Friday, 6 January 2012

Velocette Viper

Number One daughter with stepfather’s Velocette. The Velocette Owners’ Club magazine thought it a bit racy for elderly members, so here it is in Dddy’s Blog. Stepdad Roger has a collection of good motorcycles and his 350cc Velocette Viper, first registered in the West Riding of Yorkshire on 12 June 1961, is restored to original specification. It has the larger and shapelier Clubmans’ fuel tank and Hagon shock absorbers. Charlotte’s crash helmet (below) is Roger’s 1979 Griffin Mark II Clubmans and the riding jacket and trousers are original Lewis Leathers (for women) which R believes are becoming collectable, “ but then isn't everything?!”

She looks better in leathers than he does.

Velocette, says Roger, was the first to manage 24 hours at 100mph on a production machine with a 500cc Venom, beating BMW to it at Montlhéry. The Viper was less successful and failed due to mechanical trouble. In 2001 Roger went to Montlhéry for the 40th anniversary of the occasion, riding another Velocette, and watched the record breaking 1961 machine race round at the top of the banking, - breathtaking he says. It was destroyed in the fire at the National Motorcycle Museum in Birmingham a few months later, although it has since been restored.

Montlhéry had a very tall banking. I drove there a few times at Paris Motor Show test days and while I was accustomed to the modest bankings at MIRA, this was something else. It was not as steep as the Mercedes-Benz one at Stuttgart-Unterturkheim, built in 1956, where you can find yourself sharing the space with a large bus. There wasn’t room for a long track in the space available so they built the 90 degree banking at one end. Provided you stay above the yellow line and get the speed exactly right (it’s only about 80mph) you can take your hands off the steering. Scary the first time you do it though.

Charlotte was here at New Year, and I rehearsed her young man’s approaching Institute of Advanced Motorists’ (IAM) observed drive. He drives nicely and shouldn’t have any trouble but it set me thinking there is nothing like riding a motorcycle for teaching road observation. Riders see cambers, surface joins, manhole covers, oil spills, standing water and catseyes when their life depends on it. Car drivers scarcely notice.

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