The Thruxton Velocette
was the final development of Velocette's pushrod single
- a machine that in essence dated back to the mid
1930s, but could top 110mph and still sip fuel at
an astonishingly low rate through its massive racing
Thruxton is a race track
in Hampshire - one of the many wartime airfields that
found a new use during the 1950s. Racing centred on
the endurance marathon for production machines, the
500-miler. The bikes were substantially catalogue
models and the entries were shared between two riders.
Over the years many British stars shone in the event,
including Dave Croxford and Percy Tait. Machines included
the racing Triumph Bonneville, the John Player Norton
Commando - and the Velocette.
Velocette singles evolved
slowly over the years. Their basic formula was laid
down by the 1934 250cc MOV, with the camshaft mounted
high up and the pushrods kept as short as possible,
while their narrow crankcase, slimline clutch and
outboard chain run dated back to the early vintage
days. By the late 1950s the machine had evolved into
the 350cc Viper and 500cc Venom which went on to set
the 24-hour speed record at an average of 100mph plus
- an enduring record.
In 1964 the high-cam
Velocette reached its ultimate development. The performance
of the Clubman's Venom at Thruxton led to the makers
offering a performance kit that included a special
head with 2in inlet valve and an enormous Amal Grand
Prix carburettor, plus oil and petrol tanks cut away.
Although the 1965 500-miler
was on an alternative circuit, the Velocettes dominated
the race, with Dave Nixon and Joe Dunphy. The model
soon found favour with sporting riders, for it was
a ganuine tuned roadster and was well able to cope
with everyday use.
Its finest moment came
in 1967 the year of the first Isle of Man Production
TT. In the 500 class, Neil Kelly took the race at
just under 90mph, as well as the fastest lap at over
91mph. Fellow rider Keith Heckles was second.
Only a little more than
1200 Thruxtons were built, although the relative ease
of converting a Venom meant that were several more
replicas constructed by private owners. In 1969 the
ignition system was modified to coil ignition, as
the traditional magneto had been phased out by Lucas.
This was effectively the awan song, for it bowed to
commercial pressure in 1971, still a genuine family
firm after 66 years.