This rare Velocette Venom, one of the fastest single-cylinder motorcycles ever produced, would make a proud addition to any serious motorcycle collector’s garage. In 1961, a Venom took the 500 cc 24-hour record at over 100 miles per hour: a lofty achievement even by modern standards. Velocette produced a total of 5,721 Venoms between 1955 when the model was introduced and end of production in 1970. The factory shut down a year later.
While the 1960 Venom listed currently on eBay requires some restoration, it appears to have been well maintained. According to the current owner, the frame was repaired and reinforced: nothing unusual since Venoms were frequently modified for racing. A leaking valve cover gasket is the lot of old motorcycles. The owner also mentions the need for some electrical work. (Note: that the Venom electrical system is Miller not Lucas.)
Velocette’s roots date back to 1905 when the company called itself Veloce. In 1913, the company produced its first two-stroke motorcycle, dubbed the Velocette. Company founder John Goodman liked the moniker so much that he changed the name of the company.
Following World War II, Velocette became known for its LE (little engine) motorcycles featuring a unitized engine and gearbox design. Despite its high price tag, the LE became the motorcycle of choice for the British police.
Never able to match the LE’s popularity in subsequent small engine models, Velocette established a name for itself in racing, winning the 350 cc World Championship in 1950.
From its inception, the Venom was conceived as a high-speed touring bike—the larger more powerful sibling to the 350 cc Velocette Viper. It had a unique clutch design, with the clutch located between the gearbox and gearbox sprocket rather than the conventional location in the primary chain case. The close ratio gearbox was clearly intended for racing.
Although the Venom’s single cylinder pushrod four-stroke engine might seem crude in the era of four-cylinder blocks, it was quite advanced for its time. The aluminum cylinder with alloy cylinder head had a cast iron liner, adding durability for extended high revving. Inside was a high compression piston.
Out of the box, the Venom was capable of reaching 70 miles per hour in second gear with a top speed of 105 mph. Factory options such as a BTH racing magneto, Amal TT carburetor, tach, and low restriction exhaust could make the Venom even faster.
The run for the 24-hour speed record was Velocette’s strategy for proving the Venom’s mettle against new twin-cylinder models from Triumph, BSA, and others. The run took place at the Montlhery oval outside Paris. The team consisted of six French riders and a journalist from Motor Cycling magazine. Stopping only to change riders and refuel using a bucket and funnel, the Venom Clubman averaged 100.15 miles per hour and covered 2,400 miles during the 24-hour trial. That remains the record for 500 cc motorcycles.