The return of DH 217
I loved the article “Ultimate big Brit single” in OBA 64. Reading through the story and looking at the pictures, imagine my delight when I recognised rego number ‘DH 217’. That very Thruxton came into my possession on the 17th of April 1972 when I swapped Ken Morgan $600.00 for it. We were both members of the Velocette Owners Club in Melbourne and I proudly parked it in the garage next to my 1950 MAC Velo I had bought as a 17 year old (and which I still own). The Thruxton was used for trips to Bathurst and Club runs all around Victoria as well as everyday transport. A love hate/relationship developed between us. Long rides on country roads was a delight with that mellow fishtail sound coming up through my helmet, but it was a different story when city traffic was attempted. Riding a Thruxton involves things the average rider of today would laugh at. Tickle the float (with your arm twisted and bent in a position they weren’t designed for) until petrol poured down your wrist. Adjust the advance/ retard on the maggy and air slide on the GP carby. Kick through a few times with the valve lifter until you hear a gurgling suck of fuel going in, then kick with the very low-geared kickstart. After 2 or 3 kicks mine would ‘normally’ start. If not you would have to go through it all again. It’s not so bad if there’s a couple of hundred Ks between starts, but if you’re doing it every 10 to 20 Ks, the novelty wears off quickly. Combined with a tall 1st gear, the lack of an idle on the racing carb and a quirky clutch, at times riding in suburbia can certainly test a bike/rider relationship.
After a few years I decided to go racing, thinking a Le Mans start Production race at Sandown would be a great start; how wrong was I. The Unlimited racers ran across to their dead bikes first, followed 10 seconds later by 500s, another 10s to 350s and then 250s. With the Velo’s decided lack of enthusiasm in the starting process, I finally got going with the 250s. I can’t remember where I finished, but it did start the bug for racing. My friend Sid Reynolds had been racing his Thruxton for some years, but had a big crash at the Island and decided to call it a day. A few parts from Sid’s bike came my way and together with my friend Tony Heard, (who had bought Frank Mussett’s Metisse Triumph twin after racing his Ducati GT 750) we started travelling to all the Victorian tracks as well as Mac Park and AIR in SA, living the life of mid-pack “C” graders. Luckily my son Chas didn’t inherit my not-so- fast “racing genes”. Some years later, the Thruxton was returned to its road going form and again used for weekend trips. A Morris “10” had found its way into the carport, so riding to work was off the agenda for the big Velo. It still had its moody days and in a fit of weakness, I sold it to a fellow in Newport around September of 1979 for about $1,600.00. It went through a few more hands (going up in price significantly each time) and the last time I saw it was at Broadford when Franc Trento from Eurobrit owned it. It’s great to see some history about a bike I have owned and hopefully to add to that history for the current owner. Maybe we will cross paths again one day. I still have the odd bolt with “Rubery Owen” stamped on the head to remind me of days spent in the shed replacing bits bought from Geoff Dodkins, the UK Velo specialist, over the years. Pete Hern Via email
ABOVE Peter Hern and the temperamental Thruxton head for the starting grid at Sandown. RIGHT The Thruxton in racing trim.