The Velocette marque's speciality was single-cylinder roadsters that were closely related to racing machines, and the fastest and most famous of them all was the Venom Thruxton. Sleek, singleminded and ready to take to the track with minimal modification, the 500cc Thruxton was in many respects the ultimate street racer of the 1960s.

Essentially a tuned and race-kitted version of the Venom, Velocette standi (tllRugh sti11 distinctly sporty and uncompromising) In­capacity model, the Thruxton was named alter the Hampshire circuit where the marque had heen consistently successful in long-distance production racing. Indeed, the model owed its existeri(-'e directly to the competition experience that the f'rm from Hall Green in Birmingham had gained- most notably at the gruelling and prestigious ThfWxton 500-mile (805km) event. 



Racy Clubman trim

Since 1956 the firm's main sports model had been the Venom, powered by a 499cc pushrod single engine with square dimensions of 86 x 86mm. Since 1960 it had been available in racier Clubman trim, with low bars, high compression piston and other mods.

Then, in 1964, the factory offered a high- performance kit. This comprised a new cylinder head, with narrower valve angle, larger inlet valve and revised porting; plus a big Amal Grand Prix carburettor, which necessitated fuel and oil tanks cut away to accommodate its gaping bell-mouth.

For the following year, Velocette incorporated the kit into the new Venom Thruxton model, which also featured a suitably shaped tank - finished in striking silver - plus clip-on handlebars, humped racing seat, rearset footrests, alloy wheel rims, and a twin-leading-shoe front drum brake with a big scoop for cooling air. At a few pence under £370 the Thruxton was expensive (Velo's hand-built bikes were never cheap, anyway), but it promised a seriously competitive level of performance.

The Venom Thruxton did not disappoint. Its uprated engine produced a claimed 40bhp at 6200rpm, which was only a few horsepower up on the Clubman but was enough to push the single's top speed to 105mph (169km/h). Despite its high state of tune the big thumper was tractable, too, pulling from 2()()()rpm in top gear and happily ambling along at 30()0rpm with plenty of instant acceleration in hand. Inevitably there was some vibration, but this cleared at about 4500rpm, allowing reasonably comfortable 90mph (145km/h) cruising on the open road.

For such a race-bred machine the handling was not flawless, as the rear suspension generated some instability at racing speeds. At 3901b (177kg) the Thruxton was not especially light, either. Typically for such a sporty single, it was also hard to start and was prone to loose bolts due to vibration.

But this was exactly the sort of high- performance, race-derived and uncompromising machine that Velocette enthusiasts preferred. The Thruxton was a success, and more than 1100 were built over the next few years; some of them, by popular request, in Velocette's traditional black- and-gold colouring. The model finished first and second in its class at the Production TT too, both bikes lapping at almost 90mph (145km/h).

Sadly, the Thruxton was untypical of Velocette production, because for years the firm had been moving away from its traditional customer base, with disastrous result. During the 1950s. production of the four-stroke singles had almost been abandoned in favour of the lightweight, two-stroke, fully-enclosed LE, which had failed to sell. The Viceroy, a 250cc scooter, was even more of a flop. Even the plucky Venom Thruxton could not save Velocette, and in 1971 production ended for good.

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