The ex-factory press fleet, earliest known survivor
1955 Velocette 349cc Viper
Registration no. SOP 367
Frame no. RS7879
Engine no. VR1002
'Twelve to ninety - that is a fair mph assessment of the top-gear performance of a 1956 349cc Velocette Viper model,' stated Motor Cycling about the example it had on test. 'A speed of 92mph was the best recorded, but a mean of several timed runs produced a result just under 91mph... Those are impressive figures for a 350cc single weighing some 380lbs in road trim...'
The actual subject of Motor Cycling's test report (copy on file) was the Viper offered here - 'SOP 367' - which formed part of Veloce Ltd's press fleet back in 1956. Declaring 'a high-performance single proves that touring attributes can be combined with speed,' the highly respected British magazine also found that the Viper was extraordinarily economical, logging 'an average day-in day-out figure of some 85-90mpg.'
Boasting engine number '1002', 'SOP 367' is the earliest known surviving Viper. Its accompanying original buff logbook records Messrs Veloce Ltd as the first owner followed by five others, the last named being Frank Melling, almost certainly the respected motorcycling journalist and 'Thundersprint' organiser of that name, who appears to have acquired it in the 1970s. Listed as 'previous registered keeper' on the accompanying Swansea V5C, its next recorded owner was Geoffrey Witham of Didcot, Oxfordshire, who acquired the Viper in November 1984 from one T Sneasby (purchase receipt on file). 'SOP 367' had been off the road since the 1980s when it was purchased from Mr Witham by the current owner in 2010 (receipt on file). The machine was then despatched to Aspire Classics of Enslow, Oxfordshire for refurbishment.
When Aspire dismantled the engine, believed untouched since initial assembly, they found what appeared to be a high-compression piston and high-lift cams, which suggests that Veloce was not averse to supplying machines of enhanced specification for testing duties, a common enough practice at the time. Interestingly, correspondence on file speculates that 'SOP 367' may have been retained for development purposes. The Viper's story was recounted in a recent edition of Old Bike Mart (October 2012, copy available).
Recently re-commissioned and benefiting from a fuel tank chromed, repainted and coachlined, this historic early Viper is offered with the aforementioned documentation, old-style continuation logbook, sundry invoices, and assorted VOC and DVLC correspondence.