Chris was working on a farm at the time, earning £5 per week, so when he received a cheque for £100 for winning on the football pools, he was straight off down town to trade in the Enfield. "It had to be the Venom," says Chris, "there were loads of Velos around here and they sounded just right." The Venom was £359-5s-10d (five shillings and tenpence - around 28p). With the £100 down and a part exchange discount of £155-5s-10d, that left £144 to pay. To this was added £22 12/- interest giving a total of £166-12s. With his mother as guarantor, on 9 September 1965 Keith hocked himself up for 18 instalments of £9 5/- a month and the Venom was his.
He soon changed jobs, driving lorries for the state owned haulage concern British Road Services, and began courting Wendy, later to become Mrs Parrett.
He says, "We were married in 1970 and bought a car. The bike had done 13,400 miles so was taken to Duncan's where the head was removed and decoked. I took it off the road and stored it up at my mother's place as I took a job driving wagons to the Middle East. I set up on my own in 1984."
Anyone who has built up a business from scratch will know that such an undertaking is a 24 hour, seven days a week exercise and with a young family to support, Chris had little time for frivolities such as motorcycles. "I was fortunate however that during this time, I was never in a position where I needed to sell the bike. I'd been to it every now and then to run it up but eventually it refused to start. So, in 2000, I reckoned it was time to have another look at her," he says.
not right happy
Main: Still King of the Hill - that's Chris Parrett.
Top: Vclo kickstarts arc notoriously low geared.
Bottom: Fishtail - what else?
Chris keeps comprehensive records of all transactions and everything has an exact date - a wonderful legacy to keep with his machine.
The starting problem was traced to the magneto, which was duly removed and shipped to FTW in Sheffield for an overhaul. He says, "It struck up and ran well, so I booked it in for the MoT test. The tester said, 'i'm not right happy about those spokes' so as the original steel rims had gone rusty, I had Central Wheel Components, in Coleshill, rebuild them with stainless steel rims and spokes."
The chrome plated mudguards had suffered in storage too, so they were sent for refinishing to a Peterborouh based plater. "i'm not telling you who it was," says Chris, "because even though they made a good job, it took them months. Not very satisfactory."
The inside of the fuel tank received a good scouring and a replacement silencer was fitted. "When it struck up, all the rusty innards collapsed and blew out the end of the can, so I had to get another Fishtail from Armours."
Engine-wise, apart from the decoke, it's never been apart and the clutch, gearbox and chains are all as fitted at Hall Green. "The brake shoes are getting ready for some new linings though," says Chris.
Since returning to the road a decade or so ago, Chris has added a further 6000 miles onto the clock. "I run it on stock unleaded pump fuel and it seems fine, it only pinks slightly under load up one particular long, steep local climb. I can't see the point in having unleaded seats fitted, they seem well up to the job presently at least," he says.
On a ride home one summer's evening last year, the ammeter dropped into full discharge, the system refusing to charge. "I wasn't unduly worried as I only ride in the daylight hours, but having fitted one of Hawker Electrical's state of the art regulator boxes, I sent it back for them to check. Sean Hawker was brilliant, he checked it and gave it the all clear but adjusted it slightly to allow more juice through. My son Adrian went through the bike's electrical system and rewired it, earthing everything independently - I've never had a problem since," says Chris.
When questioned about the fairing and the luggage, Chris explains, "The fairing was already on when I bought it and Duncan's sprayed the panniers to match, though Adrian's resprayed them recently.
In 45 years of ownership, Chris had never allowed anyone else to ride his Velocette, so his trepidation was understandable when I took over the reins. Velocettes are renowned for their starting procedure, courtesy of the low gearing of the kick-start mechanism. With the carburettor flooded, find compression, ease past on the valve lifter until the kick-start is at the bottom of its swing, let the kick-start return to the top and give a strong, long kick right to the bottom again. Chris made it look easy, I managed it just twice from perhaps 20 attempts before capitulating in breathless, sweating embarrassment!
Within a couple of minutes, the amazingly quiet engine had settled to a steady tickover, the obligatory fishtail giving forth its familiar chuffing note. As expected from a motorcycle which is essentially just fully bedded in, the clutch and gearbox were as smooth as the engine itself.
"all the roads round about were chock-full of overheating v8 pick-ups, pulling enormous caravans and trailers, gargantuan motorhomes, classic saloons and hot-rods!"
de havilland vixen
Chris joined snapper Baumber In the car and I followed as we made our way to the superb Newark Air Museum, In order to double up on the Venom theme with one of their De Havilland Venom exhibits. However, we had thought without the adjacent showground's huge Americana weekend gathering, and all the roads round about were chock-full of overheating V8 pick-ups, pulling enormous caravans, gargantuan motorhomes, classic saloons and hot-rods!
It was fortunate in one respect, for when swinging the Venom out of a junction onto the main road, the base of the fairing grounded, in fact it decked out again a few seconds later when turning off in the opposite direction. So there was a warning to refrain from any spirited cornering.
In the Air Museum we were shown both the Night Venom and the Sea Venom, but they were in one of the hangers so we compromised with the outdoor Sea Vixen.
With the statics complete, we indulged in a refreshing pot of tea
Above: "All life on the open road. Get a bike you lot."
Below: Cold war deterent retirement. Newark Air Museum's awesome Vulcan and locally baked cake, before heading off, the long way cross country to avoid the traffic.
Stopping and starting for the camera, on such a hot day, proved how good the Venom was, with neither carburatlon nor clutch playing up. There was however, a certain amount of pinking under load, though this lessened when the engine was driven higher through the rev range before changing up. Were It mine though, I would try some appropriate octane boosting additive. This is in no way a criticism, for the Venom was as smooth as silk, with no discernible vibration through footrests, seat or handlebars, just that reassuring sensation that beneath was a very healthy and powerful single cylinder engine.
Chris's Venom Is a perfect snapshot of how things were in the swingln' 60s. Along with liberated attitudes, great music, groovy fashions, Mods, Rockers, you name it, a new Velocette Venom would have made you King of the Hill, As far as Chris is concerned, he still is!
Below: Cold war deterent retirement. Newark Air Museum's awesome Vulcan
m newark air museum
Signposted off the A46 and the A17 on the east side of Newark, the former RAF Winthorpe covers many acres and can boast 69 (at the moment) aircraft, including a Vulcan and Shackleton, Lightning, Canberra, Buccaneer. Harrier, Anson, Hunter, Meteor, Javelin, MiG, many of which have open cockpits, plus other exhibits such as a genuine Upkeep Bouncing Bomb, missiles, even a tidy TRW Triumph!
There's also a tremendous amount of period memorabilia with a comprehensive history of the site when active as an air base. There's a fantastic souvenir shop, comfortable café with indoor and outdoor seating - toasties and the local cakes highly recommended - and they can even cater for school trips and parties.
Open every day except 24/25/26 December and 1 January, with admission £6.25, OAP £5.75 and children £4. Family ticket two adults, three kids £18.50. See www.newarkairmusuem.org or call 01636 707170.
i Dealer of the Year 2009
Hullcl LI.M1C Hi £4,495 on the rojd
Was this article helpful?