Tuesday, 30 June 2015

1000 posts!

With the story on Johnny Duncan below we have reached 1000 posts on this website! Many thanks to all who have contributed photos and stories making this website (and we're not going to be shy about this) the best and most comprehensive source of information on vintage Norton motorcycles on the web.
John & Simon

Monday, 29 June 2015

Gordon Small and Johnny Duncan‏

'Right-click' and choose 'open link in new window'
for a large and readable version

-SG- Gordon Cadzow was the pen-name of Gordon Small - a top executive at the Scottish publishing firm of D C Thomson and Co Ltd, Dundee. As Cadzow, he started and edited the magazine Classic Motorcycling Legends which ran from issues 1 to 34 (Summer '87 to Autumn '95) and despite his - to me - sometimes rather 'schmalzy' way of writing, the magazine contained plenty of good articles over its rather brief print run. Gordon died a few years back and in case anyone thinks I am being unkind about him when he is no longer here to fight his corner, I gave my opinions when the magazine was first published and Gordon sent a very civil and good natured response.

Issue 4 contained an article about Scottish racing man J G Duncan, who was a member of the Norton team in 1935 only, after riding Raleighs, Cottons and New Imps in the preceding years with moderate success. This is provided (above) and in it, Gordon acknowledges the help he had from Johnny's nephew in Aberdeen. But the story does not quite end there ...

'right-click' and choose 'open link in new window'
for a larger version of this letter

Back in 2001 former Irish racing man Joey Wood (also no longer with us) wrote to Gordon, seemingly raising the matter of Johnny Duncan's contract with Norton's, or, rather, the breaking of the contract and the possible level of compensation paid to Duncan as a result. David Crawford in Northern Ireland has kindly sent a copy of Gordon's response on this subject, which I find well worth reading! It, too, is attached (above). While Gordon's letter gives his opinions on the compensation issue, his additional comments regarding Jimmy Guthrie's widow and brother are also of interest.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Use 'em! c1939 Model ES2 Norton

-By Olav- Here’s a couple of pictures of my ES2. Frame and engine are 1939 ES2 while forks, gearbox and rear mudguard are WD16H items. I bought it last summer as a project (above), missing quite a few parts. I worked hard last winter to rebuild it. Stripped it down completely, the only thing I left in place were the spokes in the rear wheel, all other parts had to be reconditioned or replaced. Painted everything by hand, excepts for the tanks which I sprayed with something that resembles a ‘weathered’ chrome-finish. The silencer is something I had laying around, the battery carrier is of my own design, to accommodate a large 12v battery I always use (I don’t use a dynamo; 12 amps of 12 volts give me several hours of good lighting, and I never ride that long in the dark). I fitted the hidious air-filter because I want the expensive BSA B44 piston I used to last as long as possible.

I got it running in March. Last week I had the week off and went to visit my parents who live in de Dordogne in France, some 1000 KM south from where I live near Antwerp. France is a great country for riding your old bike. Using only the small D-roads it’s always pure motorcyling happines as far as I’m concerned, especially when you’re coming from overcrowded and traffic congested Belgium and Holland.

The first day, passing trough the Belgian Ardennes, and then trough spacious and hilly northern France, went great. Long roads, up and down slow hills, with beautiful weather all the way, pitching my tent on a nice camp-site in Tonnerre about half-way. The second day the surroundings change to ever thicker woodlands and the roads start winding more and more, as you go trough the western borders of the Auvergne and get nearer to the Dordogne region. Also, at midday, I had some serious torrential rains with thunder and lighting, but the Norton didn’t mind it a bit and for me it ment I didn’t bring my rain-clothes in vain. Towards the evening the skies cleared again so everything was dry when entering the lusciously green Dordogne and shortly after arriving at my parents place near Montignac-sur-Vésère.

There my bum had two days to recover from it’s ordeal. The Norton needed only minimal maintenance, adjusting valve- and contact-breaker clearance, chains, and front fork spindles. The only repair needed was some wire around the front downpipe-stay, which had broken.

