Known in the vintage racing community as the “Alan Taylor Special” this bike was built decades ago using a tubular steel frame built by Colin Lyster and a heavily modified 1964 Velocette Venom 500 engine.
Alan was a long time racer in the “Continental Circus” race scene of Europe and a former employee of the original McLaren race team. He was living in Canada at the time and bought one of the six Colin Lyster frames that had been imported by Canadian Norton Manx expert Tom Pope.
These Lyster frames are highly sought after as they provide excellent rigidity without a weight penalty. The frames a tubular steel duplex cradles with some additional reinforcements, they’re ideally suited to big singles like the Norton Manx engine or the 500cc thumper from the Venom.
Frame-builder Colin Lyster was a motorcycle racer who came to fame as a motorcycle innovator in the 1960’s, particularly in the design of early disc brake systems and race frames for various marques, eventually setting up shop in New Zealand.
Back in the mid-20th century it was big singles like these that were proving dominant on race tracks in Europe and around the world. They combined good reliable power output with low weight, and engineers of the period had become experts in extracting every last fraction of a horsepower out of them.
There’s a large modern day vintage racing scene that keeps these bikes and their riders busy, with many traveling across the country or around the world to compete.
The Lyster Velocette shown here was built from the get-go to be a race bike, it’s not street legal and it was never intended to be. The engine was built up from scratch with titanium valves, BSA Goldstar springs replacing the original Velocette hairpin, the main bearings were converted to double rollers and a custom racing cam was ground.
The drive-side flywheel, complete with main shaft, were machined from billet. The carburetor is a period-correct 38mm Amal feeding into the the twin plug head. In a six week building binge, the bike was completed.
Later, after several drive side crankcase failures, a custom, stronger case was cast for the bike which eliminated the problem.
Power was sent back through a belt drive and a Norton clutch into a Matchless gearbox casing fitted with a Quaife 5-speed gear cluster. The front end was sourced from a Norton but the original brake was replaced with a Suzuki four-leading shoe drum from a GT750, and a Triumph drum was used in the rear.
The final weight of the completed bike is 270 lbs (122 kgs), this combined with the significantly increased engine output meant it was a fast bike – but after building it Alan Taylor felt he might be a little too old to ride it, so he entrusted it to talented racer Gary McCaw who competed successfully on the bike through the 1980s and 1990s.
Now getting long in the tooth himself and looking for someone to race the bike, Gary decided to let a long time family friend’s daughter, Holly Varey, try the bike out. She had already raced Gary’s Ducati 250 with good results and it was time to try the bigger 500.
She continues to race the bike in the VRRA series to this day – these photos of Holly and the bike were taken at Shannonville Raceway after the season ending 2020 race weekend was done by Douglas MacRae. Scroll down to read Holly talking about her experiences on the bike in her own words.