1939 VELOCETTE KTT MKVIII RACING MOTORCYCLE
Chosen by: Andy Barrett, motorcycle specialist Sold at: The Alexandra Palace Sale, September 2018 Sale price: Result pending.
Velocette were well placed to contest the 350cc class of the first FIM world championship in 1949. Their MKVIII KTT was a direct descendent of the 1929 MKI, the world’s first true over-the-counter production racer. The MKVIII featured a new, swingarm frame, but was otherwise as the MKVII, boasting the latter’s massively finned single-overhead-camshaft all-alloy engine and separate four-speed gearbox.
Riding works bikes to (broadly) MKVIII pattern, Stanley Woods had won the Isle of Man Junior TT in 1938 and 1939, ending Norton’s seven-year run of success in the category, and in the immediate post-war era Wood’s mantle would be taken up by Freddie Frith, who retired from racing at the end of the 1949 season as world champion in the 350cc class.
In 1950, Bob Foster brought the world championship back to the Hall Green factory for a second time and, although the works bikes differed considerably in detail from the over-the-counter MKVIII, the latter provided the privateer with a competitive mount at the highest level, as evidenced by Les Graham’s victory aboard a ‘customer’ example at the 1951 Swiss Grand Prix.
This matching-numbers MKVIII was invoiced to Velocette agent L Stevens in London on April 24, 1939 for Harry Lamacraft, a successful racer who was sadly killed during WWII. The machine comes with a quantity of period photographs and a letter of authentication from marque authority Ivan Rhodes, which reveals it was owned subsequently in Belgium by Noel La Haye. Only 49 MKVIIIS were constructed prior to WWII and a further 189 up to the end of production in 1950. Today the handsome Mark
VIII KTT is one of the most sought after of all British racing motorcycles.
“To me the MKVIII is one of the most beautifully designed machines ever made. For me there are very few motorcycles that could ever top them. With the period upgrades by the different racers who have used it, whilst still keeping the original paint (other than the petrol tank), it makes for a fantastic example.” Andy Barrett
RIGHT: Fuel tank of early Indian twin gave it the ‘Camelback’ nickname
LEFT: KTT MKVIII was an over-the-counter racer now much sought after