The ex-Geoff Dodkin, Reg Everett/Tom Phillips, Dave Croxford/Keith Heckles, John Blanchard, Barcelona 24 Hours, Brands Hatch 500 Miles, Isle of Man TT, class-winning
1964 Velocette Thruxton 498cc Production Racing Motorcycle
Registration no. UYO 100F
Frame no. RS15964
Engine no. VMT750R
All Velo fellows will have heard of Geoff Dodkin, who ran his own shop in South London for many years. Before building this particular machine, Geoff had been involved in racing Velocettes for some time, both when he worked for Reg Orpin at L Stevens Ltd and later after starting up on his own. Endurance racing was very popular in the 1960s and Geoff prepared Venoms for events such as the Barcelona 24 Hours, the Brands Hatch and Thruxton 500 milers, etc. This particular machine was built in 1964/5 specifically for endurance racing, the Thruxton model being new on the market and one of the fastest singles of the day.
Geoff started by asking the factory to build him a special frame with lighter lugs and a braced trunnion shaft, yet despite being an established Velocette dealer he still had to pay for it! The original engine was much modified by Geoff himself and in 1965 featured needle roller bearings throughout the timing chest and rocker arms without tappet adjusters, the push-rods being made to length. This saved weight and there was nothing to work loose! The gearbox had TT ratios, which meant a very high first gear and a closer 3rd and 4th. Velocettes trademark fishtail silencer was cut away at the back enabling it to be mounted a couple of inches higher, and the oil tank had an alloy heat deflector fitted and an extension at the back to increase capacity.
The Thruxtons first race was the 1965 Brands Hatch 500 miler. Ridden by Reg Everett and Tom Phillips, the Velo was leading the 500cc class with half an hour to go when the BTH magneto failed and the bike was pushed in to finish 12th. In 1966 it was decided to do the Barcelona 24 Hours race as well as the Brands 500 miler again, and for these races Tom Phillips was joined by Dave Croxford. For the relatively slow Barcelona circuit the bike was run without a fairing and with a rear chain oiler fitted, as it was known that a chain couldnt survive 24 hours of racing without lubrication. (The Spanish scrutineering marks are still on the frame, bottom yoke and swinging arm from this event). At the end of the 24 hours the Dodkin Velo had completed 624 laps and was in 3rd place overall, but more importantly had won the 500cc class. The next 500 was in 18th place, which underlines what an excellent performance this was by a privateer team. Next came the Brands 500 miler and another trouble-free class win in the face of some quick twin-cylinder opposition.
With a Production race on the Isle of Man TT calendar for 1967, Keith Heckles was recruited to ride the Dodkin Velo as he was a seasoned TT rider and would be racing his Beart Norton there anyway. At the Le Mans-style start, Heckles bike and Neil Kellys Reg Orpin-entered Thruxton proved reluctant starters, but both made up time and eventually got to the front of the 500cc field. At the flag Kelly won at 89.89mph with Heckles 2nd at 89.15mph.
For 1968 the Velocette factory supplied a limited number (around a dozen) of works engines with squish-band cylinder heads to favoured dealers, VMT750R being one of three of these special units sent to Geoff Dodkin. This engine was then given the Dodkin treatment and put in the bike, where it remains. The 68 Production TT race went well, but the Triumph of Ray Knight proved quicker and won at 90.09mph with the Dodkin Velo, ridden on this occasion by John Blanchard, finishing in 2nd place at 88.58mph. In 1969 the TT was on the agenda again with Keith Heckles once more, but misfortune struck when debris got sucked in through the carburettor and damaged the engine, causing a retirement.
After the 1969 TT, the Thruxton was retired and did nothing until Geoff Dodkin sold it to the current owner, who rebuilt it in 2001 (with standard tappets rather than the adjuster-less rockers) and used it on the road for a time (all production racing machines had to be road-registered in the 1960s and so this one came with a logbook). The Velo was taken back to the Isle of Man and ridden around the circuit in the Past Masters parade (in 2003). Other outings have included a practice session or two at Donington Park, a few miles on the road for a photo shoot, and the occasional Velocette Owners Club run, while Keith Heckles rode it again at the Beaulieu weekend.
At Donington Park the bike had been tested (for a forthcoming article in The Classic MotorCycle magazine) by well-known classic racer Gordon Russell, who found it capable of lapping at high speed, humbling more modern machinery: This Dodkin bike was comfortable (for a race bike anyway) with excellent ergonomics. The controls were light and positive; the famous clutch worked fine; the brakes were reliable; the carburetion clean. The engine was mechanically quiet and produced power all the way from just above tick-over to the ceiling of around 6,500rpm. It was as happy at the end of the thrashings I gave it as it was at the end. It didnt leak a drop of oil. The gearbox just changed gear easily and efficiently. The bike was faster than it seemed because it did everything without drama it just seemed to gather speed relentlessly. To me though, the most impressive aspect of this very impressive bike was the steering. I cant recall any other bike I have raced or ridden round race circuits (and that is a lot of bikes) that was so easy to put exactly where you want it on a circuit.
Presented in good condition throughout, the machine comes with old-style logbook, Swansea V5 registration document and assorted photographs. Geoff Dodkins bikes were always immaculately prepared, and this restored Thruxton represents a rare opportunity to acquire a fine example of the work of a man whose name is synonymous with that of Velocette, possessing important in-period race history.