It’s My Bike: Vulcanology supreme – Bob Higgs’ V-twin Velocette

Velocette Owners’ Club honorary president Ivan Rhodes, who has enjoyed several 100-mile-plus outings on Bob Higgs’ home-built Velocette Vulcan V-twin outfit, tells of the man and his immaculate creation, which many think must have been a factory prototype.

The Velocette Vulcan V-twin mentioned in recent issues is the brainchild of Bob Higgs, a friend of all in the Velocette Owners’ Club, who was introduced to motorcycling by riding on the back of his father’s BSA Bantam (later changed for an LE Velocette) at a time when I was doing my National Service in the 1950s.

During the Velocette Owners’ Club’s 2012 Peak Run, Ivan Rhodes and the late Mrs Joyce White are on the Vulcan outfit, and the machine’s talented designer Bob Higgs is seen with a coffee cup in his hand.

His father was a foundryman at Burton-upon-Trent, and Bob, who took up an engineering apprenticeship with the National Coal Board, acquired an older MSS and became inspired by all around him to sit down and design a V-twin Velocette.

Peter McManus’s book Derbyshire Motorcycle Maestros tells how, by staying behind at work for two hours each day for months, Bob prepared all the working drawings for design, which consisted of two 500cc Velocette heads and barrels set at a 60-degree angle on a common crankcase – and the many problems that had to
be solved.

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Bob had the patterns made by a friend, and the castings by his father, who, after deciding to make a cast aluminium points cover, melted the aluminium on the living room fire. Bob carried out all the machining himself using the basic machine tools available at the time, which as far as I know was the early 1980s.

Peter McManus’s book also tells how, even though the crankpin had to be made wider to accept the two connecting rods, the crankcase is only an inch wider than standard. Just as impressively, the wheelbase is only 3½ inches longer than on a standard Velocette single.

Read more in the March 2018 issue of OBM – on sale now!

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