A Brief History of 250cc KTT Specials
Article By Chris Pereira
During the immediate post-war period, the lack of new British 250cc overhead cam racing machines, gave birth to the idea of reducing the capacity of existing 350cc racing machines. What follows is a brief history of the KTT based 250cc specials that were built and raced during the 1950s. Unfortunately I am unable to provide as much technical information as I would have liked about these machines, for the simple reason that such information has been almost impossible to find or verify. These machines were built over 50 years ago and many of the riders and constructors are sadly no longer with us.
The pioneer in the field of KTT Velo and Manx Norton based 250cc hybrids was Ron Mead, a gifted rider/engineer from Crewe in Cheshire. Having successfully built and raced a 250 Manx Norton hybrid in 1949; Ron produced what is probably the first KTT based 250 in 1950, on which he won the North West 200 and finished 3 rd in the Lightweight TT. Another gifted rider/engineer about this time was Doug Beasley from Coventry, whose name would later become synonymous with 250 KTT Specials. The historical evidence suggests that Beasley and Mead collaborated on the building of a new 250 KTT in 1951, using a modified crankshaft and flywheel assembly to achieve 68x68.5mm dimensions. This machine that was ridden in the TT by Ron Mead, was probably the precursor in a line of Beasley Velocettes. Prompted by the success of the original Mead Velo, perennial Epsom dealer/racer Arthur Wheeler commissioned Ron Mead to build one of these engines for his 250 Velocette, on which he won the 1951 Leinster and North West 200s. Two other riders who had the opportunity to ride an early version of the Mead Velo in 1951, were Benny Rood who had a 2 nd place at Boreham in April and Robin Sherry who recorded a win at Castle Coombe in July.
By 1952 250cc KTT Velo and Manx Norton based specials were proving to be a popular alternative to some of the ageing pre-war and roadster based machines in this class. Most of them were based on the original Mead or Beasley concept. Doug Beasley raced the first of his self built Beasleys at the TT in 1952. He also built a very special 250 Velo for Bill Lomas, which featured an Ernie Earles alloy duplex cradle frame and Earles front forks. Benny Rood also decided to construct his own machine in 1952 and with some help from Ron Mead, he built a 250 KTT which became the Benny Rood Special.
A total of 11 Beasley Velos were built during the 1950’s. Although Doug himself built several complete machines, some of his engines inevitably ended up in other specials. Technically all Beasley engines were very similar, employing the classic 68x68.5mm dimensions, that were achieved by the use of MOV or modified KTT crankshaft assemblies. Special shortened connecting rods were also used and the flywheels were stepped to provide piston clearance. Standard KTT cylinder heads had the combustion chambers filled up and re-machined to suit the smaller bore. Frames too varied between machines but were basically of the duplex cradle type. Various front forks were used including Earles type and Norton Roadholders, while finally settling for Velocette telescopics with the bottom sections reversed to provide a rear offset wheel spindle that gave Beasley Velos the characteristic long-legged look.
During 1953 Benny Rood’s Velo was the most successful British 250, with wins at Silverstone, Crystal Palace and Snetterton, plus several other rostrum places. Shrewsbury motorcycle dealer Fron Purslow had acquired the ex Lomas Earles/Beasley which was ridden by him and his nephew Brian Purslow. Fron was 3 rd in the North West 200 and also had rostrum places at Scarborough, Eppynt and Aberdare. Another special builder was Charlie Lucas from Watford, who used a KTT engine in his 250 Lucas Special that was ridden by Eric Pantlin. Veteran motorcycle dealer Bill Webster from Crewe was also a successful 250 Velo exponent with his KTT hybrid which was most probably another Beasley.
Development of the 250cc KTTs continued apace in 1954. Benny Rood converted his Velo to gear driven double overhead camshafts, using a specially cast alloy cam-box housing a train of gears driven from the main vertical shaft drive pinion. Confirmed special builder Geoff Monty also produced the prototype GMV. The main technical difference on his machine, was the retention of the standard KTT bore of 74mm with the stroke reduced to an ultra short 57mm, achieved with a modified crankshaft assembly. To accommodate such a short stroke, the connecting rod was shortened and re-welded using a special process. Mounted at first in a standard ‘featherbed’ frame, the engine and Velo gearbox were later mounted in a similar scaled down frame built by Geoff. Ill health had forced Doug Beasley to give up racing, his machines however continued to be successful, ridden by such illustrious riders as Cecil Sandford who finished 2 nd to Maurice Cann’s Guzzi at the Silverstone Saturday meeting and won the 250cc race at the Hutchinson 100 in 1954.
