pat Clancy (ex-NZ resident,now back home in Cornwall) at Nick’s, welding brackets on, fitting tyres, tanks, mudguards, number plates, making an exhaust system, etc. It ran for the first time the day before we left, and actually sounded great while it dumped a pint of oil on the deck—no oil filter drain plug, which then had to be made!

Bill Swallow aboard Eldee, Teratonga february 2018

Bill Swallow aboard Eldee, Teratonga, Burt Munro Classic, February 2018.

Chris ran it in at the Festival, suffered clutch slip, but reported no handling problems and said the motor felt strong; I did my stuff on the Eldee, rode my usual long stroke Aermacchi for Les (he has Zurrin Wiki on his super short stroke this season). Last year he had it really sorted and I cleaned up, but he has been experimenting with a short con-rod which he wanted me to try. Aermacchis already have a short rod/stroke ratio, and this did not work. However, he took everything on board and I am looking forward to being up the sharp end again next year; thanks, Les.

Back to Wellington with a day to sort everything out before we set off to the Burt Munro week all the way down at Bluff and Invercargill—my first trip—which meant we had to hit the road from Puke and miss the prize presentation, a great shame. (the Scottish Classic club have a similar problem with their 2 day meeting; people have a long way to go home, and work on Monday for most, so they lay all the awards out at the Paddock gate in advance and do the presentation straight after the last race—food for thought)

The trip to the South involved a marathon van pack. Nick and I were joined by Graham Peters for the drive down. He had his Gold Star (and a spare bike!) and the Eldee, the new 350 and the Wooderson BSA had all to be fitted in. We hit the road first thing Wednesday, ferry to Picton, always beautiful down the Sounds, and then ambled through the rolling South Island to camp with Phil and Pat at Lyttleton for the night. They would fly down to Queenstown and hire a car, Chris and Neville were also to fly but on Friday after work, and also joining us would be Graham’s wife Janet by plane too. Graham had organised great accommodation in Bluff, initially above an art gallery, and then a move to a larger typical old colonial residence when the team arrived.

My role was to give the new 350 its first real competitive outing on the Bluff hill on Thursday. I thought I had better go and have a look at it, so got my trainers on and went for a run. I soon found how bloody steep it is, but was pleasantly surprised that it was wider and better surfaced than expected, plus it was not forecast to rain! Graham is an expert, having ridden at every single Burt since its inception, and I wasn’t expecting miracles, but felt reasonably confident; but how would the new forks handle the bumps? My experience of girder forks on a range of bikes over the years is that generally they behave like a pogo stick, or patter, or make the bike weave, or go into tank slappers. These didn’t. Straight away it was apparent that they absorbed the bumps very compliantly and, notwithstanding the lack of any steering damping mechanism, the worst it ever did was shake its head but then straighten up immediately; I have undoubtedly ridden far worse tele-sprung bikes. Practice showed overgearing, and I was really enjoying the first proper run when it suddenly cut out accelerating hard up the long straight. Shutting off and playing with the throttle brought it coughing back to life somewhat, and it was fine riding back down, so probably not ignition. I said to Nick that it felt like fuel starvation, that the float bowl was emptying. Flow from the taps was more than adequate. It had a big main jet for methanol, so the problem had to be somewhere between the two. After the same problem next run, we did some flow tests through the carb., and found a significant difference with the standard Amal plastic filter removed. The last run was good, bike went well, and I had the lines sorted; 59 seconds Nick reckons may be the quickest by a 350 Classic.

Bill Swallow, Eldee Velocette

Bill Swallow takes a moment between races at Teratonga, The Burt 2018. No more kneeling at the BSA alter required for Neville Wooderson, Chris took this machine to a 100mph race average at the Classic TT 2017, fastest ever for a BSA on the island.

Friday was practice day at Teretonga. What a great circuit, with many similarities with Pukekohe, fast sweeping bends and a long straight. Nick had geared the Eldee up, but the straight is no longer really, and the entry corner is slower, so it was a bit tall. But we were the only 250 in the race, up against big twins and G50s so all I had to do was enjoy the ride. The main job was to evaluate the 350 properly. No problem now with fuel starvation, showed that it has a good strong engine, at least as fast as the Delacy Aermacchi I would think, but the handling was a revelation. It has an Avon ribbed 19inch front and an 18 inch AM26 front tyre on the back (one of Dave Kenahs cast offs). I could ride it hard with the suspension working well with no trace of any of the typical girder fork vices, and Chris proved this the following day when he won every race for girder forked bikes with ease, even apparently having the legs on 500 Rudges and 1000 Indians. Well done Nick; good straight out of the box! I had a lot of fun on the Eldee, getting left off the line and catching up on the infield, finally scrapping with Aussie Danny Aherne on his G50, always getting past and exiting the last corner in front, and always getting passed before the line!

