Henk van Veen first
came to the notice of the motor cycling press when he built the tiny
Kreidler-engined racer on which fellow Dutchman Henk van Kessel won the 50cc
world title in 1972. He followed this up by shoehorning a wankel-type Mazda
car engine into a Moto Guzzi frame and proclaiming that he wanted to put
such a bike into production. If that doesn't sound like a logical
proposition it is probably because van Veen doesn't always do things
logically. He does like to do things properly, however; indeed, Henk van
Veen is a man driven by a dream to create the world's most perfect motor
van Veen made its appearance around 1972 and development continued for a
couple of years. Somewhere along the line the Mazda engine was dropped and
in 1974, at the Cologne Show, a new limited production model known as the
OCR1000 made its debut.
The OCR1000 was a
fascinating machine. It used a double rotor Wankel-type engine developed by
van Veen in conjunction with the French Citroen-
Comotor. Each rotor swept a volume of 498cc giving the engine a total
displacement of 996cc. Perhaps the most impressive statistic, however, was
the Van Veen's power output 100 bhp at 6500 rpm. A top speed of 150 mph was
claimed, but it was not the ourtright performance of which van Veen was most
proud. His ambition was to create a quality machine the ultimate
superbike and the OCR1000 was certainly that. The machines were virtually
hand made and as a result they were remarkably well finished and
frighteningly expensive to buy.
The frame of the big
OCR was designed by Jaap Voskamp while the front forks and rear suspension
were both the work of the Koni company. Another interesting feature of the
bike was that the gearbox and drive shaft had been developed in conjunction
with the famed Porsche car company of Stuttgart. To stop the machine, which
weighed a colossal 700 lb plus, twin Brembo discs were used at the front,
while a single disc was used at the rear.
Van Veen's dream to
create the ultimate superbike meant that the machine was costly to produce.
By 1977, an OCR1000 cost about £5500 in Britain a price that escalated to
around £7000 only a year later. Van Veen refused to compromise, however, and
the OCR 1000 became a much coveted status symbol.
Most riders who
bought van Veens, however, didn't but buy them solely as status symbols.
Like van Veen they sought the best in motor cycling and if it cost a fortune
to attain perfection then so be it.
Very few OCR 1000
models ever found their way into the hands of press road testers but those
that did obviously left a vivid impression. The huge power output of the
rotary engine meant that opening the throttle wide was a startlingly
impressive undertaking, 125mph from a standstill in just 16 seconds. The
claimed top speed of 150 mph usually proved to be an exaggeration, but more
than one test rider saw 135 mph on the clock. The most impressive sensation,
however, was the smooth and certain way the OCR1000 would pull from walking
speed in almost any gear.
Sadly in the end the
economics of producing such a machine proved too much for Henk van Veen's
little factory and, at the beginning of 1979, the company announced that no
more of the glorious OCRs would be built. By this stage van Veen was quoting
a British price of £10,000 for his machine and at that rate there were few
takers. This was one dream machine that the public simply could no longer
afford to buy.
Only a handful of
OCR1000s were ever made and these will pass into history as some of the most
expensive classics ever made. For those fortunate few who owned OCRs the
brief taste of something special will live in their memories for ever and
only they will ever know whether the OCR really was a dream come true or
simply a very costly nightmare.