Manchester racing dealer Reg Dearden provided a 250 Velo for the very promising young local rider Dave Chadwick. Strictly speaking this machine was not a ‘special’, but to all intents and purposes, was one of the 1951 ex works, 5 speed, double overhead cam machines that had been ridden by Les Graham in 1952. The special girder forks used by Graham, had been replaced with Velocette telescopic units. Dave Chadwick was particularly successful with this machine at Scarborough, scoring a win in July and finishing 2 nd to a works DKW at the September International meeting. A similar ex works machine was ridden by Eric Houseley who finished 8 th in the Lightweight TT.
Geoff Monty had a successful 1955 season with his GMV, scoring a win at Thruxton and several rostrum places at Blandford, Ibsley, Snetterton and the Hutchinson 100. For some of these meetings the GMV appeared with a full ‘dustbin’ type fairing. Coventry based rider Percy Tait also began to make his mark with some promising results on his Doug Beasley sponsored 250, while the other 250 protagonist Benny Rood was also often in the picture with his twin cam Rood Velo. Reg Dearden produced what became known as the RDS Velo, by installing one of the ex works Velo engines and gearbox into a Norton ‘featherbed’ frame for Dave Chadwick, who had wins in the Southern 100 and at Oulton Park and also finished 5 th in the Lightweight TT,
By 1956 the arrival of the first NSU Sportmax models and the presence of several ex works 203 MV’s, plus the usual sundry Moto Guzzis were making life difficult for the British built specials. During the winter of 1955/56, Geoff Monty started building replicas of the GMV to order. The first was supplied to Dick Harding from Blackheath, who started his 1956 season with a debut win at Brands Hatch on Good Friday. A second GMV was built during 1956 for Peter Chatterton, while the original prototype was acquired by Jervis Hyde. Newcomer Roy Mayhew had acquired, what evidence seems to indicate, was one of the original ex Dearden 1951 works Velos. A feature of the 1956 season were the battles between him and Dick Harding for podium places on the southern circuits. Percy Tait was also very much in the picture with Doug Beasley’s bike, particularly at Cadwell Park and Scarborough, while yet another Beasley exponent, Jack Murgatroyd from Burnley, also entered the fray. The Dearden RDS Velo was ridden by Phil Carter who finished 7th in the TT and George Costain borrowed it to finish 3 rd in the Southern 100.
During the winter of 1956/57 Dan Shorey acquired the Norvel on which he forged his racing career. This particular bike that had previously been raced by Maurice Henderson from Brackley, was essentially a Beasley engine and Velo gearbox in a Norton featherbed frame. Dan soon began to establish his reputation with rostrum places at Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Snetterton. Jack Murgatroyd too was particularly successful on northern circuits, notching up a string of wins at Charterhall, Cadwell Park and also at Mallory Park. Chester dealer Bill Smith also rode a KTT Velo to win the 250 Southern 100, in which George Costain was 2 nd on the Dearden RDS Velo. Making a comeback after a nasty accident in 1956, Dick Harding had acquired the Benny Rood Velo on which he had a win at Brands Hatch and a 2 nd place at Crystal Palace. Geoff Monty also built a 3 rd GMV in 1957 for Sedburgh rider Denis Pratt, who enjoyed some success with his machine on northern circuits over the next couple of years.
Dan Shorey and Jack Murgatroyd were the most successful 250 Velo exponents in 1958. Dan was 3 rd in the ACU Road Racing Championship table with wins and consistent top three places at most circuits. Jack Murgatroyd continued to dominate the Northern and borders circuits to finish 4 th in the championship. Percy Tait was another regular placeman on Doug Beasley’s bike. By now the building of new KTT based specials had virtually come to an end. Probably one of the last was the ITV built by Ian Telfer from Harrow Weald in Middlesex, who incidently is still involved in Classic Racing today. His over square engine had a special one-piece crankshaft with an outside flywheel and was mounted in a Telfer built lightweight dulex cradle frame. A Velo gearbox was used together with Velo wheels and brakes and Norton front forks. It was raced briefly during 1958/59 before being sold to Scottish rider Denis Gallagher. Dan Shorey continued to uphold Velo honours in the 250 classes in 1959 with consistent performances that once again earned him 3 rd place in the ACU Championship table.