Wednesday, 27 February 2019

The Yorkshire Velocette Mafia - Part4

Kenny Reed
Kenny was another joiner from Hull, who again like Alan Coultas did not race his own machines. This indirectly allowed him to be both innovative and daring in his approach to the design and building of his Specials. For a rider, a machine had to be ready for the following weekend to race, but in Kenny's situation this was not the case. It is fair to say conservative and cautious were not words Kenny understood, his flair knew few bounds. From mono-shock suspension and link-forks, to transmission disc-brakes, there was very little that was not tried on his machines over the years.

Monoshock MK9 Reed Velocette

The basis of Kenny's bike was an ex Vic Willoughby Velocette KTT engine, which was both bored and stroked to give a full 500cc. It was affectionately known as the MK9 KTT.  Not content with just a mere capacity increase, the engine was extensively tuned and at one point used an inlet valve of over 2.125" diameter with a maximum lift of 0.6". To do this Kenny made his own camshafts and machined valves to suit, but the acceleration and inertia loadings played havoc with the valve train, eventually with dire consequences. However before this occurred the bike was very fast indeed and being light, had powerful acceleration to match.

Barry Robson on the final Reed Velocette

Barry Robson rode the machine to many good results before the KTT engine was removed, rebuilt and sold to the US. Kenny continued to use his by now quite revolutionary chassis, instead fitted with a Triumph twin engine.

So, we go back to our original question; is there something in the water of Yorkshire that attracts Velocettes to the motorcycle racing fraternity there? The answer is quite possibly yes – even into more modern times we have the Walker family Velocette specials that have been so successfully raced by Rob Walker in Classic Racing.

Rob Walker on the 675cc Walker Velocette

So just what was the attraction of a Velocette based 500cc racing machine to so many Yorkshiremen during the 1960s and 70s?

We have barely scratched the surface in this article, as there were a whole legion of other Yorkshire Velocette racers within the same period. From Bob Hirst and Ken Nanson to Stuart Cairns, all were doing their own thing. And perhaps that is the answer; here was a bike that was receptive to both modification and tuning. A machine that responded well to the time and effort spent in the implementation of ideas.

Put simply; buy a Manx Norton and it is all done for you. Buy a Velocette and the world is your oyster.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

The Yorkshire Velocette Mafia - Part3

Shaun Waters
With Mick Grant becoming a huge racing star on top level machinery it was no surprise that he no longer required the use of his Velocette. This was sold in 1972 to Peter Mercer from Allerton Bywater who raced it occasionally, but by late 1973 ended up with Shaun Waters of Sheffield. Shaun did not come from a racing background, but on his first day of starting work at the University of Sheffield he was introduced to Eric Stanbra. A close relationship followed, with Eric encouraging Shaun to start racing on….a Velocette of course. Initially Shaun raced a standard framed Venom for a season, built from parts discarded by Eric.

The ex-Stanbra Velocette

However it was upon the Grant Velocette that he started getting good results. Between 1975 and 1976 the bike was regularly on the leader-board, the highlights being winning the Batley Club 500cc Championship in 1974 and two 6th places at the Brands Hatch Stars of Tomorrow meeting.

Shaun Waters on the Grant Velocette at Cadwell.

The machine continued to be improved, with the STD Velocette swinging-arms that weighed almost as much as the rest of the frame, being replaced with a lightweight fabricated version. A novel two-plate clutch was manufactured and fitted to the machine, which finally addressed the Velocette Achilles’ heel of both slip and drag occurring at the same time. Shaun sold the Grant Velocette to an enthusiast from Canada mid-way through the 1976 racing season and as he was now racing Yamaha’s, this was meant to be the end of his association with racing Velocette’s. 
However, the fact he remained a close friend of Eric Stanbra meant it would only be a matter of time….and there was something somewhat special brewing.

4v Special Brew

Alan Coultas
Alan was a joiner by trade and long term Velocette enthusiast. He lived on Kirklands Avenue, Spring Bank West, Hull and it was here that he built some very interesting Velocette based specials. Alan made life hard for himself, in that he never raced or even rode his own machines, instead relying 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.
Alan basically built two Velocette Specials, the first based around a very light Doug Beasley frame intended for a 250cc KTT. This machine had a mildly tuned 500cc Venom engine along with a Prefix 12 gearbox, Velocette forks and a twin-leading shoe front brake. An AJS 7R rear hub and brake were fitted, Jim Lee alloy petrol and oil tanks, Fi-glass racing seat and a Peel Mountain Mile type fairing completed the build. 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 and was shelved.

Beasley framed Coultas Velocette

His second bike was built around a frame built by Bert Myers (also of Hull) for a Manx Norton and had been raced by his son Tony. The rolling chassis consisted of the MK2 frame, Norton forks fitted with a Yamaha TD1C front brake and a 7R brake at the rear. The now much modified engine from his first ‘special’ was considerably off-set in the frame to mate with a Norton AMC gearbox and clutch. Other than this engine Alan, used no other Velocette components. Stood on 18” rims, the bike looked very low and mean, to the uninitiated a Seeley MK3 lookalike. He also purchased the Campagnolo front and rear discs brakes that had been used on the Myers Manx. This consisted of a twin disc arrangement on the front and single on the rear, both being mechanically operated by cable. A five speed Quaife gearbox was now fitted and gave a useful improvement in race performance.

