Some­thing spe­cial

Not gen­er­ally noted for off- road sport, Ve­lo­cette nev­er­the­less had their dal­liances in the dirt.

Classic Dirtbike - - Contents - Words Tim Britton Pics Mor­tons Ar­chive

A visit to our ar­chive turned up this su­perb Ve­lo­cette-based scram­bler… okay, so it wasn’t what the ed­i­tor went in for… but hey…

The way of the mag­a­zine world is fas­ci­nat­ing in many re­spects, es­pe­cially where an ar­chive is in­volved. Here at Mor­tons the ar­chive is prob­a­bly the com­pany’s most valu­able re­source and also its most en­tic­ing depart­ment. You see, go­ing in to search for pic­tures in­volves look­ing through boxes of images and mag­a­zines too. That’s when things in­no­cently change the course of a search. Take this Ve­lo­cette-based scram­bler for in­stance – there I was, look­ing through boxes for, of all things, a Pan­ther side­car out­fit when the photo of the young lad check­ing his rear brake fell from the folder. Clearly work­ing on a scram­bler and a pretty neat look­ing one too, in­ter­est was piqued. The in­for­ma­tion on the rear of the im­age showed it en­tered the Mo­tor­cy­cle ed­i­to­rial of­fices in Septem­ber 1964, and haul­ing out the back is­sues re­vealed the pic­ture was one of five used in a fea­ture on the bike.

First of all, the young lad – Mike Win­wood – was mak­ing a bit of a name for him­self in the West Mid­lands, with sev­eral wins, sec­onds and thirds in the two months since the bike was ready to race. The pic­tures ac­com­pa­ny­ing the ar­ti­cle showed what a neat mo­tor­cy­cle this ac­tu­ally was and while la­belled a ‘spe­cial’ there are dif­fer­ent lev­els of spe­cial. This proved to be very spe­cial in­deed.

The writer of the orig­i­nal fea­ture in­ter­viewed Mike and his dad Ray, who did the bulk of the work on the ma­chine, to find out more about the bike’s back­ground. First ques­tion was ‘why a Velo?’ Ray ad­mit­ted to hav­ing a soft spot for the mar­que but al­lowed the avail­abil­ity of spares and the reli­a­bil­ity of the mo­tor to be de­cid­ing fac­tors. The 500cc Venom en­gine was in stan­dard road trim and pro­duced the right sort of power from zero revs right the way up the range.

Most spe­cial builders for scram­bling or MX at the time were us­ing a BSA frame of some de­scrip­tion, be it a Gold Star or an A7/10 ver­sion and the Win­woods said they had been in­flu­enced by BSA for their frame but had made it en­tirely them­selves.

When ini­tial plans to slot a 500cc mo­tor into a C15 frame were scup­pered be­cause there wasn’t room for a sep­a­rate en­gine/ gear­box set-up, the Win­woods sim­ply used the di­men­sions such as head an­gles and tube bends to make their own frame from Reynolds 531 which would hold the en­gine and gear­box in a cra­dle made from 12 gauge one inch di­am­e­ter tube. While they were at it they took in­flu­ence from a cer­tain Ariel tri­als bike and made the three-inch di­am­e­ter seat

tube hold the en­gine oil too and lighter 16 gauge but still one-inch di­am­e­ter tube made the rear sub frame.

Un­will­ing to use a Velo clutch for scram­bling, the pair set­tled on an AMC Bur­man type gear­box with its tough clutch. The pri­mary drive was housed in Royal En­field chain­cases and needed a lit­tle al­ter­na­tive think­ing to line ev­ery­thing up. Do­ing away with the stan­dard en­gine shaft shock ab­sorber, Win­wood se­nior made a bear­ing car­rier to house an ex­tra bear­ing and spig­ot­ted it to the crank­case and then used a Vil­liers en­gine sprocket on the orig­i­nal shaft. The rea­son­ing was the Bur­man clutch had shock ab­sorb­ing rub­bers in­side it so should take the stresses out of the drive train. Mount­ing the en­gine and gear­box was done us­ing 3⁄8in alloy en­gine plates with the ad­van­tages of be­ing stiff and light.

Car­ry­ing the wheels at ei­ther end is han­dled by a BSA swing­ing arm and mod­i­fied BSA forks. The rear is rea­son­ably con­ven­tional with the swing­ing arm mounted as nor­mal and the pop­u­lar Beezer qd type hub with a scram­bles size rim laced on.

How­ever up front things get a lit­tle more in­ter­est­ing. On the face of it the forks are stan­dard tele­scop­ics but on closer in­spec­tion there’s a gas-filled Gir­ling damper fixed to the fork yokes and the damper rod is worked by a brace on the mud­guard. Why the com­pli­ca­tion? Ray ex­plained in the cut and thrust of a scram­ble the oil can over­heat in stan­dard forks and all damp­ing is lost. So, the forks hold only enough oil to lube the bushes and the damp­ing is by the Gir­ling unit which orig­i­nated from a car. The gas keeps its cool all through a scram­ble and works as well at the fin­ish as it did at the start.

An­other fea­ture not of­ten seen on a scram­bler is a road­race style steer­ing damper ty­ing the forks in to the frame. The rea­son­ing here be­ing fast down­hill sec­tions on un­even ground could cause the steer­ing to twitch which slows a rider or worse de­gen­er­ate into a mas­sive tank-slap­per and the rider could come off, the steer­ing damper just pre­vents that and makes for a less tir­ing ride too as Mike said in the ar­ti­cle.

Clearly a lot of thought had gone into this mo­tor­cy­cle with the fab­ri­cated parts look­ing very well done. The air fil­ter is cov­ered by a light alloy sheet, ac­cessed from un­der the small scram­bles seat which also cov­ers the oil filler cap. A two gal­lon alloy petrol tank is both small, neat and big enough for rac­ing while a 500T Nor­ton front wheel is light­ish and pow­er­ful enough to haul up the ma­chine which only tipped the scales at 285lb and had a rea­son­ably short wheel­base of 54in. So, the bike not only looked good but worked well too? Well, al­most, Ray is quoted as say­ing the stan­dard Bur­man/amc clutch shock ab­sorber isn’t quite man enough for the job and maybe an ex­tra ab­sorber in the rear hub might be needed to avoid gear­box prob­lems. The big ques­tion is: are the Win­woods still around – and does the bike still ex­ist? We’d love to hear from any­one who knows. )

Note the sub­stan­tial en­gine plates, and the well formed alloy sheet mak­ing up the side pan­els. Mike Win­wood, are you still out there?

Clearly a lot of care was in­volved with this build and even the parts from sev­eral mak­ers fit to­gether nicely.

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