Velocette 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.

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.

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

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…

I started racing in Adelaide in 1945 age 17 Associated with Les Diener (workmate) Laurie Boulter, Bill Watson, Ray Trevana, and all the S A riders of note. In summer 1948/49 Fergus Anderson came to Oz with a works 500 V twin Moto Guzzi , which was the lap record holder in the IOM by Omobono Tenni the year before. Plus the first 7R AJS in Oz and a works 250 cc Moto Guzzi Albatros, which was virtually identical with the machine Stanley Woods won the lightweight TT in 1936. This machine was in the historic lap on IOM in 1997 where I went with the great and late Arthur Wheeler…

…Fergus was soundly beaten in all his Australian races at Woodside S A Ballarat and Rowville by Les Diener, Syd Willis, Harry Hinton and others. I was at Woodside and Ballarat but not Rowville. I think Fergus said re Rowville “it was the fastest scramble he had ever ridden in. Fergus left the “Albatros” here. It was ridden by South Australians Les Diener, Bill Watson, Bob Reed, and Laurie Fox. In fact Laurie Fox was leading the lightweight at Longford referred to on another site when he lost concentration and slid off at the bridge. It subsequently took a lot of polishing to get the skid marks off the outside flywheel. Following that there was a blow up and the bits laid in the corner of his shed whence I bought them as a basket case in about 1970.

By 1988 with engineering help from the late Les Diener the Guzzi appeared again in mint condition. In 1991 Arthur Wheeler, who rode Guzzis most of his international career, was guest at Mallala Historics. Les Diener phoned me to see if I would bring the Guzzi for Arthur to demonstrate—which I did. Arthur wanted to buy it then and there, however I resisted and had a lot of fun parading it at Mallala, Phillip Island, Winton and Broadford over the years. I became firm friends with Arthur and finally agreed to swop the Guzzi for his 1948 MKVIII Velocette which he bought in 1949.

So Joyleen and I went off to the UK with Guzzi in a box and likewise bought the Velo back. We had great time based at Wheeler’s in Worthing.

Sad that Arthur left us aged 84 having developed an infection from a scun shoulder, a simple fall while out walking, after 60 years racing. We are still close friends with Ruby Wheeler.

I had a great time on the KTT, Pre war Aust Junior champ, Eastern Creek 2000, 2nd same at Mallala 2002, 2nd NSW champs 2002, 3 2nds Phillip Island Feb 2001. plus various other seconds and thirds at Winton and “old farts meeting at Mt Gambier” (KTT qualified as pre war as identical to 1939 model in appearance.)

At Mallala 2002 at age 74 I decided not to stretch my luck any more The KTT had an ultra high bottom gear, always hard to get off the line, not built for a clutch start, often my lap times were equal to or better than those in front of me, except the first lap-Bruped.” — Bruce Pederick

Arthur Wheeler at the end of Dundrod’s straight on a works DOHC 250 in 1952, note the enormous 8 gallon aluminium tank, held on with a third tube from the top of the steering head to the top of the seat tube, passing straight through the centre of the tank. Also of note is the lack of friction dampers on the lower arms connecting the fork yoke to the girders. These forks were apparently especially shortened to cope with the lower steering head position and the use of a 19 inch front wheel. Although I have never laid eyes on such they are said to have needle roller spindles and a hydraulic damping unit, and the bikes handled superbly.

Arthur Wheeler at the end of Dundrod’s straight on a works DOHC 250 in 1952, note the enormous 8 gallon aluminium tank, held on with a third tube from the top of the steering head to the top of the seat tube, passing straight through the centre of the tank. Also of note is the lack of friction dampers on the lower arms connecting the fork yoke to the girders. These forks were apparently especially shortened to cope with the lower steering head position and the use of a 19 inch front wheel. Although I have never laid eyes on such they are said to have needle roller spindles and a hydraulic damping unit, and the bikes handled superbly.

