VELOCETTE VICEROY

Cus­tomers were buy­ing cheap’n’ cheer­ful Lam­bret­tas and Ves­pas like hot cakes. So Ve­loce de­vel­oped a top qual­ity, beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered Bri­tish equiv­a­lent. Why wasn’t this snazzy scooter a run­away suc­cess? Roger Slater in­ves­ti­gates…

Real Classic - - Contents -

Cus­tomers were buy­ing cheap’n’cheer­ful Lam­bret­tas and Ves­pas like hot cakes. So Ve­loce de­vel­oped a top qual­ity, beau­ti­fully en­gi­neered Bri­tish equiv­a­lent. Why wasn’t this snazzy scooter a run­away suc­cess? Roger Slater in­ves­ti­gates. Part Two, in which he rides it!

Pulling apart the poor Viceroy was an in­ter­est­ing ex­er­cise sim­ply be­cause it was all new to me, plus its de­sign and lay­out were way off the norm. It is cer­tainly not a Venom or a snortin’ Nor­ton. It is also to­tally dif­fer­ent to the Lam­bretta mod­els that I am very fa­mil­iar with, as we used to sell and ser­vice 30 a month of them way back when.

All the Viceroy’s com­po­nents ex­cept the gear­box were stripped down for ex­am­i­na­tion, and re­pair if re­quired. Ev­ery­thing I opened

up was as-new and con­sis­tent with the pre­vi­ous owner’s claims that the bike was very low mileage. Mr Smiff’s in­stru­ment showed only 700 and a bit miles cov­ered from new. An­other ex­am­ple of lit­tle use: the brake shoes were not yet worn in to make full sur­face con­tact.

The only anom­aly was the mys­tery of the engine hav­ing plus-20 pis­tons. The bores were per­fect and still showed the fine grind marks. My guess is that the bike had spent its life in a wet and soggy en­vi­ron­ment which caused rust seize on both bar­rels. The wet and soggy the­ory is also sup­ported by rust here, there and ev­ery­where. To add in­sult to in­jury, the poor thing was full of dents to all its tin­work.

To find out just what we were deal­ing with, my in­dus­trial power sand­blaster was ap­plied to ex­pose the evils of a drive-by paint job, ap­plied on top of the rust by the pre­vi­ous ‘re­storer’. Due to years of do­ing all my own paint­work, I have be­come al­ler­gic to the poi­sonous fumes in mod­ern two-pack paints. I am how­ever for­tu­nate to have a most car­ing friend who owns a huge, state of the art bodyshop; Dave’s Au­to­body and Glass in Rock­ford,

Wash­ing­ton. Dave gen­er­ously set me up in a cor­ner of his shop for me to do the time­con­sum­ing prep work. Dents were done on the spot by Mike, a ma­gi­cian in the art of tin bash­ing.

After far too many hours of noise, dust and blis­tered fin­gers, all the tin parts and wheels were ready to go in the paint­ing booth for the at­ten­tion of an­other artist, Dean, of the very high­est qual­ity.

The Viceroy ap­peared to have been red orig­i­nally, or maybe red and black. I de­cided the fin­ish needed to be tarted up a bit with mod­ern metal­lic sil­ver and red. Both colour codes were taken from a rather stun­ning new Chrysler car. The re­sult is most pleas­ing yet not over-done. The red looks bet­ter in nat­u­ral sun­light in a way that can’t be ac­cu­rately rep­re­sented in print. It needs to be seen!

Dur­ing the as­sem­bly, all went fairly well. It needed the usual tweak­ing of sup­port brack­ets here and there to get the 3/16” body­work and foot­board holes to match up per­fectly. The rat’s nest wiring had been ‘im­proved’ by pre­vi­ous own­ers for rea­sons that are past my com­pre­hen­sion. Sev­eral yards of ball wiring had to be cut out and tossed into the bin. Ad­di­tional earth wire had to be made for the fairly heavy draw 12V starter. Even­tu­ally, after much trial and con­sid­er­able er­ror, it all seemed to work as it should. It even has an op­er­a­ble ‘emer­gency start’ po­si­tion on the Lu­cas ig­ni­tion switch.

