It seems so strange now, but before the 1960s, dirt bikes usually had the same chassis as their road-going counterparts. And if you wanted a bike to race, you could order a basic engine and frame from the factory, and then finish the machine to your own specification.
In France, you were known as a “compé-client,” or competition client. And that’s how this lovely 1955 Velocette Scrambler started its life. Owned by a friend of Vincent Prat (of the Southsiders MC), it was ridden by a local pilot for several seasons until the frame broke under the stresses of off-road competition.
This particular Scrambler was a factory-built machine based on the MSS 500. Power was boosted from 18 to 35 hp, thanks to components from the more powerful Venom—including the camshaft. The bike is also running a BTH Racing Magneto and an equally rare Amal 10TT9 carburetor.
According to Vincent, the Velocette languished at the back of a garage for several years after the frame was damaged. In the 1960s, a mechanic turned the broken rear frame into a lever-armed shock absorber, and the Velocette was once again pressed into competition.
The bike could not be set up correctly, and it was sold on in frustration. It was passed from one owner to another, each one putting his own stamp on it—such as a new seat, and a gas tank from a Motobécane.
The Velocette is now in safe hands, though. The current owner is part-way through a complete restoration, and the frame and vintage “mono-shock” will be properly optimized.
Isn’t it good to know that there are still people out there who care?
Photography by Benoit Guerry, © Guerry & Prat Images.