Saturday, 6 May 2017

The Coultas Velocette - Part 1



This blog relates to Big Al’s (Alan Coultas) original race bike, built in the mid 1960’s.

Alan Coultas was a joiner by trade and worked for thirty years at De La Pole Hospital at Willerby, Yorkshire until it closed in 1997. He lived on Kirklands Avenue, Spring Bank West, Hull and it was here that he built some very interesting Velocette based specials. Alan was undoubtedly a skilled craftsman, but also possessed an appreciation and understanding of what was required to make a successful racing motorcycle. In this quest he made life hard for himself, as he never raced or even rode his own machines. He relied instead on the feedback from various riders to develop and improve the bike, all of which was subjective. However, improve the bikes he did and in doing so carved himself a reputation as the ‘Big Man’ in more ways than one. A worthy member of the Yorkshire Velocette Mafia.

Alan was a motorcyclist at heart, with a great love for the Velocette marque. He used a Velocette Viper Clubman Mk1 as a means of daily transport, a bike that he purchased new and one he considered to be of far better quality than the models that followed. Many years later he purchased a Velocette Venom Thruxton and to quote Alan’s blunt words “tat from toe to tail, a bitsa using any parts they had in stock”.

MK1 Velocette Viper Clubman


Having entered a few races using a STD framed Velocette Venom, he soon realised that the overall weight of the machine was a big disadvantage on the track. Doubly so in short-circuit racing where the start is everything and there is very little chance to claw back time lost. In reading MCN on a Wednesday afternoon, he spotted a lightweight Velocette frame advertised for sale in London. After ringing and making sure it was still available, he set off after work on the Viper Clubman heading south. On reaching his destination and after inspecting the frame, Alan decided to purchase it there and then, primarily as it was the lightest thing he had ever felt. He put it on a train at King’s Cross that evening, to be delivered to Hull Station the following morning. Alan did not realise it at the time, but he had purchased a Doug Beasley frame intended for a 250cc KTT engine. This frame formed the basis of the first ‘Coultas Special’

Beasley framed Coultas Special
 

A mildly tuned 500cc Venom engine was fitted, along with a Prefix 12 gearbox. Velocette forks and a twin-leading shoe front brake were also fitted to the machine, but all the other components used were selected with the aim of saving weight. An AJS 7R rear hub and brake was fitted, Jim Lee alloy petrol and oil tanks, Fi-glass racing seat and a Peel Mountain Mile type fairing completed the build.


 

As a 500 the bike was very lightweight indeed, in fact time would to show it was too light. But at the time Alan was very pleased with his efforts and with the step-change in the results he obtained.

Big Al


In truth the frame was far too lightly built to handle the torque of a tuned Venom engine and soon started to show signs of distress. Although the Beasley frames are well gusseted, the thickness of these plates and of the diameter/SWG of the frame tubes, were insufficient for its current use. Cracks started to appear in both the gussets and main tubes of the frame, even the main spine fracturing mid-way along its length. Even allowing for repairs and additional stiffening, it was not long before the frame had reached the end of a serviceable life and as such was retired. This was not however the end of Alan’s racing exploits, in many ways the experience made him more determined than ever to build a bike ‘fit for purpose’.

So what happened to this bike?
Alan used the now much modified engine in his second ‘Coultas Special’ which he built around a Myers frame. This engine was virtually the only component used from his original bike and the rest of the machine was broken up and the parts used elsewhere. The frame was rescued by Velocette and KTT enthusiast Rob Drury, who being an authority on Beasley frames, knew exactly what he had found. The frame still showed all the damage from when it was used in the ‘Coultas Special’ and is most likely the reason it survived untouched. Rob acknowledged that the frame had no further serviceable life, but used it to produce a frame-jig and 5 copies to the original Doug Beasley design.
 
Coultas Special Beasley frame



Thursday, 27 April 2017

Colin Seeley: 1968 Racing Machines



The following is a short blog based on a period catalogue from Colin Seeley Racing Developments Ltd. In it are described the racing machines that are on offer for the 1968 racing season.

Colin Seeley purchased the manufacturing rights for the AMC racing models in October 1966. He also purchased all the existing stock, jigs, spares and drawings for the AJS 7R/Matchless G50 and 350-40M/500-30M Norton manx machines and started to produce his own 7R/G50 engined race bikes.


  


The basis of these machines was a lightweight frame conceived and built by Colin and his team at Belvedere, Kent. As both the 7R and G50 were of the same external dimensions, a common frame would be used for both in the 350/500 capacity classes. The frame shown in the catalogue is Colin’s original design, now commonly known as the MK1. However he was far more than a frame-maker and was rightly classed as a motorcycle manufacturer in his own right. He produced an improved version of the Norton Roadholder fork, dispensing with the often troublesome pinch-clamp on the NS stanchion and generally beefing up the design. He designed and built his own hubs and brakes, along with all the ancillary fibreglass bodywork required to complete the bike.





 

Clearly he bought in many other components like carburettor, magneto, rev-counter and Girling rear dampers. He was also initially an agent for Schafleitner 5/6 speed gearboxes, before going on to market his own PGT racing gearbox.




So how much did all this lot cost?

Well that is interesting. In 1968 you could avoid paying Purchase Tax on a vehicle if it was supplied in ‘kit-form’. Clearly this form of purchase was attractive to both the hard-up racer and to many low-volume manufactures. Most racing machines were in fact bought in this way. However, as George Harrison so eloquently put it in his song ‘Taxman’, Harold Wilson was having none of it and promptly closed that loop-hole.


 

Looking at the brochure there were many options as to how you could purchase your new machine. Whether it be a bare frame, a completely assembled bike or something in between, Colin would supply the necessary parts.


 

Looking back now it all looks exceeding good value.