My main chal­lenge came from the foot­board run­ning strips. Th­ese strips ap­peared to be fab­ri­cated from a red gar­den hose. They looked dread­ful. A lo­cal auto paint and bodyshop parts sup­plier had a roll of half-round black strip body mould­ing that was fairly close di­men­sion­ally and matched the sil­ver very well. Velo had gone to all the trou­ble of mak­ing very neat end pieces for the ends of each of the ten strips. All twenty al­loy end pieces had to be pol­ished on my shop buf­fer – a pig of a job as they are too small to hold with­out los­ing your fin­ger­tips!

The bat­tery car­rier also needed con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion. Orig­i­nally the Viceroy had two 6V Lu­cas bat­ter­ies. On mine, one bat­tery slot was sealed off while the sec­ond had been en­larged for a more sub­stan­tial sin­gle 12V unit. Un­for­tu­nately the per­son who did this had sim­ply used an acety­lene torch to en­large the rec­tan­gu­lar hole. The hole was nowhere near the cor­rect di­men­sions; no two sides were the same as each other. I con­sulted var­i­ous bat­tery charts and lo­cated a mod­ern dry bat­tery just suf­fi­ciently large enough for me to square up the hole with a hand file and small elec­tric grinder. Next was the fab­ri­ca­tion of a sup­port for the un­der­side of the bat­tery. It all came to­gether nice and ship-shape.

The tyres are the orig­i­nal Dun­lops which of course are show­ing their con­sid­er­able age. In­ter­nal in­spec­tion found both to be sound and rea­son­ably ser­vice­able in dry con­di­tions for club runs and a wob­ble down the pub. New tubes were of course fit­ted. Above all, I was keen to re­tain the OE tyres to re­tain the bike’s prove­nance and orig­i­nal­ity.

The ig­ni­tion con­sists of two good size 6V coils and a sin­gle con­tact breaker. Both cylin­ders fire at once with no dead spark as it is a two-stroke. The fac­tory marks on the fly­wheel could not be clearly seen on my strobe so I put a spot of white paint on each of the punch marks. The tim­ing fully re­tarded is just a bo­hair BTDC (Glaswe­gian for very small) but I wanted to check that the full ad­vance was ac­cu­rate.

An old trick for strob­ing the ig­ni­tion tim­ing is to use the fly­wheel teeth to mark the de­grees. Ex­am­ple, 120 teeth on the fly­wheel is 360 de­grees. 360 di­vided by 120 = 3 de­grees per tooth. The marks be­low are 7 teeth apart, ie. 21 de­grees, which is the range of the au­to­matic ad­vance mech­a­nism. That, plus the ini­tial bo­hair de­grees static ad­vance gives a gnat’s whisker over 21 de­grees at 4000 revs – as stip­u­lated by the flat-cap wear­ing Brum­mies who de­signed the thing. ( Yes, TDC on this engine is at the root of a tooth.)

The most ex­cit­ing part of a restora­tion

is the first start-up. The Viceroy was no ex­cep­tion but it proved to be pain­less. It needed half a tank full of un­con­tam­i­nated petrol mixed with syn­thetic two-stroke oil at 20:1. I fid­dled about through the aper­ture in the ser­vice panel on the right side to turn on the fuel and close the choke. The ig­ni­tion goes ‘on’ at the panel switch. You push for­ward by hand or foot on the starter lever which pro­trudes from the left side ser­vice panel. The first ac­tion of the lever pushes the starter bendix into mesh with the fly­wheel teeth, then a lit­tle more move­ment op­er­ates the so­le­noid to set the starter into mo­tion. Sur­prise! After only a cou­ple of rev­o­lu­tions, the mo­tor fired up with a pleas­ant bur­ble.

So I bumped it off the bench for an ex­ploratory bum­ble down the lane. Pull in the light clutch with the engine on idle. A gen­tle push on the heel gear change pedal, click it into gear. No clunk, no fuss, no muss. Smooth clutch take-up on a whiff of throt­tle – and away we go!

