Monday, April 13, 2015

1947 Velocette KSS, Don Henderson, Detroit


This motorcycle project appeared when a friend could least afford it, however, he is not one to shirk from a challenge like that, some cashing-in of retirement money and it was his. Needs a lot of work but a KSS Velo does not come along very often. The history of a bike like this would be nice to know and it appears it was originally imported into the Detroit area. The story goes blank until many years later it passed into Ontario and Bob McCoy before a couple of other owners put it into my friends hands. 
About a decade ago some relevant parts appeared on ebay, and my friend won the bid. He figured it was a good idea to drive down to Ohio to pick these parts up in person. Although we were met and kept in the driveway for the handover, a short conversation later we were invited in for more stories where the Cycle magazine page below was hanging on the wall. Was this the same bike or at least a clue?

A few more years passed, the project is stalled due to "life" and no further information appears.  Last year the bike below appeared on ebay. The picture is of an older Don Henderson who had sold the bike to the ebay seller. Was this the same bike in the picture above? Was this the spare bike to the one above as the ad below states?  

Hi, I am selling my 1947 Velocette KSS which is an extremely rare and desirable motorcycle. It is much more rare than a BSA Gold Star and a suitable competitor. Try to find one for sale other than this one in the world and if you do, try to buy it. They made just over 1200 from 1925-1948. I am only selling this bike as I want to buy a vintage Porsche 912 (open to trades).

This bike is sold with a clear, notarized title.

The Germans designed the motor and the British made the bike. KSS for those that do not know means Kamshaft (German for Camshaft) Super Sport.

This KSS is rock solid and has many things going for it that others do not from verifiable provenance of a long time ownership (40 plus years) by a well know Triumph Dealer and flat track racer in Detroit to the motor being built in the 70's by Bob Strode.  The motor and frame numbers are as came from  the factory in 47. The frame is KDD 9099 and the motor is KSS 10670.

This was an original street version but the lights were removed back in the 50's as the bike was a back up flat track racer that appears to have never been raced.

The bike is a one kicker and all the items work as should. I cleaned and replaced all the gaskets in the original Amal pre monoblock and all is well.

Everything works and is in great shape although the clutch could likely use an adjustment in the future.

There is one small blemish on the top of the tank but hardly noticeable in person and would likely polish out. There are no other issues.

The bike has the original rebuilt BTH magneto and I have an original working Velocette / Vincent Miller Dynamo that if wanted by the new owner to hook up lights we could discuss.

The bike does not have a Brooklands style fishtail exhaust ( which I am 100% fine with as I don't much fancy them)  but rather a quite rare and Valuable BES Megaton reverse megaphone silencer which is in immaculate condition as is the header pipe and the rest of the bike to be exact.

Factory Dunlop rims and Avon rubber with lots of tread.

Again, this is a very, very rare and desirable collectible British bike and you will likely not have another chance to own one as they are very rare and don't change hands very often.

Lights can be fitted quite easily and all the parts are available from Grove.

Please read my feedback and bid with confidence knowing what I describe is what you will get. There will be no surprises.

I will send this bike anywhere in the world as long as the funds are in my account in full and the buyer pays for the shipping and crating. I will help in anyway possible and can transport the bike to the Port of Long Beach, San Diego or Los Angeles for a small fee to cover my costs and will work with your shippers

Please, bid with confidence and ask any questions you need to.

Remember... Ride em Don't hide em!!

The bike sold and has been passed to a new unknown owner.
Through the miracle of the internet, I found someone who had worked for and hung out with Don Henderson back in the day.  A few emails passed between us, lots of stories but no new information about the bike.

I would guess around 1960 on (Cycle Mag) picture..the Velos he like to build was around 1939 model, rigid frame  with a springer  front end..on the damper knob Polishing Pete hand print  different selections.IE hard ice..mush ice etc it was a joke he used the later 500cc engine with a big fat Amal TT was pure art work…and fast!!  You can see by the trophy’s he had..he had a ton more at the shop!! He was loved by all and my first mentor. His ice racing class was traction-ized tires not spikes..on the track he’d make it  thru the corner and then for the straight away he would come hard on the seat for a little extra traction while he twisted the throttle..and off  he would  go ahead of the pack haha..they never knew what hit em..he WAS the BEST, thanks for waking up my memory , J

He was always around exotic bikes in his shop, and was a Velocette dealer but I always remember him with the 500 Venom style engines (the last style engine) for his racers that he blueprinted for max HP. Don’t think Detroit  Cycle was Dons was always Don Henderson Motorcycle shop on School craft Rd..he did get bumped out of that location when the hwy went thru..then he moved to 7 mile rd? off Telegraph RD and had a Yamaha Dealership ..I remember Yamaha wanted him to road race, which he did some..but as he said, I never liked passing a tree at 175 MPH! haha  These pictures are great.

That was his style of building bikes..very clean and could be the bike..he loved the rigid frames with girder front end..light and very fast.

