Road racing motorcycles undergo a bevy of modifications before ever rolling onto the track. Whether you’re converting a production bike or starting from a competition-ready machine, you’re bound to tinker in some manner. When you take on a vintage road racing rig, however, all bets are off. Whatever it takes to get the engine running and brakes stopping, is what you inevitably do.
That approach is apparent in this race machine’s name, which is derived from the 1964 Velocette Venom 500 engine wedged into the tubular steel Lyster frame. The Dr. Frankenstein behind this beautiful contraption was former racer Alan Taylor and many affectionately refer to the project as the “Alan Taylor Special”.
Gallery: Alan Taylor Special: 1964 Lyster Velocette Venom 500
Living in Canada at the time, Taylor sourced one of Lyster’s steel duplex cradle frames. The bike builder knew of Lyster’s 60s-era reputation as an innovator of early disc brakes and frames. By pairing the custom Lyster with the Venom’s 500cc single, Taylor kept the weight down while retaining reliable power. Of course, racers rarely let things lie, and the builder set out to add more pep to the vintage racer’s step.
Taylor started with the valvetrain, replacing the Velocette hairpin valve springs with BSA Goldstar springs and installing titanium valves. He also fabricated a custom cam and converted the standard bearings to double rollers. Moving on to fueling, Taylor fed the twin-plug head with a 38mm Amal carburetor. A billet machine flywheel and cast drive-side crankcase lightened the load in certain areas and added durability in others.
Though the Lyster frame and Velocette mill are the vintage racer’s main components, that didn’t stop Taylor from borrowing parts from other sources. A Norton clutch actuates a Matchless gearbox and the front end is courtesy of Norton as well. The front four-leading shoe drum brake comes off a Suzuki GT750 and the rear drum is a Triumph example. Despite that pick-n-pull nature of the build, the Lyster Velocette only weighs in at a svelte 270 pounds.
After splicing the bike together, Taylor recognized that his racing days were over and he entrusted the rig to talented racer Gary McGraw. In turn, McGraw successfully competed on the Lyster Velocette through the ‘80s and ‘90s. However, the time came for McGraw to pass the racing reigns to the next generation, so he rebuilt the competition machine and handed it over to VRRA racer Holly Varey. Hopefully, she enjoys similar success aboard the Lyster Velocette, but if we know anything, some modifications will occur along the way.
Sources: Silodrome, Douglas MacRae