In many ways the Viceroy re­minds me of my much-loved Ariel Leader which I had new in 1959. In fact the Viceroy feels more like a nor­mal mo­tor­cy­cle than a scooter. If it had a dummy tank be­tween my legs like on the Leader, I would find very lit­tle dif­fer­ence. Han­dling, brakes, sus­pen­sion per­for­mance are all very sim­i­lar. As with the Leader, the Velo’s cruis­ing speed is about 55mph, top speed about 70. Com­par­ing the specs of the Leader and the Viceroy it is not sur­pris­ing that the Viceroy is more ‘mo­tor­cy­cle’ than ‘scooter’. Ex­clude the pan­niers of the Ariel, the weights are the same at 305lb. The Viceroy is two inches longer at 53”. The engine bore and stroke are 54mm by 54mm on each. Power about the same but the Viceroy has a bit more grunt at low revs and per­haps a lit­tle less at the top end. Both have the engine ahead of the rider. The fuel tank on the Leader is be­low the seat while on the Viceroy it is ahead of the rider, re­sult­ing in 50/50 weight distribution.

So why did the Viceroy not sell? It’s in­ter­est­ing to look at sim­i­lar mod­els of rea­son­able qual­ity and ad­vanced de­sign, such as the German Maico­letta, Heinkel and Zün­dapp. The front end styling of the Viceroy is very close to th­ese three. All three sold in eco­nom­i­cally vi­able quan­ti­ties over vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal pro­duc­tion years of 1953 to 1965. The Viceroy had a pro­duc­tion run of only 18 months from 1960 to 62. So what went wrong?

Tim­ing had a lot to do with the Viceroy’s lack of sales suc­cess. No one seems to know the ex­act pro­duc­tion num­bers but, go­ing on their ex­treme rar­ity to­day, it would seem that only a hand­ful were made and sold. My model is the only one come to light so far in the US. Who im­ported it and when is shrouded in the mists of time. In UK the scooter boom had peaked by 1960, so the Viceroyoy ar­rivedar­rived justjust tootoo late.late

The sec­ond big is­sue was price. The Ital­ian scoot­ers which dom­i­nated the mar­ket were built very much with cost in mind, sim­ply be­cause the scooter mar­ket was very price sen­si­tive. The Viceroy was built from the start by Velo as a top class piece of en­gi­neer­ing at a pre­mium price for the top end of the scooter con­nois­seur. Un­for­tu­nately th­ese top end buy­ers were vir­tu­ally non-ex­is­tent. Look­ing at the three German ex­am­ples, the Viceroy might have hit its in­tended mar­ket if it had been built five to ten years ear­lier. We will never know!

Pho­tos by Roger Slater, Galen Bliss, RC RChive, Mor­tons ar­chive (thanks to Jane!)

Above: Set­ting the tim­ing is made eas­ier if the man­u­fac­turer in­cluded tim­ing marks…

Right: Look very closely… …and add a few drops of white paint to aid the strobe

Right: Here’s the com­plete ma­chine. Velocette plainly had their own views on styling

Above: Scooter re­stor­ers should be warned against a cer­tain foot­board ob­ses­sion

Above: A rare sight in the USA. In fact … a rare sight any­where!

Be­low: Huge amounts of work, time and ef­fort went into mak­ing ex­act foot­boards

The engine – a flat twin – is tucked neatly away. Above it is the hefty starter mo­tor

Be­low: A sim­ple ex­haust sys­tem, no ex­pan­sion cham­bers here. It’s quiet, too

Above: Fly­ing in­struc­tions

Right: Help­ful in­struc­tions…

Left: The dash is neat and sim­ple, and very scooter-like. The fuel filler is be­hind it, with the tank in front of the rider

Left: Beauty, eye of be­holder, things like that

Above: The seat lifts to re­veal a big­ger bat­tery. Roger needed to dress a lit­tle metal to make it fit. There would orig­i­nally have been a pair of 6V bat­ter­ies, and if the pic­ture’s big enough you may be able to see the closed-up hole where the sec­ond cell would have lived

Right: Re­mov­ing the left-hand ser­vice panel re­veals the carb and fuel feed – and the mix­ture en­rich­ment de­vice

Left: This is – re­mark­ably – the starter lever. Roger ex­plains the How! and the What! in the story

Our hero! Roger Slater pre­pares for flight

Be­low: Poised. In the land of the mighty V-twin, Roger Slater’s flat twin 2-stroke Velocette may be unique

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