Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Whiffling Clara"...the 1931 supercharged 348cc KTT Velocette runs again.....


"Whiffling Clara" was the name given by eccentric Velocette designer/rider Harold Willis to the supercharged 348cc KTT Velocette that appeared in the IOM TT in 1931.
Why the name?
It was believed to have been given by Willis to the special model supercharged KTT because when it was stopped after a run with all the pipes pressuring the float chamber, petrol tank etc... as the pressure leaked out it did so in a manner that Willis felt was a whiffling sound.....
Ivan Rhodes has had the bones of Clara for a long time and in the last year or so has made a concerted effort to restore it to as near a condition as it was believed it was when it ran in the IOM in 1931 and 1932.
The supercharger proved the greatest hurdle...it was of Foxwell brand, but search as he may, no such supercharger or parts for same could be found.
So with as much information as they could glean, Ivan's friend Bob Higgs designed and had the castings made and another friend, Harold Beal  machined them up.
Finally in late May 2010 the bike was started at "Fellside", Ivan's Derby home and ran to a select group of onlookers who included Harold, Bob, Ivan's son Graham and his son Simon etc.
Ivan rode the bike along a nearby road to his home and in speaking with him the other evening said it had about 5 psi boost and ran nicely.....
The Rhodes troupe then set off for Scotland with their two supercharged factory racers...Clara and The Roarer to full-fill an engagement to demonstrate them.
Following are some photographs taken at the start-up by Rodney Wildsmith and passed on to me from Eunice and Phil Goude Velocette owners and friends of Ivan's from Victoria, Australia and Clive Larby in the UK...my thanks.
Left click on the images to enlarge....

OK an explanation due for the sudden withdrawal of this blog for a day or so.
I re read "Titch" Allens' notes below from his "Velocette Saga" and felt they were a little confusing concerning the dates that the supercharged Velo KTT went to the IOM TT races...
So I went through the IOM TT editions of "The MotorCycle" and "MotorCycling", reviewed PEI's Autobiography p. 185, the TT programs for 1931 and 1932 and can confidently state that Willis took a supercharged KTT, which he called "Whiffling Clara" to the 1931 TT races but after difficulties with the engine in practice, removed the supercharger and raced "Clara" unsupercharged, finishing 11th in the Junior TT.
He was back in 1932 with the bike supercharged but he stopped during the race as "Titch" reported, almost word for word from "The MotorCycle" to tinker with the engine and then retired from the race.
Following this the supercharging experiment was abandoned until later in the 1930's with the then development of the twin cylinder 500cc supercharged Velocette  "The Roarer" taken over to the 1939 TT races.
Sadly Harold Willis died during TT time from reportedly meningitis after being admitted to hospital for a minor operation. He never lived to hear of Stanley Woods success in winning the 1939 Junior TT on the Velocette 350 that he developed.
Below from PEI's Autobiography...
 For 1932 Harold Willis was back at the IOM TT races with the supercharged "Wiffling Clara" , practiced with the bike and started the race on it, but as "Titch" states further below, he was forced to retire after tinkering with the engine.

 
 Dave Martin from New Orleans who monitors my blog and spends much time ferreting out pics and information, emailed me the photo above of Willis during the 1931 Junior TT on "Clara", unsupercharged, and he went on to finish 11th.
As well he located a photo, below, of Willis on "Clara" in supercharged form, same corner, but in the 1932 Junior TT.
Thanks Dave.....


Below is the Velocette entry list for the 1931 IOM Junior TT.

Below is the Velocette entry list for the 1932 Junior TT.


From "The MotorCycle" 18th May 1932, is another interesting report on Whiffling Clara" and two sectioned drawings of the Foxwell Supercharger.


The coloured  photos taken by Rodney Wildersmith...
Clara, above, in its 1931 form from MCS "The Velocette Saga".
Page from Phil Irvings design notebooks from his time at Veloce Ltd in 1930's.
"Whiffling Clara" and "The Roarer"...the two supercharged Velocettes at "Fellside", Ivan's home.
Below are pages from "Tich" Allen's Velocette Saga, describing Clara in 1931....


Since I originally posted this blog, Clive Larby has come up with a photo of the machined components to make up the "Foxwell" supercharger for Ivan's restoration. See Below....
Clive's comment to me via email is...
"Hi Dennis, thought you may like this for your Clara Blog.
These are parts that  Harold Beal made from the castings that were designed and had made by Bob Higgs.
Harold machined the castings and had made all the parts for the charger, assembled it and ran it for a couple of hours in his workshop before giving it to Ivan to fit on Clara."

3 comments:

occhiolungo said...

she looks great! thank you for sharing Dennis.


Pete

daveinnola said...

nice bit of meat to this article guv, i realy enjoyed it , mind you your bits about the racing in the fifties with those great photos is hard to beat , but this one is up in the top ten , thank you dave

jon said...

And another tremendous piece of work from Ivan and friends. I think that we owe a great deal to the Rhodes family. Their restoration and use of rare factory bikes made by Veloce outstrips any other manufacturer, which is only right as the 1920s K series design is the precursor to all British OHC singles made since and I'm sure was studied by manufacturers abroad.
Jon Hill