Saturday, 30 April 2016

Willing William it ain't! 'tis George!

Read the whole story by following this link

-SG- Back in May 2015 we posted a photo of what I misguidedly thought was Arthur Bourne's bike, referred to by him as 'Willing William.'  Roger has uncovered the fact that, while Bourne certainly had a later 16H with this nick-name, the bike we showed (now above) was another sporting 16H belonging to yet another of the journalists writing for 'The Motorcycle' in the twenties, who used the pen-name Neon. Neon's bike - just to confuse matters - was christened 'George' and started life as a 1922 TT spec. 16H. Read all about it and the numerous mods. fitted to it, in the February 1925 edition, scans available via this link.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

1938 Model 40 Nortons

-JdK- Contributed by Dennis, two Model 40 Nortons at the 1938 Junior TT, Isle of Man. Number 1 is H.B.Waddington who came 12th. J.C.Galway on number 3 retired.

Friday, 22 April 2016

1915 Model Big Four Norton

-JdK- A 1915 WD Model Big Four Norton attached to a sidecar. The photo was contributed by Rich in Belgium and was taken apparently on 16 March 1916. According to Mike: "This is the new Big Four for 1915 as it has the new dropped top tube on the frame, and the first year of fitting the early pattern Sturmey Archer gearbox, the cutout in the petrol tank for valve removal and replacement, only used on 1915 models."

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

1907 Norton V-twin - For sale

-JdK- George is selling his 1907 Norton V-twin. Please contact him via email to discuss. We have been asked by a few site visitors to point out that some features of this bike are open to question.  Please contact George also direct on this matter and if you are interested in it.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Phil Irving

-SG- The late Phil Irving (1903-1992) needs no introduction to the world of motor cycling.  Apart from numerous technical articles published by Motor Cycling under the pen-name 'Slide-rule,' later combined in 'Tuning for Speed' (1948) he  also spent the thirties and forties working as a designer for Velocette and HRD, with a short spell at AMC in 1942. He returned to his native Australia in 1949 although he continued to visit UK regularly for many years after that.

I have just finished reading his lengthy and well-written autobiography (over 500 pages) and if you can find a copy, it's well worth the effort. I was unaware of his sporting activities in the twenties, primarily on AJS machines, prior to coming over to UK in 1930 as a pillion passenger on an HRD outfit belonging to Yorkshireman Jack Gill. Unsurprisingly, in view of his work with other manufacturers, the book contains few mentions of Norton interest. However, worth repeating is a comment by Harold Willis (the Velo rider and designer) in 1930 that NSU - to which company Norton's designer Walter Moore had departed in 1929 - did not in fact stand for 'Norton Spares Used' but 'Not Sufficient Urge!'

Irving's short spell at AMC co-incided with Joe Craig's somewhat longer stint. He apparently got on well with Joe although he says that Joe was useless on the drawing board!  One piece of information Joe provided though, was that during the thirties (exact period unspecified) Norton's racing department had sub-contracted many special parts to BSA, including jig-bored cam boxes and  (I assume telescopic) fork stanchions,  which were made from solid on gun-barrel boring plant.

Reverting to the late twenties, Irving ran a motorcycle business with a friend for a couple of years - selling new and second-hand machines and carrying out repairs.  One of his friends - a chap called Sid Gribble - had a Model 18 Norton which he found rather awkward, being very short in the leg, so fairly far-reaching efforts were made to remedy this in late 1927. To quote Irving ... "We moved the head lug back by a couple of inches, shortening the saddle tube and bending the top tube to suit. The rear forks were also modified and the engine was lowered so much that it only just cleared the ground with no air in the tyres!  The saddle height was reduced to 22 inches and the wheel-base to 52 inches, the job entailing copious brazing with our monster blow-lamp. The finished article was probably the smallest Norton single ever made and while it could accommodate its very short-legged owner, anyone of normal size could not sit on it comfortably. Worse still, it steered abominably unless accelerating hard, which you can't go on doing indefinitely, so the result of our misguided effort was put away in a corner and eventually sold to someone in Mildura who harnessed it to a sidecar."

A shot of the modified bike is attached - it looks to be '25 -ish - and appears to have extra frame bracing tubes as well as a Binks Mousetrap carb. and a diminutive saddle tank.  I wonder if it has survived!

Friday, 15 April 2016

Best and Lloyd filler caps - for sale

-SG- Best and Lloyd tank filler caps were fitted by Nortons throughout the twenties and up to about 1934. Four sizes were used, to fit tank necks with nominal internal dias. 1 13/16", 2", 2 1/4" and 2 1/2". Note that these are NOMINAL sizes: for some unfathomable reason, Norton tank neck internal dias. are all slightly larger. The smallest size was used on both fuel and oil tanks, and there was a minor design change in about 1923, when the hinge plate was provided with a protruding tongue opposite the hinge, engaging in a corresponding slot in the tank neck. This became standard on all other sizes. Later in the twenties caps fitted to oil tanks carried the message 'Use Castrol XL Lubricating Oil' - or 'Use Castrol R Lubricating Oil' in the case of those fitted to racing machines such as the CS1 (usually the 2" size).

