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My Dinner with Ivan

February 7, 2012

During a recent stop in Borrowash, I stopped by to see Ivan Rhodes and talk about Velocettes.  If you don’t know his name, Ivan is a Velo man bar none, and wrote the book Technical Excellence Exemplified.  It is required reading for any Velo fellow, and tells a lot of the history of the marque, especially the racing bikes.  His knowledge has been shared beyond his book, by also writing for the newsletters of the various clubs that he is a member of and has often been President or Chairman, etc. such as the Velocette Owners Club, the VMCC, the Association of Pioneer Motorcyclists, and others.  On many weekends throughout the year he is traveling around, bringing rare and exotic bikes to races, shows and museums.  It is easy to go on and on, with examples of how Ivan is a Velo Superman; loaning bikes to racers, clubs and riders or bringing one-of-a-kind special bikes back to life.  But here’s some photos to look at…



Not an MSS or a Thruxton, but a  2 cylinder Velocette.  The one of a kind Model O.  Designed by Phil Irving and owned by John Griffith and then Titch Allen, Ivan is now looking after the machine.  Additionally Ivan famously rebuilt the blown racing version of 1939, the Roarer.



A nice pic of a mark 7 KTT at speed, I think that maybe Ivan was the pilot?  Two motors on the bench, the left one features magnesium crankcases and timing chain cover.



Ivan with Whiffing Clara, the blown 350 racebike built by Harold Willis at the Hall Green factory.  The blower can be seen in front of the crankcase with a circular air intake and carb above.  Ivan has been restoring the bike for years, stymied by the missing blower.  Once he sorted that out, the bike came together quickly.  Tuning of the motor back in 1933 was troublesome, with the usual issues of adapting a blower to a single cylinder motor.   The pressurized tank under the seat had to be relieved occasionally during a race via a small manual valve, to clear the “pig dollop” that would build up.

 IMG_9478 - Copy

A neat project bike.  This one has magnesium cases, monster fins, telescoping front forks and a dual overhead cam top end.


DOHC drive side

A DOHC motor.  


 DOHC timing side

The timing side of that DOHC motor.



A SOHC motor, missing a few bits.


first shifter

Harold Wills was a brilliant designer, known not only for his engineering ideas but also for his witty names for items such as a “long hole” (exhaust pipe) or “electrified dirt” (magnesium) and “hay motor” (a horse).  One of his mechanical inventions was the positive stop footchange mechanism.  Previous to Willis’s design, bike shifters wouldn’t stop in the same place after each shift.  It would move a bit to get up to second gear, then move a bit more to get to third.  Willis saw that this wasted a lot of time and effort while racing, and laid out his shifter to have springs that forced the lever back to a center position after each up or down shift.  It was used under license by many marques, and the idea was eventually utilized on 100% of motorcycles even up to today, albeit with various types of mechanisms.  Thank Willis and Veloce next time you go for a ride and shift gears on your bike.  PS, the bike in the photo above has his first footchange, stamped with serial #1.





Time to get dinner at the local place: fish and chips with mushy peas and a pint.  And a 1920’s Rolls with a special two door body  to take us there. 

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2012 10:36 pm

    fantastic …
    ivan is the man….

  2. February 8, 2012 9:04 am

    Thanks for the eye candy. Now where can I get a blower for my Excelsior? Hmm. Paul

  3. carl permalink
    February 8, 2012 10:03 am

    cheers pete, could you not have airbrushed the pic of me,ie younger slimer not so scruffy

    • February 8, 2012 1:53 pm

      ha ha! You look great Carl. I just wish that I had taken more than just these few photos.

  4. John permalink
    February 8, 2012 10:41 am

    Ivan is certainly “the man” when it comes to Velocettes.

    Interesting that you should post a pic of his Rolls Royce too, do you know if he still has the Bentley? When I got married in 1994 I left it too late to book a wedding car and the usual limo hire places were all booked up. I mentioned this to someone who knew Ivan and they told me that Ivan had been known in the past to provide wedding transport in either his Rolls or his Bentley of similar vintage. Long story short, Ivan was my chauffeur for my wedding day. Top bloke.

    More recently, I have used Ivan’s company for stove enameling on recent restorations, check out

  5. February 8, 2012 12:14 pm

    The “mk.7” pictured is in fact a works 1937-39 SOHC 350 and has the additional scavenge pump in the bottom bevel drive area. The DOHC engine under construction is a replica of the 1936 works racer. A replica, as the three originals are in still in Australia. I’m looking forward to seeing it’s completion and building into a frame for use.
    Ivan Rhodes is a “doer” not a “going to do” person and has rebuilt and uses so many of the factories racing machines.
    He gives us all the opportunity to step back into the past when Velocette were a force in international motorcycle racing.
    Kindest regards,
    Dennis Quinlan

  6. Rich Ellis permalink
    April 20, 2012 3:00 am

    Fantastic collection. Such an enthusiastic and helpful fellow.

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