The return trip was again ‘tres agréable’, doing 600 KM on the first day. At a very nice camp site near the lake region at Brienne, a Scotsman came up to me and offered me a beer. After a hard-days riding in hot sunny weather, you can imagine how good that fresh cold beer tasted. Next day started out grey and wet, but it cleared once I entered Belgium. After Namur progress became slow and tedious, coming into ‘populated’ areas, and closer to Antwerp it was the familiar traffic nightmare again.

But still, I had some great days of motorcycling to look back on, and what better way to enjoy those great roads then on a Norton!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

1928 Model CS1 Norton

-SG- The Banbury Run organised by the VMCC took place on Sunday and I spent too long loitering in the autojumble area and chatting with friends and not enough time looking at the entrants' machines - neary 500 of them including a fair smattering of Nortons!

'Vintage and Veteran' had a good looking 1928 CS1 on their stand - for a little matter of £24999. The description reads as follows: "Cammy Norton in great condition. This nice 1928 CS1 Norton has been owned and ridden regularly in VMCC events since it was restored 33 years ago. It has been well maintained and is in excellent mechanical condition. The cosmetics have acquired the nice patina of a bike that is used regularly, apart from the petrol tank which has recently been professionally sealed and repainted to a lovely shiny silver. The Norton comes with a novel and rare extending side stand. This was a period accessory and it really works well. There is a good file of information, including copies of a feature article in The Classic Motorcycle April 1996 and it was  also the cover photo on the VMCC Journal in January 96. Current UK V5C registration and an MOT certificate to July 2015. Frame number 32016  Engine CS40242."

Good looking it may be, but the restorer 33 years ago did not take enough trouble over the details and this should in my view be reflected in the asking price. So what's wrong ... Magneto, front wheel, carburettor, handlebar controls, handlebar clamps, steering damper knob, plating (mix of chrome and nickel), footrests (those fitted are short ex WD type) and arguably the kick start lever (usually straight).  Incidentally, engine and frame numbers are non-matching.

And as for the Shuresta telescopic side stand I do not think this is a  period accessory. I bought one new in 1958 from Halfords in Guildford. There is a good reason they are now fairly uncommon - it is all too easy to ride off and forget to retract them with damaging results to stand and possibly person! I know: I did! (Shuresta also made a posher version - with a cable to a valve lifter lever on the handle bars but it cost more money....)

-postscript- Richard has kindly pointed out that ESWAY were also into making telescopic side stands in the 50s, and that the one on this CS1 looks pretty well identical to what is currently fitted to his late thirties Inter (first registered for the road in '51).

Sunday, 21 June 2015

1928 Model 18 Norton

-JdK- Stefan in Austria recently bought this Norton. Stefan: "The former owner told me that the bike was rebuilt in de early 1980´s and when he started the restoration the bike was already painted white"

-SG- I have never come across a white or cream coloured Norton. I have checked the records and the numbers match. The bike was a standard Model 18 supplied in April 1928 to Norton's agent in Munich, fitted with magdyno, Brown and Barlow carb., Webb forks and 26 x 3.25 tyres. There is no mention of anything special by way of finish or extra accessories.

As regards the 'foot clutch' I have  seen such an arrangement before. During the twenties one could buy such smalll footpedals with the usual cable arm incorporated, to fit to Sturmey Archer and other boxes.  It was not made by Sturmeys themselves.

There's no accounting for taste and someone, way back, perhaps painted it this colour. The restorer in the eighties also seems to have chromed everything which was originally nickelled but it certainly looks as if it's 'all there.'

