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Velocette LE

Velocette LE 1971LE Velocette1963 Velocette LE

One of a number of post-war designs aimed at producing everyday transport for everyman, the LE Velocette owed little to convention and featured many interesting concepts. But although it enjoyed a production run of some 16 years, like all its peers that dared to be different, the little Velocette was ultimately unsuccessful, never meeting its maker's optomistic sales targets.

In the early post-war years, the bulk of Velocette's production consisted of updated versions of their pre-war pushrod models, the MSS and MOV. But in 1948 the firm unveiled the new design that would take their place. Literally, for the model that Velocette were introducing was designed for mass production and building it needed all the space the factory could provide. Its design owed little to anything that had been seen before. The frame was a pressed steel box which offered the same advantages that had been seen in the car industry, of quick, cheap and strong construction - albeit with the disadvantages that it was costly to tool up and difficult to change design.

The telescopic forks and the rear swinging-arm suspension were state-of-the-art, with shock absorber units that could be moved in curved upper mounting slots to change the spring rate and damping - a Velocette patent.

Cleanliness and convenience were important features of the design, which was intended to appeal to people who would not consider a conventional motorcycle. Voliminous mudguardsm built-in legshields and and footboards looked after the clean lines, while convenience included built-in luggage capacity, a hand starter kever (matched by a hand hearchange on the early models) and shaft drive housed in one leg of the swinging arm.

The model name LE stood for little engine, just 149cc when it first appeared, the Velocette fitted most of its designers objectives, but although the engine was east to start, its performance was decidedly limited. In 1950 the LE was redesigned. It now had a 192cc engine with some internal modifications, developing 8bhp.

Sales were slow and what kept the LE in production for so long was its appeal to the police, who found it a perfect choice for urban patrol work. This led to the nickname 'Noddy' bikem supposedly as the result of a directive that police patrolmen meeting a superior officer should nod rather than salute, which would have meant taking a hand off the handlebars.

A luxury version, called the Vogue, failed to catch on - a fate that also befell the Valiant in 1956. The LE was sold in small numbers into the late 1960s, but long before this, the disappointing sales had forced Velocette to return to building conventional motorcycles, a range that would outlast the LE by over a decade, although the last police 'Noddy' bikes remained in service until 1971.

Velocette LE

  • Years in production - 1948-68
  • Engine - horizontally-opposed side-valve four-stroke twin
  • Bore and Stroke - 50 x 49mm
  • Capacity - 192cc
  • Power - 8bhp @ 5000rpm
  • Top speed - 52mph