Chris Swallow rounds turn 2, Invercargill Street Races, November 2015.

The famous street race is now in Invercargill. It didn’t look very enticing with its fencing and barriers and straw bale chicanes. We got three laps untimed practice under a yellow flag and then straight into 5 qualifying laps, and that was it, as someone dumped oil all around the circuit in the first race (which Chris won on the 350) and the organisers deemed it impossible to continue. I can’t say I was sorry.

Janet wanted to go back in the van so I flew back with Chris and was back in Wellington on Monday morning. I have done a lot of work with Nick on the 350 since, and I am confident that it will raise a few eyebrows in the Island. I am away home now; I left an Aermacchi engine on the bench which needs finishing, and need to acquaint myself with a 460 Ducati,the Team’s next project.

Thanks to all my friends in New Zealand; great people in a great country. I will be back.


Velocettes 1, 2, 3…

Velocette 1949 catalogue back cover.Velocettes crossed the finish line 1st, 2nd, 3rd at the Burt Munro Challenge 2015. This would not have been an unusual sight on the racing circuits of England and Europe through the 1920s 30s or even late 40s. However Invercargill in November 2015 at the bottom of the world in New Zealand? An unlikely treat for those with a taste for vintage racing motorcycles. Phil Price picks up the story.
Keep on reading!

Big Velo 500, Bill Biber, Bluff Hill, Bluff HIll Climb, Burt Munro Challenge, Flagstaff Road, Motupohue, New Zealand, NZ Hill Climb Champs, Rider 4, Velocette

The Burt 2015

Initial enthusiasm for a five pronged cam attack on the South Island were reduced by a small chunk when guest Cam had unavoidable wrist surgery in the diary that weekend. So it was with these four overhead cams that Team Velo departed for battle at the Burt Munro Challenge 2015: KTT MKVIII No. 1041 ex Arthur Wheeler, KTT MKVIII No. 1079 ex Leo Andrews, 1934 MT5001 ex Bill White The Big Velo, KTT MKIV. Cocking talented and somewhat battle scarred legs over such splendid machinery was Squadron Leader Price, Brigadier Biber, returning to active service, Captain Craig-Smith and Squaddie Swallow. Tank Commander Thomson of the Royal Engineers had our backs and over the top we went, showing no fear in front of the Southern enemy and not selecting top gear until seeing the whites of their eyes. Etc. Right, enough of that. Keep on reading!

Velocette KTT 1079

Phil Price tells the back-story on the Velocette MKVIII KTT 1079.

Image: Cloud Craig-Smith rounds the sweeper at the Teretonga circuit, 2015 Burt.


A pretty pair with Eldee2 in background.

Factory records only note this machine, quite late in the production of post war MKVIII KTT’s was a new export direct to Melbourne, Australia. Not much has surfaced about its history between then and my acquiring it at a Bonhams auction on the eve of the Rugby world cup final, hosted in NZ 2011. Eldee2 has taken most of our enthusiasm since then but this year the dust was blown off 1079 with the intention we always had for this bike which was to develop it a little more than the famous and well documented 1041 from Arthur Wheeler. The few connections I have made into Velocette folk in Australia tell me Leo Andrews, the owner and restorer of this KTT for some 3 or more decades and who’s estate was being auctioned that spring day was a fine, capable, and knowledgeable chap. Certainly the bike appeared to be correct with all essential bits there, evidence of many hours spent on detail fixings mostly correct. As per usual on Velocette restorations the visual appearnce of the bike was let down by the seat, guards, exhaust pipe, and bars. So while Nick Thomson set to on the all important mechanicals I appointed myself on getting these details more as they should have been in the day. Keep on reading!

Velocette KTT 1041

Velocette minutia aficionado Phil Price tells the back-story on the Velocette MKVIII KTT 1041.

Feature image: ‘Local’ man Bill Biber in resplendent purple and silver LEDA leathers, touting his sponsor ‘Royston Vasey’. This shot is from the second Burt Munro challenge where he left the girder fork class in no doubt that a Velocette is faster. Factory records from 1949 show KTT 1041 going to English dealer, privateer, and factory rider Arthur Wheeler (5 August 1916–16 June 2001). I never met Arthur although he had been to New Zealand at least once. No doubt was known to the factory and Goodman family and had a lifelong interest in racing Velos and Moto Guzzis. Anyhow, the provenance of 1041 seems to be that Wheeler Motors of Epsom, Surrey took delivery April 1949. Arthur sold the bike in June 1953 and this seems to stack up as he rides a 350 Velocette in some of the European Grand prix events 1949–1952. 1950 is a good season where his best results appear to be 12th at the Isle of Man, 16th in the Netherlands, and 10th at the Ulster respectively. Ivan Rhodes recalled that 1041 was one of the few KTT’s that could pull a ____ tooth sprocket on the island. He bought the bike back from its single second owner one Adrian Deverell of Surrey in 1962 and kept it until 1998. Where he swapped it for another of his passions a works Guzzi. Certainly when the bike appeared in Australia many years later it sported a rather special 9000 rpm Smiths chronometric rev counter, sadly this was no longer united with the rest of the machine when I bought it in Melbourne in 2002. Seeing this machine in Australia was quite a surprise and here I will let Bruce Pederick of South Australia pick up the story as there are good connections… Keep on reading!

