British motorcycle manufacturers - V

Last update June 14, 2003

Val 1913-24
Vasco 1921-23

The quality car company Vauxhall Motors decided to get into motorcycles in 1922 to provide a vehicle in a lower price range. Major Frank Halford designed the Superb Four, a 931cc inlined four, shaft-driven,  with a massive duplex frame and numerous innovations, producing 30 bhp. After only a half-dozen machines were made, Vauxhall dropped the project in 1924. A rebuilt one was shown in a vintage rally in 1959.

Velocette A family firm, Veloce Inc. was founded by German-born Johannes Gutgeman (changed to Goodman), who started making motorcycles around the turn of the century under name Ormonde. However, the company foundered in 1904 and he turned to bicycles, not coming back to powered vehicles until 1910, when sons Percy and Eugene joined the company and started under the name Veloce. Starting with two-strokes, Percy designed the ohc 206cc Type A, but his real breakthrough was the 350cc Model K in 1925, which was the blueprint for future models. This machine won the 1926 Junior TT and led to the KSS (sports) and KTT (racing) models of the 1920s. The first bike to bear the name Velocette was the  1939 GTP, a 250cc two-stroke.

The company concentrated on racers until WW2, when they turned to less exotic but still different road machines. Included among these post-war models are the 350cc Viper and 500cc Venom singles - high-performance machines, fast and powerful. The Thruxton, a souped-up Venom made from 1965, was their most powerful machine and one of the best contemporary singles. An attempt to develop a 149cc (later 200cc ) shaft-driven, liquid-cooled scooter (the LE) in the late post-war 1940s proved unsuccessful and costly. While advanced, it was sedate and economical - and unpopular. Despite its flaccid sales, the LE remained in production from 1949 until 1970. The company went out of business in 1971.

Venus 1920-22
Verus 1919-25. Built by Alfred Wiseman who also made Sirrah machines.
Victa 1912-13
Victoria 1902-26 (28?).Scottish firm.
Villiers Founded as Villiers Cycle Components Co. in Wolverhampton by John Marston (see Sunbeam) in 1898 to make pedals and other small fittings for his bicycle firm. Soon started making other products such as wheels, turning to engines and motorcycles in 1911. Originally planned for a 349cc four stroke, but switched to two-stroke design in 1912. Started mass-production with Mk 1 269cc two-stroke single in 1913. Closed in 1916 for war time production, re-opened in 1918. By 1922, they had advanced their design several times and were making the Mk V. They were also making 98, 147, 247 and 342cc sizes, branching out from that to make 18 models by 1925. They made a pressurized oil system in 1926, an inline twin in 1927 and water-cooled singles in early 1930s. Merged with four-stroke rival JAP in 1957 (58?). Taken over by shareholder Manganese Bronze Holdings in 1965, which later took over AMC to form Norton Villiers. At this point, Villiers stopped supplying engines to outside companies. Production of the Villiers engine closed in the UK, but continued on in Madras, India.

See also HRD. Philip Vincent designed and built his first motorcycle in 1924. He purchased HRD in 1928 and continued a tradition of making fast, well-crafted but expensive machines. His prime innovation was his own design of rear suspension. After receiving a batch of poor JAP engines for his TT racing models in 1934, he decided to make his own engines and ended up with the series A line. Australian engineer Phil Irving joined Vincent to make the 1935 Meteor, a powerful 499cc single (sold in four models as the Meteor, sports Comet, Comet Special and TT racing models). The Comet line had both front and rear suspension at a time when most manufacturers had only front suspension.

In 1936 he developed the famous 998cc V-twin. But the engine proved cantankerous and too much for current transmissions.

After WW2, the 45 hp Series B Rapide was released with an upgraded transmission, a new gearbox and a radical new frame to offer a 110mph top speed. Comet and Meteor singles were brought back in 1948 (with a racing TT replica version), followed by the sporting 55 hp Black Shadow V-twin, capable of 120-128 mph (it weighed 458 lb dry, about 80lb more than a T100 Tiger). In 1949, Series C was released with new Vincent forks. But as good as the machines were, they were handcrafted and expensive. After selling only 11,000 machines post-war, a sales slump in 1954 forced the company to manufacture NSU mopeds (selling about 20,000) and Firefly engines under licence.

Vincent released the Series D Black Knight (formerly Rapide) and Black Prince (formerly Shadow) in late 1954 but despite a wealth of technical innovations, their fully-faired styling was unpopular. Short supply of fibreglass encouraged an attempt to release them as 'naked' bikes, but it backfired on the market. Sales of new models of this "two-wheeled Bentley"  were very slow. The company was also losing money in an experimental water scooter called the Amanda - predating today's jet skis by a quarter century. Vincent finally closed in 1955.

Rollie Free broke the 150mph barrier on a Lightning in 1951 (?), Russell Wright set the world record  at 185.15 mph and Robert Burns the sidecar record at 163.06 mph in 1955, both on Vincent Lightnings in New Zealand.

Vinco 1903-05. Produced by W. H. Heighton Ltd.
Vindec 1902-29 (1914-28?). Sold by Brown Brothers.
Vindec-Special 1903-14 Same as Allright, built in Germany for Britain.
Viper 1919-22
Vitesse Name derives from VTS the Valveless Two Stroke Company, of Birmingham. Engine manufacturer.
Voyager 1990. A feet-forward machine like the Quasar, but without a roof. Used same Reliant car engine as the Quasar.
Vulcan 1922-23.
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