1933 Velocette KTT
Manx Nortons. BSA Gold Stars. Matchless G50s.
They would define the light, agile, single-cylinder overhead-cam racing machines coming out of Great Britain in the 1950s and early ’60s. And they would make their mark in American racing -- from the beach at Daytona to the dirt-tracks of the Midwest.
But the roots of those classic racers go back decades further-to motorcycles like this 1933 Velocette KTT, a machine that helped establish the British clubman style.
Founded by Johannes Gutgemann, a German who resettled in England in the late 1880s (eventually changing his name to John Goodman), Velocette was a true family effort from the time the brand came into existence in 1905.
John, who was already in the bicycle business, made frames and running gear for the motorcycles. His son, Percy, designed the engines, and together with his brother, Eugene, manufactured the powerplants.
The company started out making small two-stroke machines. But in the mid-1920s, Percy designed a classic-a high-performance, overhead-cam 348cc four-stroke that became the basis for the company’s top line of motorcycles.
The new bike immediately proved itself in the Isle of Man TT, one of the world’s most difficult road races. In 1926, ’28 and ’29, Velocettes won the Junior TT, for 350cc bikes, leading the company to introduce a race replica-the KTT.
That model came along just as the Class A era of American racing, which featured factory riders on exotic, one-off machines, was coming to an end. In the vacuum left behind, speedway racing, run on tight dirt ovals, briefly became a major attraction of American racing.
According to owner Arvid Myhre of Stockton, New Jersey, Reggie Pink, a noted racer and importer of the time (and now a member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame), campaigned this Velocette in speedway races across New York in the ’30s.
Myhre notes that the bike is a rare surviving example of the KTT Mark IV, and when it came up for sale four years ago, “a lot of people wanted it desperately.”
But Myhre, who first discovered Velocettes as a member of a motorcycle club that ran speedway races all those years ago, got there first and made the purchase.
The KTT, now on display in the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum at AMA headquarters in Pickerington, Ohio, incorporates a special four-speed racing transmission along with a Velocette innovation that would be familiar to riders today. It was the first motorcycle to be built with a positive-stop, foot-operated gearshift lever-the same kind every modern motorcycle uses.