Velocettes at the Burt Munro Challenge 2015

The racing for the Classic Pre ‘63 class (with and without girder forks), including Phil Price’s superb collection of original Velocette racing machines, covered 3 of the Burt’s 6 events at the tenth anniversary Burt Munro Challenge. Kicking off proceedings on Thursday 26th November with the Bluff Hill NZ National Hill Climb championships, the Teretonga Circuit Races & Practice Day spanning Friday–Saturday and culminating in the hugely successful new Honda Invercargill Street Races on Sunday 29th.

The VRNZ Classic Velos competed in the Pre ‘63 (with girder forks) Class along with Neville Mickleson’s KTT, Rudges, a Triumph and an Indian and other famous marques pictured in the galleries below. Several riders from the VRNZ camp also raced machines in the Classic Pre ‘63 class, and the Post Classic Pre ‘72 class, galleries of those classes at the event are included below. The trio of cammy 350cc KTTs and the Velocette “Big Velo” 500 are featured in the Classic Pre ‘63 with girder forks slideshows at each event, the galleries of all the other bikes in the Classic Pre ‘63 and the Post Classic Pre ‘72 classes, including the Eldee Velocette, are in labelled galleries. There are also galleries of scenes below from the  Classic Pre ‘63 motorcycle pits and Dummy grids. Completing the photographic project documenting the event another page of photo galleries of all the other classes will be published soon over at MagentaDot Brands. This will chronicle all of the Classes of motorcycles that raced at the 2015 Burt in the events listed below. There is also a selection of shots of motorcycle pit culture, the support teams, machines and the crowds in and around the four day festival of events. I’d like to extend a vote of thanks to all the riders who put it all on the line, their support crews, the event marshalls, organisers, admin and sponsors that made the 10th Burt the festive, thrilling spectacle that it is. Finally kudos to Wellington Velo man Nic Thomson for the outstanding achievement of developing, race prepping and fettling the four Classic Girder Velos that achieved so many historic wins at the Burt and finally acknowledge the remarkable fact also that all bar-one both started and finished every event entered over the four thunderous days in November.
Keep on reading!

Isle of Man Classic T.T. Junior Race. Bill Swallow rounds The Bungalow aboard Eldee 2 during practice. A2 Landscape Poster. Photo Credit: Russell Lee/Sport-pics

2014 Eldee 2 at I.O.M Classic TT Journal

Feature Image: Isle of Man Classic T.T. Junior Race. Bill Swallow rounds The Bungalow during practice. Photo Credit: Russell Lee/Sport-pics. Written by Nick Thomson, November 2014.

Travel itinerary map, Christchurch to Isle Of Man.I DELIVERED ELDEE-2’s new aluminium crate to Lucas Palmer at Auckland Airport with assistance from Ken Macintosh a few weeks before the Manx. At 280 kg, it was packed with all the tools and spares we could think of including the original Eldee 2 motor. It took 36 hours to get to the U.K. where it was received by Andy Farrow who kindly delivered it to a depot in Somerset where Velocette Owners Club member Will Wells picked it up.
Keep on reading!

Megaphones at the Isle: Racing IOM Classic TT 2014

Republished from New Zealand Bike Rider Magazine, November 2014. Words: Chris Swallow | Photos: wpfotos, Dave Kneen (, Russell Lee, (Sports-pics), and Fent

New Zealand Bike Rider Magazine’s classic scribe, Chris Swallow, shares the trials, tribulations and unscheduled beer breaks that are all part of the ultimate classic race…

You’re in the middle of a hot practice lap, scratching away as best you can around, say, Hampton Downs and you miss your apex into turn 1 by a foot, you’ve got to roll off with the right hand and momentarily wait. Just over a minute later, on the next lap, subconsciously aware of your previous error, you get it did right, the bend unfolds sweetly before you and you open the throttle in the knowledge you’re online, the exit is yours in that bend’s in the memory bank for the next lap, and the next. Picture the circuit where you can’t see your apex as you approach it, travelling at a speed that is faster than your race bike has ever been before, you miss you apex by a foot and then have to wait 37.73 miles to have another go at it. When you arrive there again around 22 minutes later… Bollocks! You make the same error, have to roll off the throttle, and then it’s back to the pits as the practice session is over for the night. The allure of trying to ride the Isle of Man TT circuit well entices hundreds of racers each year to a small rock in the Irish Sea.
Keep on reading!