Cutaway Classic Motorcycle Engines

A collection with a view
By Phillip Tooth
May/June 2010
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Herb Harris is also the current custodian of Rollie Free's "Bathing Suit Bike" - the 1948 Vincent Black Lightning that Free took to an absolute motorcycle speed record of 150.313mph on Sept. 13, 1948, wearing only a bathing suit, blue "pudding basin" helmet and a borrowed pair of cotton beach shoes.
Photo by Phillip Tooth
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Of BMWs and Velocettes

A Florida subscriber reminisces about his Velocettes and BMWs.

Walk into Herb Harris’ gallery and the first thing you see is a gorgeous Velocette Venom Thruxton. And while you may have seen one before, there’s something distinctly different about this Velo. It takes a moment to register, but then it hits you: This Velo is see-through!

And once you realize what you’re seeing, you won’t be able to take your eyes off it as you look through the engine cases at the flywheels, cams and followers, piston and rings, the carefully sectioned gearbox, and the gaping hole in the gas tank that reveals rockers and pushrods. The forks, rear shocks, muffler, brakes — even the infamous Velo clutch — have all been carefully sectioned and polished.

This particular Thruxton started life as a sectioned Venom in the 1950s, but when the clubman’s racer Thruxton was launched, the 500cc single was updated for the Earls Court show with new tin ware and engine parts. When the Goodmans, owners of Velocette, closed the business in February 1971, the sectioned Thruxton was moved into the family home. Simon Goodman, great grandson of founder Johannes Gutgemann (a German who anglicized his name to John Goodman), recently restored it for Harris’ collection: “I don’t think anyone has produced a better sectioned display motorcycle than this. Britain’s National Motorcycle Museum wanted it, but I clinched the deal first,” Harris says, obviously pleased with his purchase.

Cutaway collectionThe Velo’s not the only sectioned machine in Harris’ Texas gallery. Lift your eyes from the Thruxton to the surrounding room and on a bookcase cabinet you’ll find a sectioned Ariel Square Four engine. To the left of that sit a pair of Triumph twins, to the right a Vincent Black Shadow engine, and behind you a filleted Burman gearbox. And at the far end of the room there’s even a sectioned BSA DBD34 Gold Star sitting on a stand that announces it is the “New for 1956” Earls Court Motor Cycle Show Model. And there’s your clue for the “why” of these sectioned engines; they were made back in the glory days of the British motorcycle industry to take center stage at shows around the world.

Herb Harris is a Texas lawyer by trade, but a motorcycle enthusiast by passion. His fascination with tracking down and collecting cutaway and show engines started about 15 years ago when he decided it would be nice to have one to display in his office. Things kinda got out of hand, as one engine led to another; Harris hasn’t stopped looking for interesting cutaway engines since.

Order the May/June 2010 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read this article in its entirety. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 








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