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