Velocette Thruxton: A Tale of Two Fishtails

A father-son pair of 1966 Velocette Thruxtons gets a second lease on life.

| January/February 2013

1966 Velocette Thruxton
Claimed power
: 41hp @ 6,500rpm
Top speed: 110mph (130mph in racing trim)
Engine: 499cc air-cooled OHV vertical single, 86mm x 86mm bore and stroke, 9:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 375lb (168kg)
Fuel capacity: 5.1gal (19.3ltr)
Price then/now: $1,035 (est.)/$20,000-$30,000

A family operation, for 65 years the Velocette factory built high-quality but quirky motorcycles in Hall Green, Birmingham, England. The two sons of founder John Goodman (formerly Gütgemann) had opposing personalities. Percy, a speed enthusiast, developed some of the best race bikes of the last century while Eugene, a proponent of economical transport, designed 2-strokes and overhead valve singles. Interestingly, the ancestor of the ton-up Thruxton, the 250cc MOV, was designed by Eugene.

Despite its small size, Veloce Ltd., makers of Velocette motorcycles, was known for its advanced technology. The first positive-stop, foot-actuated gearchange on a production motorcycle appeared on the 1929 KTT. But the KTT and other overhead cam Velos were expensive to build. After the Depression hit in the 1930s, a cost-effective alternative was needed.

Eugene Goodman responded with the high-camshaft 248cc MOV in 1933. It sold well, and a 349cc version, the MAC, and a 495cc version, the MSS, soon joined it. Continuing Velocette’s tradition of innovation, the 1935 MSS sported automatic ignition advance.

The defining feature of the MOV, and subsequent versions of its single-cylinder engine, was the valve train. The camshaft, sitting high in the cases, spun off a series of gears mated with the crankshaft, and short pushrods operated the rockers atop the cylinder. Keeping the cam high and the pushrods short lessened reciprocating weight and improved valve control.

In 1939 England plunged into World War II and civilian motorcycle production stopped. Velocette built some military motorcycles based on a 350cc version of the MOV, but did not receive large military contracts like BSA and Norton did. As the war ended, Velocette was weakened financially.

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