Velocette LE

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Velocette LE
Velocette200LE1953.jpg
Manufacturer Velocette
Also called Noddy Bike
Production 1948–1970
Engine 150 cc (9.2 cu in) four-stroke, water-cooled, horizontally opposed twin-cylinder
Top speed 50 mph (80 km/h)[citation needed]
Power 6 bhp (4.5 kW)[citation needed]
Transmission Three-speed gearbox to shaft final drive
Seat height 710 mm (28 in)
Weight 120 kg (260 lb) (dry)
Fuel capacity 5.7 l (1.3 imp gal; 1.5 US gal)

The Velocette LE was a motorcycle made by Velocette from 1948 to 1970. The designation LE stood for "little engine".[1] Used by over fifty British Police forces, the police riders became known as "Noddies" because they were required to nod to senior officers, and the LE was nicknamed "the Noddy Bike".[2] Production ended in 1970 when the company ran into financial problems and went into voluntary liquidation.[1]

The Mk I LE[edit]

Velocette's Director, Eugene Goodman, planned an innovative and radical design that would appeal to a new market that needed cheap, clean and reliable transport. Designer Charles Udall developed the Velocette LE as a "conceived-as-a-whole" design, with engine, gearbox, drive shaft and bevel box in a single unit to do a specific job.[3]

1950 Mk I Velocette LE

The Velocette LE was launched at the British International Motor Show at Earls Court in 1948 as the "Motorcycle for Everyman". With a 150 cc four-stroke, water-cooled, horizontally opposed twin-cylinder engine, the LE also had a radiator and was fitted with coil ignition to help starting. The three-speed gearbox, engine and clutch were contained in special castings, and final drive was by a shaft mounted in a swing frame with adjustable suspension. Aluminium leg shields were designed to keep the rain off, and footboards gave it a scooter feel.[4]

Instruments included a speedometer and trip recorder. To reduce noise and vibration, the engine was rubber mounted, and the pressed steel frame was lined with soundproofing felt. The water-cooled engine was well silenced, and riders reported that sometimes they only knew the engine was running was by checking the ignition light. Carrying capacity was boosted by quickly detachable panniers and a glove compartment in front of the petrol tank. All this made the MkI LE expensive, however, at £126 compared with the BSA Bantam at £76. The odd looks also meant that it did not appeal to the usual motorcycle buyer.[4]

Mk II LE[edit]

Launched in 1951 the Mk II had a 192 cc (11.7 cu in) engine, giving an extra 2 hp (1.5 kW), and strengthened bearings. Sales remained poor, however, and the company had to reduce the price. The clutch was upgraded, and an Amal 363 monobloc carburetor replaced the standard unit. The rear swinging arm was uprated with cast aluminium to improve rigidity, and the brakes were improved. The petrol tank capacity was also increased from 1.25 to 1.62 imperial gallons (5.7 to 7.4 litres; 1.50 to 1.95 US gallons).[4]

A breakthrough for Velocette was when over fifty British Police forces decided to use the LE for patrols and ordered more than half the production.[2] Ex-police machines can be identified by the after market fittings for the police radio. These include the manufacturers data plate being moved to the headstock, the word 'POLICE' stamped under the generator cover and a distinctive V shaped pressing riveted in front of the seat. This was designed to keep rainwater out of the battery compartment.

The Noddy name[edit]

Metropolitan Police Officers of the time were trained to salute an Inspector or above, but when riding the Velocette LE this meant taking one hand from the handle bars, so it was agreed that instead they could nod to show respect. The police riders therefore became known as "Noddies", and the LE was nicknamed "the Noddy Bike".[2][5][6]

The Mk III LE[edit]

In 1958, Velocette launched the Mk III LE with a foot operated gear change and a conventional kick start. An extra gear was added, together with 18-inch-diameter (460 mm) wheels. The instrumentation was relocated to the head lamp, and the petrol capacity was increased from a meagre 1.25 to 1.62 imperial gallons (5.7 to 7.4 l; 1.50 to 1.95 US gal).

With ten years development, the Velocette LE was more reliable and practical, but in 1970 the company went into voluntary liquidation. Production of other motorcycles had been delayed or canceled to produce the LE in various forms, and the lucrative police orders had dried up with the introduction of the "panda car" for patrol use by most forces. Kent County Constabulary purchased the remaining spare parts and were able to keep LE's running until 1974.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Reynolds, Jim (1990). Best of British Bikes. Patrick Stephens Ltd. ISBN 1-85260-033-0. 
  2. ^ a b c "Made in Birmingham". Archived from the original on 2008-11-19. Retrieved 2008-12-11. 
  3. ^ Wilson, George (2008-08-31). "Model LE Velocette Twin". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2008-12-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d [better source needed]Britch, Alan. "LE History". Archived from the original on 2012-02-19. Retrieved 2008-12-06. 
  5. ^ "noddy, n.4". OED Online. June 2013. Oxford University Press. 23 June 2013
  6. ^ Laurie, Peter (1970), Scotland Yard: a study of the Metropolitan Police, Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, p. 294