Wednesday, 9 May 2012

OHC Velocette – it could only be in a shed in Yorkshire

I was ferreting around West Yorkshire, when I ended up next to the Emley Moor radio mast. When I see that mast it means only one thing, I must go and call on an old friend who is in the vicinity.

When I think of Velocette ‘Specials’, bikes made in Yorkshire spring to mind. When you think of Yorkshire Velocettes, the name Swallow also springs to mind. If you combine Yorkshire, Velocettes and Swallows you end up with some interesting machines indeed.
Alec's badge of honour

The Swallow name is synonymous with Velocette, due to Ken Swallow being a Velocette dealer for many years in Station Road, Golcar. It was one of Ken’s son’s Alec that I went to visit.

As the van was parked on the main Kirkburton road, I immediately heard a single cylinder fire into life. Knowing this could only be Alec, I had to run to his house before he disappeared off on something tasty.

It was indeed Alec who had just finished sorting a Velo for a customer of his and was about to ride off to Leeds to deliver it. Seeing as we had called, Alec was quite happy to delay the trip so we could spend half an hour or so in the shed.
The Velo Alec had just finished rebuilding for a customer

If you asked Alec how he spends his time, he would probably say “pottering”. Now if Alec’s time is spent pottering, it is the sort of pottering I approve of!

Every time I visit Alec he seems to have been up to something new. Alec ‘s engineering work is not in the style of many – i.e. open up the cheque book and pay for a collection of parts. Alec is a man after my own heart – he enjoys building specials, and he does it himself. After all this is Yorkshire.

It was only a quick trip to see Alec, so I only got chance for a brief natter and to take a few photos of what he’s been up to. To quote Alec, “it’s not one for the purists” – and that is what makes it far more interesting!
Always something exciting to see - Alec's new SOHC Velo

The basis for the engine is a trusty Venom, but it is fair to say it looks a little different. When you consider that Alec has re-vamped the valve train and converted the engine to a SOHC setup, it is quite remarkable that the engine still looks so similar to a standard Venom. It is a neat setup that Alec has come up with and is pleasing on the eye. The camshaft is driven by a chain running from the original cam gear in the timing case, which still provides the required 2:1 reduction. This means that an equal number of teeth can be used on the drive sprockets, which in turn allows the chain-wheel in the head to be of a small diameter. This makes for a light and attractive looking top-end.  You might notice that ‘mk3’ is stamped on the cam chain cover – and for good reason. Alec has built two over-head-cam Venoms before – one a DOHC and one a SOHC.

 You see what I mean about Alec liking to do things himself?

 These earlier machines were built during Alec’s racing days in the 1960/70’s. It was not just special engines that were made during this period, as he also built his own frames (including a spine frame for a Velo based upon the Loch Ness monster) and built his own fibreglass fairings, tanks etc.

It is not just this new mk3 SOHC Venom engine that Alec has been working on. He has fitted the engine in a standard Velocette frame, which he has had to modify to accommodate. I was really impressed to see that Alec had made all the moulds and then done the fibreglass work for the tank, seat and oil tank on this bike. You will also see the interesting brake on the front of the machine. This is another leftover from Alec’s racing days, which uses a hydraulic conversion brake plate in a Norton hub.
A very neat looking machine
Alec's very nice hydraulic brake conversion

So that was my short trip to see one of the characters of the Yorkshire Velocette Mafia. It was only a fleeting visit to Alec’s so I have only kept this post short. But next time I am up I will go into a few other Velo specials that Alec has made over the years.
Alec even made the tanks, seat and mudguard for his new special


  1. What a great project! And welcome back Mr. Ferret!
    Jim A., Tucson,AZ

  2. Thanks Jim. Alec does always tend to have some great projects on the go.

  3. Great inspiration! His craftsmanship is beautiful!

  4. That looks like a fun project. Can you show us more photos when he gets the bike on the road?