The orig­i­nal LE

Old Bike Australasia - - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR -

Re­gard­ing your story on the Ve­lo­cette LE (OBA 79); in 1942 Phil Irv­ing was in hos­pi­tal when he con­ceived the idea of quiet, clean, re­li­able trans­port for peo­ple who would have, be­fore the war, had a car. With petrol ra­tioned it had to be economical; the pro­to­type built dur­ing the war did this at 130 miles to the gal­lon. At the same time in Italy, the Pi­ag­gio air­craft fac­tory was be­ing bombed. At the end of the war En­rico Pi­ag­gio, no longer al­lowed to build air­craft, gave his air­craft de­signer the job of de­sign­ing a ve­hi­cle with the same aims (as the LE); per­sonal trans­port. D’As­canio was not a mo­tor­cy­clist, but a top air­craft man who in 1946 came up with the Vespa. Not clean, not economical, but cheap and fun. The Pi­ag­gio fac­tory built them by the mil­lions. Phil Irv­ing was not happy when the de­sign of the LE was taken out of his hands and, as he said, com­pli­cated, as it seems it was. I be­lieve his orig­i­nal was to be a very wide-an­gle v-twin – not quite a 180-de­gree boxer. This might have been be­cause Granville Bradshaw said that no two pis­tons should change direc­tion at the same time. Both Irv­ing and Ed­ward Turner in 1945 wrote papers in favour of the 1920 ABC, built by Sop­with and de­signed by Granville Bradshaw. This, I be­lieve, is where the con­cept of the LE came from. If he had been given a free hand the clutch might have been driven from the end of the camshaft with lots of ben­e­fits. The en­gine might have been split ver­ti­cally front to back. The crankshaft com­plete with bear­ings and seals could have been laid into one half and the same with the camshaft and clutch, then closed by fit­ting the other crank­case half. It could have been sim­pler, smaller and cheaper to build. If the po­lice hadn’t bought LEs, Ve­lo­cette would have been fin­ished in the ‘fifties. In real­ity, the Vespa and the LE were at op­po­site ends of the mar­ket. Irv­ing en­vis­aged the LE as trans­port for peo­ple like pro­fes­sion­als, bank man­agers etc., be­cause with petrol ra­tioning, the 150 mpg of­fered by the 150cc en­gine would have been ideal, whereas the Vespa was just an oily lit­tle fun ma­chine.

An­drew Dun­can Wil­ton, NSW

There are many who sing the praises of the es­teemed Mr Granville Bradshaw – the ‘B’ in the ABC mo­tor­cy­cle – he of the rest­less mind of the in­ven­tor. Among his non-mo­tor­cy­cling achieve­ments were a por­ta­ble wardrobe, van­dal-proof screws and bolts, ash-de­vour­ing ash­trays, and golf balls coated with ra­dio-ac­tive lu­mi­nous paint so they could be lo­cated by Geiger counter. – Ed

Granville Bradshaw.

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