Only a monumental fool would deny the Velocette Thruxton its rightful place upon the mount of Olympus, to drip oil beside Zeus and Apollo, glowing modestly while the gods beside it trouble the earth. I know all this because I am a Thruxton’s caretaker, so blessed for 31 years now, and the machine told me so.

My 1965 Velocette Thruxton, VMT260, otherwise known as ‘Courgette’, pictured in 1989 outside San Francisco’s Ace Cafe [Paul d’Orleans]
I retain my marbles, nor is my walnut cracked; the Velocette spoke over tens of thousands of miles in my company, providing an embarrassment of pleasure, enough that should she take on human form, I would feel compelled to give her my wages entirely each week, and happily so, while protecting her from the burden of children and other mundane obligations, retaining her in a gilded, perfumed, and pillow-strewn room for the sole purpose of my selfish excitement.

A dawn ride to the peak of Mt Tamalpais in Marin County circa 1990, with the author and his Thruxton. [Andy Saunders]
I was introduced to Velocetting via Classic Bike magazine, discovering that formerly-essential quarterly Bible of Old Bikeism in its earliest days, the first years of the 1980s. I’d never seen a Velo in the metal, but I studied those magazines until the pages turned to ragged tissue and the staples wore holes in the covers, which I mended with clear library tape. I have them all, from issue #1; they were equally my education and my pornography.

On the occasion of the 3rd anniversary of Don Danmeier’s 50th birthday, a model hired for the occasion poses with Paul d’Orleans’ jacket and Thruxton. [Paul d’Orleans]
The first Thruxton I encountered in the wild was all-black with gold pinstriping, plus a half-fairing and shortened hump seat; it had been ridden 90 miles from Sacramento to San Francisco for an unworthy local swap meet in 1985; my day was spent gazing rapt, annoying the owner with questions. Not long after, a friend gained employment at an open-secret motorbike museum deep in Oakland; a visit revealed this cave of moto-gems contained a green Thruxton, in truth the lowliest machine among the 300 ultra-rare Broughs and prewar Vincent twins which crowded those dark halls. Yet it was that green bike which I coveted, longed for, dreamed about.

The author with the ‘Velocette’ jacket beside Josiah Leet in his ‘Norton’ jacket; jacket art by Paul, from a period of many such paintings for riders of everything from Vincent twins to Panther singles. Easter Morning, 1989. [Vintagent Archive]
The ‘museum’ owner was caught with $3M in cash and 6 tons of amphetamine powder, necessitating the scurried removal of 300 machines to a new, secret, location, and the rapid sale of same to pay lawyer’s fees. As I’d made my desire known (many times), the Thruxton was offered in exchange for an $8900 bank cheque, within 24 hours. At 27 years old I was an under-employed layabout, earning just enough to cover my rent, my fun, and my motorcycle parts, but I borrowed the money, and my sweaty and nervous palms shortly held the title to that green Velocette. It cost 8 times any motorbike I’d ever bought, and I was actually scared to ride it those first few days. Trepidation soon disappeared, and within the month we’d cracked across the Golden Gate Bridge at 4am, at over 115mph.

Bestie Velocettists, still today: Bill Charman and Paul d’Orleans circa 1989 at Alice’s Restaurant in Skylonda. Denise Lietzel’s blue Venom Special, Paul’s green Thruxton, and Bill’s black original-paint MSS. [Denise Leitzel]
My Thruxton gained a name (‘Courgette’) and a reputation, as I attempted piecemeal to duplicate Velocette’s famous 24 hours at 100mph record. She let me down once only – my fault – being otherwise flawless and peerless, even enduring a two-year stint as my sole transport and daily commuter. We have been from Los Angeles to the Canadian Rockies and every twisted road between, earnestly scrubbing away sidewall rubber as her gaping carburetor sprayed petrol vapor on my right knee. She fires right up and scampers away, is dead smooth at 80mph, with the confluent sound of intake, exhaust, piston rattle, and valve gear symphonic beneath me.

Touring through Canada by Velocette, the author on his Thruxton on a Velocette Owner’s Club Summer Rally, circa 1990. [Denise Leitzel]
Together we are invisible to police, having never been stopped, and I am revealed as a half-green Centaur of prodigious speed and agility. She is as important to me as my own liver, and as familiar. My greatest blessing would be to wish you a long a fruitful marriage to a Velocette Thruxton, such as I have experienced, and it’s a great pity more riders who imagine they enjoy motorcycles will not have such an opportunity. The beasts are simply too rare, so I am required to tell the truth about this machine, as it has been told to me by the Thruxton herself, all these many years.

 

Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.
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