The East Coaster’s Trek
Velocette O.C. and Monarchs M.C.C. members John Doig, Geoff ‘Clawed’ Ingram and Chris Mogford attended the Velocette National Rally in WA in November last year.
Unlike nearly all the other east coast rallyists, they rode their machines over the Nullarbor and back. For this three, the Rally week was only the meat in the sandwich, just a tasty morsel. Their transcontinental trips, to and from the western seaboard, were their main fare, a substantial feast of riding! John rode his 1969 Velocette Thruxton 500, while Geoff rode his 1954 Velocette MSS 500, a machine that had seen scrambles duties with a previous owner. Chris rode his rare rotary-engined Norton Commander 588. Tom Freeman of Traralgon, riding a Moto Guzzi 850, joined them for the ride to Perth but did not attend the rally. John and Geoff’s ladies, Maureen and Robyn flew to Perth and joined the rally activities; Maureen travelled in the minibus and Robyn rode pillion.
The four riders joined forces at Clunes, (near Ballarat), on 31st October. The ride across Victoria, South Australia and the Nullarbor was fairly uneventful but Geoff’s MSS started breathing rather heavily after reaching Norseman. On the first day of the rally rides, (9th November), Geoff’s piston let go in a big way. It looked as though the piston simply sheared off in a single plane above the gudgeon pin, however, Stuart Hooper, the man behind the World’s Fastest Velocette, detected a crack originating at the piston’s inlet valve recess. He said that there had been a batch of pistons made where the casting core was incorrectly positioned. This resulted in an area of inadequate wall thickness from which cracks easily propagated. The Victorian VOC spares man was contacted and a new piston was sent over pronto. The piston arrived on Wednesday and by sundowners, (West Aussie lingo for cocktail hour), it was fitted and the motor started. For Tuesday’s ride Mike Tesser had loaned Geoff a 1000cc Moto Guzzi Californian and as Wednesday was a rest day, Geoff only missed half a day’s riding. The rally base camp was the Swanleigh Camp and Conference Centre at Middle Swan in the Swan Valley. From 9-14 November the rallyists rode to various points of interest including wineries, breweries, dams, motor museums, scenic locations and historic towns. The final day’s ride was concluded with a chance to relive the glory days of Velocette; a 1960s hippy, flower power themed party night was held. Presentations were made at this event and Geoff was awarded the Ted Carey Shield for ‘Velocette rider who rode the longest distance’. The ride home was in blistering conditions; 40 degrees for six days straight! Tom Freeman had intended to meet the lads for the ride home, but a phone call informed them that Tom’s Guzzi had some sort of gearbox trauma 30 km short of the rendezvous at Merredin. The Guzzi went home courtesy of the RACV Chris’ Norton didn’t like going out in the heat wave conditions. At each stop it was reluctant to restart and 45 minute cool downs were prescribed. As payback, the boys had a minimum number of stops.
After passing Balladonia Geoff’s exhaust fell off a few times and the next day his magneto packed up. Chris towed him into Mundrabilla where a coil and condensor from a 4WD in the boneyard were scavenged. A quick bit of work saw a happy, coil ignition MSS, riding off into the sunset. Towards Ceduna, Chris was losing patience with the Norton’s hot start problems and decided to remove the lower fairings. One half was strapped to his luggage and the other half was strapped to Geoff’s MSS. At Morgan, SA, Geoff and Chris headed to the SR Yamaha rally at Bethanga and John headed for Clunes. John’s Thruxton was running like a train, but he had noticed a certain wobbly feel to the handling since leaving Perth. Near Birchip, about 185 km short of Clunes, the front end of the frame broke off. John was going at about 100km/h at the time, but the machine stayed upright till he had slowed it with the back brake to about 20km/h. He then bit the dust, fortunately, without injury or further damage to the machine. The brief slow down seconds were mere courtesy of the petrol tank bolting and control cables holding the plot together. John has never been a RACV member but Maureen is. At this point, she showed a remarkable gift of the gab; she talked them into picking up the Hall Green artifacts and taking them to Clunes. For John, the rally had a dramatic end, for Geoff and Chris another rally provided a soft landing, before the working days returned. For all, the distances covered in 3 weeks were an acid test of their preparations and resourcefulness in overcoming a few of life’s little challenges.
ABOVE Piston top of Geoff’s Velocette sheared off above gudgeon pin at the start of the Rally in Perth. RIGHT John’s Thruxton frame displays a split personality.