Now remembering that back in Australia in the off season of 1948/9 Fergus Anderson had been seen off in no uncertain way by a small brace of locally developed pushrod MOVs amongst these was your Les Diener. The fact that the MOVs racing in Australia and Godzone New Zealand, by our very own Joyce and McCleary Brothers of Christchurch, were at the sharp end of the game in the lightweight class, seems to have been lost on the factory. But not on the ever capable Les Diener who, although he never realized a dream to race his own bike at the IOM, must have been watching these results—including the new factory DOHC 250—with interest. Could it have been about this time the idea for the double cam top was brewing in his mind? It is of interest to note here that in 1951 Arthur Wheeler rode one of the new factory DOHC 250 machines which were essentially a MKVIII crankcase and head with the new double knocker top knot Bertie Goodman developed. These were interesting machines and were something of a cheap compromise toward where Norton and AJS were going with duplex frames and telescopic forks. They essentially took a standard frame, cut the cast steering head and top tube out, lowered the head position and used two top rails for support like the McCandless, with a third much needed brace running all the way through the inside of the whopping aluminium tank back to the seat post. 68 x 68mm bore and stroke the same as the pushrod production MOV, and reputedly a special magnesium shelled 5 speed gearbox to keep the little engine on song. Arthur got 5th in the IOM lightweight TT and 3rd in the Ulster that year.Arthur_Wheeler_pic_2

Arthur Wheeler in his heyday on KTT in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Arthur Wheeler in his heyday on KTT in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Arthur Wheeler at Kate’s Cottage, Isle of Man, Junior M.G.P. 1948.

Arthur Wheeler at Kate’s Cottage, Isle of Man, Junior M.G.P. 1948.

Back to Melbourne, where reputable “Vincent, Velocette, and Other Exotica” dealer and keen collector Franco Trento’s Eurobrit showroom, stood two shiny MVIII KTT’s for sale. I quickly realised what I was dealing with and made arrangements for the Wheeler Bike to come my way, having by the way first checked that friends Nick Thomson and Bill Biber would respectively engineer, tune and ride the thing. At this stage I did not know the back story and was pinching myself that this machine was even in this part of the world. That is all relative history now as KTT1041 arrived in New Zealand early in 2003 just in time to be part of the national register’s celebration of 100 years of Velocette. Bill rode the machine to immaculate and impressive wins in the NZCMRR national championships first in the vintage class and then factory racing, doing everyone proud and opening quite a few eyes along the way. To see how well the real thing could go, beating many and bigger bikes. It was something new to us having battled away for years with modified pushrod bikes, the KTT just effortlessly and reliably coped with the rigours, albeit of short circuit racing. I guess a decade and a half of development at the Isle of Man does that to keen men with a good design and some considerable ability.

Bray Hill, Isle of Man, Arthur Wheeler, Velocette KTT 1041

Bray Hill, Arthur Wheeler, and KTT 1041, coming close to bottoming both the rear Dowty Oleomatics and Webb girders.

Both Swallow’s Bill and Chris have ridden the bike continuing its winning ways, and even more lately myself. All of which encouraged the purchase and preparation of another MKVIII, one with perhaps a little less provenance that we could develop and race harder, enter KTT1079. So more to come then…

Bill Swallow aboard KTT 1041, Pukekohe Classic Festival, 2012.

Bill Swallow aboard KTT 1041, Pukekohe Classic Festival, 2012. Photo: Shaun Waugh

Chris Swallow aboard Velocette KTT MKVIII at the Hampton Downs Summer Classic 2015.

Chris Swallow aboard Velocette KTT 1041 at the Hampton Downs Summer Classic 2015. Photo: Shaun Waugh

hil Price flies the KTT MKVIII at top speed through the apex of the sweeper at Hampton Downs on his final class winning ride in the Vintage/Pre War category in February 2015.

Phil Price flies the KTT 1041 at top speed through the apex of the sweeper at Hampton Downs on his final class winning ride in the Vintage/Pre War category, Feb 2015. Photo: Shaun Waugh

Chris Swallow aboard KTT 1041, leads Cloud Craig-Smith (KTT 1079) to a historic Velocette 1, 2, 3, class win in the Honda Invercargill Street Races at the 2015 Burt.

Chris Swallow aboard KTT 1041, leads Cloud Craig-Smith (KTT 1079) to a historic Velocette 1, 2, 3, class win in the Honda Invercargill Street Races at the 2015 Burt. Photo: Shaun Waugh


CREDITS:


Archival images: Phil Price and Nick Thomson collections

Photography, Desktop publishing, : Shaun Waugh MagentaDot Brands