David in New Zealand ( can now provide all of the Best and Lloyd caps and the photos show those bearing the oily message - as well as the stamped imprint of the Best and Lloyd Matchstick Man trade mark. They also have external knurling like the originals. Seals used are Nitrile for the oil tank caps and Viton (a petrol proof synthetic rubber) for the petrol tank type and the caps are available in polished brass, suitable for nickel or chrome plating, although the largest fuel tank size is in cast aluminium as originally used. Caps fitted with centre stems with the breather tube - again used on machines with sporting pretensions - are also available. Contact David direct for more information.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

1927 Flat Tank racer - For sale

-JdK- Let us be absolutely clear: we like this bike. It looks good, we would like to have it in our shed and trash it on the road. We are quite sure it will be lots of fun. Flat tank OHV Nortons are brilliant.

It is for sale at HD Classics in Belgium and the problem is that it is priced at 57.000 euro. The advertiser suggests that the machine is a 'rare 1927 M25 TT racer' that was owned and raced by an Austrian chap named Rupert Karner.

Rupert Karner was not in the same league as Stanley Woods or Jimmie Guthrie and we had to find him on the internet.  Rupert indeed raced motorcycles but he killed himself riding a D.S.H motorcycle on the 20th of May 1928.

Perhaps Rupert had the habit of crashing motorcycles because the engine of this Norton (number 33388) left the factory in a Model 21, delivered on the 30th of March 1927 to the Demont Freres in Switzerland in a frame numbered 26439. The current frame bears number 30195; we cannot find it in the records but it bears all the hallmarks of a Model 18 frame.

Off course it could be true; Rupert obtained a genuine Model 25 Norton in 1927 (which would have been exceptional; few M25s were sold in 1927 before the CS1 arrived), crashed it almost immediately, replaced the frame with a Model 18 frame, found an almost new 1927 Model 21 engine, rebuilt the lot, put it in the shed and killed himself a few months later on a D.S.H motorcycle, whatever that may be.

This bike was on our website before. It was for sale for a hefty 42.500 euro in 2014 in Germany and now has found it's way to Belgium. As usual, each new owner adds a bit to the story and we would not be surprised if it is advertised next year as Stanley's 1927 TT winner.

As said, we like this Norton but it should perhaps be advertised as a '1927 racer replica built from very nice bits by someone in Germany'.

(We would like to thank Vicky of the VMCC library team for double-checking the frame and engine numbers of this motorcycle)

Thursday, 7 April 2016

c1926 Model 18

-JdK- Kelvin in Australia sent us these pics of his c1926 Model 18 Norton. Not completely original, the guards may be Ariel, the primary is from a later model, not sure what happened to the oil tank but ... he uses his bike. Kelvin informs us "... the tank has split again, the valve gear is worn out again and it it time to do some significant work, still flat tank Nortons are the most fun you can have with your trousers on...". Note the strutted forks.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

1915 Norton parts list

-JdK- Reece sent us the 1915 Norton parts list which can be accessed by following this link.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Old soldier valves and seats - 1917 Big Four

-SG- Juris in Latvia has one of the very few surviving Big Four Nortons supplied to the Imperial Army in Russia in World War 1, and this  machine - nick-named 'Old Soldier'- has been mentioned on the site before. He has recently turned his attention to the cylinder barrel/valves. The barrel has minimal wear and the original piston is also very usable. But here's what he says about the valves ...

"I removed the valves and was surprised to find their stems to be double diameter - 3/8” near the head and 5/16” for about 3/4 of the stem length. Interestingly the worn exhaust valve guide had been sleeved with a bronze sleeve sometime in the '20s or '30s, many years before bronze valve guide sleeves were invented! The valve seats in the head look like they have never been cut, only lapped in with paste. Their width is now around 4 mm. I will put in chrome-moly valve seats as I do not want the hassle of regularly grinding in valves with paste— just have not got the time and of course these will not be conspicuous from outside.

I intend to retain the existing valve guides and to machine them out and hone to 3/8” throughout to accept modern chromed stem valves from Caterpillar and Mack trucks. I have no idea if these valve guides are original or they have been changed at some point in time. I have a feeling that they may be original. The truck valves are very tough and they should last another century."

While the threaded valve guides looked original, the valves did not and Juris also mentioned that they appeared to have been made from larger valves with the slots hand filed.  But … the threaded valve guides were not something I had come across in my limited exposure to earlier Norton design details. So Juris did some more checking and found the guides were in fact threaded the same as an 18mm sparking plug and better still, that they were the same as those on another WW1 Big Four rescued from Russia several years back (via Finland!). I am told that, at this period, Nortons used 5/16 stem valves and press-in valve guides, so perhaps the threaded guides were a nicety provided on the Military Models to aid service in the field.

postscript - Andrew in Australia has dropped us an email about Veteran Norton valve guides, for which thanks.  He writes: 'Both my 1910 cylinders and my 1911 cylinder have screw-in valve guides, and a 1908 one here has the same cylinder as the 1910 type so that would be the same!   More info for the melting pot!