V for Velocette

Despite what the French flourish of the name may imply, Velocette was a British manufacturer of motorcycles. Founded by an Englishman and a German called Johannes Gütgemann – who changed his name to John Taylor, and later John Goodman, after renouncing his German heritage! Together with his business partner William Gue, they set up Taylor, Gue Ltd in Birmingham in 1905, manufacturing rickshaws and providing cycle parts and services. One year later, they produced their first motorcycle, the 2hp Veloce; they liked the name so much they re-named the company after it.

  Ivor Christmas on a Velocette. Winner at the long distance race, the Hutchinson 100 at Brooklands in 1935

Ivor Christmas on a Velocette. Winner at the long distance race, the Hutchinson 100 at Brooklands in 1935

By the early 1920s, manufacturers were jostling for fame in the competitive racing world, but Veloce weren’t getting a look in up against names like AJS, Douglas, Rex-Acme and Triumph and countless others leading the pack. It was such great PR to be the maker of the winning bike in such a race, as seen in posters from the period, with marques listing their achievements for speeds, trophies and endurance records. The Isle-of-Man TT Races were the ultimate proving ground for motorcycle makers and this is where the firm set their sights.

It prompted son and engineer Percy Goodman to design a new overhead camshaft engine. It had to have a narrow profile to fit inside the existing frame which had accommodated a two-stroke engine, and the result was an extremely thin but very strong crankshaft capable of high revolutions without flexing. This new model was exhibited at the 1924 Olympia Show and it was obvious from the outset that this new design was capable of outstanding performance.

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  Above: FG Hicks on his 348cc Velocette in 1925. Winner of the 250cc and 500cc Brooklands Championships

Above: FG Hicks on his 348cc Velocette in 1925. Winner of the 250cc and 500cc Brooklands Championships