Big Al and the Myers framed Coultas Velocette

Over time the Campagnolo brake operating mechanisms were replaced with Lockheed hydraulic calipers and eventually the discs were also replaced with cast-iron items. The original Campagnolo hubs were retained. Alan also made his own drive-side crankcase halves. As you would expect from a joiner, the patterns were made of wood and included a larger main-bearing boss and stiffeners to the crankcase mouth. They also included the required off-set to allow for the AMC chain-line used. As the bike was further developed it became increasingly competitive, even at National level, highlights included Tony Myers lapping the entire field in the E.A. Lavington race at Cadwell and not being asked back! A queue of riders willing to put their leg across the bike included:- John Beney, Trevor Beharrell, Bill Clark, Wally Dawson, Tony Myers, Dave Saville, Alec Swallow and Shaun Waters.
Alan also built two 4valve Velocette engines for his Myers framed machine. The first was fabricated from a stock Venom head and used a clever ‘hinge’ arrangement to operate the pairs of valves via the standard rockers and cover. The second version was altogether more sophisticated and used a purpose made casting, the patterns being produced and pouring taking place once again in Alan’s garage. The machining of this head and associated valve-gear was carried out by his friend and excellent engineer Andy Fraser.

Andy Fraser and the 4v Coultas Velocette

The design incorporated many clever features such as a cast-in skull and separate exhaust port for each valve. It gave a useful increase in power throughout the rev range and was tested and raced by both Tony Myers and Shaun Waters. It’s Achilles’ heel however were the rockers and after several unsuccessful attempts to cure the problem, the project was sadly mothballed in favour of a much modified 2 valve Velocette part.

Monday, 25 February 2019

The Yorkshire Velocette Mafia - Part2

The Swallows  

Ken Swallow of Golcar near Huddersfield had been a keen racer during the 1940-s and 1950’s on an array of machines including a Scott, Nortons, an AJS 7R and a Matchless G45. He was also a motorcycle dealer for DOT and Velocette. Ken had 5 sons and it was no surprise that most took up racing.

Richard, Ken, Bill, Steve, Alec & Jim

This article will focus on Bill and Alec (twin brothers), but Richard had much success at the Manx GP on Aermacchi machines amongst others.
Given the Velocette dealership owned by their father, it was perhaps natural that Bill and Alec went on to race Velos. 

Bill started racing in 1968 whilst still at school. Bill was very fortunate to have the opportunity to use an engine that was the envy of the rest of the Yorkshire Velocette Mafia. Ken Swallow had obtained one of the special ‘squish’ engines that the Velocette factory built for use in the 1967 Production TT. The ‘squish’ Velo engine produced a true 45 BHP, so as supplied was some 12% more powerful than what could be extracted from most 2 valve Venom based racing engines used by others in the group. The engine Bill used had the number VMT803R. Apart from the squish head, piston and shorter barrel, the engine was pretty much standard Thruxton and ran on taper-roller main bearings. The barrel had one less fin to suit the squish piston, which was machined from a Manx Norton forging. Nimonic valves were used in both the inlet and exhaust.

Bill Swallow's home-made duplex framed Velocette

By 1971 Bill’s machine had a home built frame and Metal Profile forks, however handling limitations resulted in it being replaced by a Norton Featherbed item in 1975. At the same time a Quaife 5 speed gearbox and Oldani drum brake were fitted to his bike. Further development of the machine led to modifying the Featherbed frame by utilising a straight tube from the swinging-arm to the steering head. Later a single disc front brake was added which was originally made by Shaun Waters before being used by Alan Coultas (both of them having now opted for twin disc brakes).

'Scruffy Devil'

Bill had much success with his Velocette and raced it continuously until the late 1980’s. A highlight was probably Bill’s victory in the 1986 500cc Kennings Classic Bike Championship. Continuous development had continued during this period which included modifications such as mounting the oil tank under the engine and fitting a full fairing. In a Classic Racer test by Mac MacDiarmond in 1987, Bill’s Velo was christened the ‘Scruffy Devil’.
With Bill racing Seeleys, Aermacchis and Nortons from the late 80s, his Velo was mothballed for a good few years. In more recent times it has raced by his son Chris when starting his riding career and also latterly by Bill in classic racing events.

At the other side of the Swallow camp, in fact in his shed at the other end of his father's garden, Alec without the Works squish engine had to be a little more creative in his efforts to extract more speed from his racing Velos.
Alec started racing at the same time as his twin brother and served an apprenticeship at David Brown of Huddersfield after leaving school at sixteen. This broad engineering background put him in great stead when it came to putting his ideas into practice and allowed him manufacture all manner of components found on a racing motorcycle. From chain-driven OHC and DOHC Venom cylinder heads, to spine-frames, brakes and fairings; over the years he made them all.

Alec and his spine-framed machine - 1975 Southern 100

At first Alec raced a standard framed Velocette, but soon realised that losing weight was the way to go. His ‘Loch Ness’ spine-framed machine carried both petrol and oil within the main frame tube and had neither tank nor front downtube. The pair of AMC Teledraulic forks fitted to this machine had been taken from his father’s Matchless G45 when it was fitted with Earles forks in the late 1950s and were subsequently fitted with a Tickle front brake.

Alec on the spine-framed Velocette at Croft chicane.

Alec fabricated the distinctive fairing from a single sheet of alloy, before making a mould and laying-up his own ‘reduced height’ Mountain Mile type fibreglass fairing that he used latterly. He would regularly swap between pushrod/OHC/DOHC engines as trouble occurred in his never-ending quest for power. He competed on his Velocette Special in the Senior Manx Grand Prix every year from 1976 until 1980, using the spine frame in 1976, the DOHC in 1977 and the OHC fitted to a Seeley MK4 frame in 1980.

Seeley framed OHC Velocette - MGP 1980