They were studded  tire racing  then and you would see them doing wheelies on the ice..Cool

Pete would hand paint (very small) on the steering damper knob different postions for that style of race  venue ..maybe six..was all in fun and Pete was his rt hand man for years..rode a BSA Spitfire that he built and Polished!! It crackled  with the cams he had in the engine.
Those were the days before the Asian Invasion and it was a good time and all had to be kicked started..Don would put the bike on the side  stand and left leg kick start it..I believe.
Best to ya and send a picture of the bike if possible...

So here we are... finding and meeting interesting people and hearing great anecdotes and stories but still no actual history of the motorcycle.
 Meanwhile the project is proceeding slowly, work is being done, parts are being found, bought and made...


Anonymous said...

Great story, great project, lucky man!

Anonymous said...

Hi..for a short period of time in the late 80s don was my neighbor across the street from me in St pete florida.He was a great guy to know and I will always cherish the memory of him.I have a picture of him and his son on his machine, andrew I believe....
He and I traveled to the AHRMA races at daytona one year and it was a real experience since he knew so many people on that circuit.The british only guys especially.
Don was also a sailor and had a taiwan built sailboat tied to his dock in the backyard.The family would go to the bahamas every year when he had the boat.
You could not ask for a better neighbor and human than Don...great guy to know and both of us being motorcycle guys were naturals to get along.....Bob Buchholz

Mister G said...

Thanks for the comment and information! If you have any pictures, I'd love to add them to the post.

Recorgasm said...

To Bob and anybody else listening,

It would have been my dad's birthday the other day so I looked him up and found this. What wonderful words you said about my dad?! I don't know all the history to tell much about the bike but I was brought to tears by this. He was my dad and this may or may not be the bike but I'm going to find out and get back to you guys. I rode on the back of that thing growing up. Amazing!

Andy Henderson

Mister G said...

Thanks, Andy for your note, from all accounts he was an interesting and all round great guy. Any anecdotes, history or pictures you'd like to contribute, I'll add to the post.

Bill Mellon said...

Hi All,

I was Don's next door neighbor for nearly 30 years. He was a true and loyal friend. This bike was displayed in his house and only driven once annually for many years until 2010 or so. A neighbor and friend traded or purchased the bike sometime around that time and supposedly still has it in his home.

Bill Mellon


Around 1962 I graduated from high school. Home was near Beach Road and Grand River.About that time I got my first car it was a 29 Ford pick up.From 62- 64 I had a scholarship to the University of Houston and moved back to Michigan.From 64 to 69 I was tuning motorcycles and spent many hours at Don's shop but did not work for him.. He was always there to help.He had a close friend Eddy Strapp who used to tinker on his own bikes at Don's shop. When Don had to move I bought one of Eddies bikes a 47 Knucklehead with 80 flat head flywheels.Eddy also had a 56 square four with the head turned around backwards.From 69 on I got a Harley Davidson Dealership in Saginaw Michigan. and lost contact from then on.Don built my Ice Racer.. a B33 BSA FRAME with the fork neck raked in to the point the tire would just clear pipe and frame.The rear wheel was spoked in for a 16 inch tire Shores motorcycles had a machine to shread the tire cleats for grip on the ice.We raced at Walled Lake and when they started using #8 sheet metal screws was the last year I raced.About 750 screws per tire. To really win races you had to drill the middle of the sheet screw to a razor sharp edge.I never saw Don race.. He did have a Vincent drag bike in the window of his shop. When I first met him he was still racing it.When racing I was always sparing with George Bartal.who had a BSA silver star 350 some years later I bought his 1/2 miler gold star.In the 250 class I raced a Bultaco 200cc Rickman.I can also be reached at Leo

Mister G said...

Thanks for the note! Love to hear the stories. Do you know what year he moved shop? I;ev sent a message to your email.

Unknown said...

Donald built the shop on Fenkell in 1969 and opened in Spring of 1970 as a Triumph only dealer. During the winter of 1973 he built an addition to accommodate the addition of Yamaha. In the winter of 1975 he reorganized and added BMW with /6 models. Before selling the Shop in 1980 Don obtained a Honda franchise for the buyers.
Don moved to St. Petersburg, Fl. Had a house on sailboat water with his "Anna B" behind the house. He and family sailed through the Keys, Bahamas, Long Island Sound, Martha's Vineyards, and Newport RI. He got back into riding motorcycles with K model BMWs with his last being 2007 K1200RS.

Unknown said...


I bought my first BMW from Don Henderson's M/C. It was a 1978 BMW R80/7, Havana Gold. I wish I still had that bike.

And, now that I'm thinking about it, my first (and only) Yamaha, a 1975 XS650.

I would pass by his shop on my way to and from middle school.

It seamed like Don was always at his shop, sales, mechanic, parts, etc. It was a pleasure to talk and do business with him.

You may also want to know that a 1930 Velocette KSS took first place in Class 1, and second overall in the 2022 Cross Country Chase. This year the chase started in Springfield IL. and ended 2300 miles later on the Santa Monica Pier.


Unknown said...

I have a 1981 Honda CB750K with one of Don's decals on the rear fender in my shop at this time. Purchased from a retiree in Sun City AZ it's undergoing 'rehab' and will be marketed in the coming future. Great to see what it all came from.