LE ‘motorcycle for everyman’

I was pleased to see that Steve Wilson polished his shoes before taking a ride on Alex Taylor’s LE (The Ugly Duckling, TCM, May 2019).

Motor Cycling correspondent George Beresford did the same when he tested Velocette’s uprated 200cc LE model in late 1950. He wore his best trilby too, but all that sartorial effort wasn’t enough to avoid Beresford being refused service in a Malmesbury hotel.

And after all these years, LEs still divide opinion. LE types reckon Velocette’s water-cooled twin was the UK industry’s best effort at a mass market motorcycle. But Hall Green’s version of mass production was a tiny sip from a glass overflowing with the likes of BSA’s basic Bantam and a host of unappealing autocycles and cyclemotors. By the 1950s, scooters were the mass two-wheeled transport of choice.

No more than 150 Velocette staff struggled to make 120 LEs a week in the early 1950s when demand for the firm’s ‘motorcycle for everyman’ was outstripping supply. Nearly 33,000 examples were produced over the LE’s 22-year production life, and as Steve writes they can still be enjoyed today. £1000 will buy you a decent example, although a tin of shoe polish will be extra.

Dennis Frost, Historian, LE Velo Club, via email.

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