Saturday, 20 June 2015

1930 wheel adjusters

1930 Model 18

-SG- I recently received a photo from Leon of the rear end of his recently acquired 1930 Model 20 frame (below). One can clearly see the rear wheel adjuster set bolts incorporated in the fork end lugs - and the two downward projecting sections of the lugs to accept the silencer mountings. As far as I am aware, all 1930 Model 20s had this form of wheel adjustment. But, as far as the 1930 Model 18s etc are concerned, these initially had the older type of wheel adjusters which pull the wheel spindle backwards - as on millions of push bikes down the years. However at some stage later in 1930, perhaps when stocks of the old lugs had been used up, it seems that Model 18s etc also went over to the  Model 20 style of wheel adjuster, although the lugs do not have the silencer mounting extensions. See photos of Bob's matching numbers 1930 Model 18 (above) before restoration in the 90s. Bob's bike and many of those listed in the same section of the despatch book, is shown as a 1930 model although not despatched until April 1931.

1930 Model 20

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Paul's 1928 Model CS1 Norton

-SG- Paul from California has - and still uses annually in the NZCMRR meetings - the last 500 Manx to leave the factory.  He has sundry Vintage and Post-Vintage Nortons, too, one of them a 1928 CS1 for which he had a few parts from me some thirty years ago. His CS1 restoration was completed at some stage in the eighties and it is certainly a pretty good one. Some photos are attached and of equal interest, Paul's comments about the bike's first owner and history etc. are given below.

"I was the second owner, having bought it in 1979 from a Mr. Bernhard Vihl. He told me he bought it in 1928 from Reg Pink Motorcycles in New York City on his second day in America. Vihl, a coppersmith, arrived in New York as an immigrant from Silesia. After clearing immigration, he took a tour of the city and passed Pink's shop. He saw the CS1 in the window and decided he had to have it.   That afternoon, he was hired by Fokker Aircraft on Long Island, and was given an advance on his salary. He went back the next day and bought the CS1.

He rode and dirt-track raced it in the local area and said it was quite successful once he reset the cam timing from the factory setting. Vihl went on to found his own business and became a multi-millionaire manufacturing large pressure vessels for refineries and heavy manufacturing plants. After WWII, he owned and raced Porsche RSKs at Nassau Speed Week and other International venues.  

The rider when the CS1 was raced was a guy named Bub Tramanti, who became a Harley dealer in the NYC area. I talked to Bub in 1980  and he told me they always called Vihl "Crazy Bernie" and added, "Bernie thought of himself as a tuner but I had to secretly set the cam timing back to the factory setting before racing it.""

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Mick's 1929 Model CS1 Norton - a momentous occasion!

-SG- This machine, (which featured on this website before) last registered in 1931 and almost certainly unused since then, has finally been readied for the road, after a lot of work by Mick and no little expense. I was pleased to be asked down to see the inaugural run last week which went off very well with a trouble free ten minute excursion 'round the block.' A longer trip is planned this weekend.

Visible replacements are minimal - tyres, saddle cover, battery, handle bar rubbers, knee grips and carburettor. Internally, the engine has been stripped, and given new bearings and piston. The missing essentials, like oil pump, lower bevels and vertical shaft bearing housing, which the previous owner had gathered from all and sundry, have all been fitted. The carburettor at present in use replaces the original Amal Binks, only part of which was still with the bike when it first surfaced. The Amal Binks has been completed with replacement parts but, for some reason as yet unclear, it is not functioning correctly and the modern replacement at least gets the bike up and running. The tank mounted speedo., with its rather untidy original drive from the back of the gear box, functions as intended while I was pleased to see that the original three brush dynamo works and a charge is registered on the ammeter at the back of the head-lamp.  Even the original bulbs are still in place and they work too.

All in all, an enjoyable visit!

Saturday, 13 June 2015


-SG- Nowadays sporting 'greats' earn substantial sums from endorsing various products. In the thirties and probably earlier, the same situation existed though the pay-offs were pretty measly even taking the inflation factor into account. David Crawford has recently sent me this scan of a Castrol post card (1936?) and I am pretty sure I have seen a period advert in which Stanley Woods endorsed the 'Litesome Belt' - bur surprise, surprise, there was no illustration showing Stanley wearing this device to go with it!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Norton enquiry BBC

-JdK- Jeff Smart of the BBC NEWS would like to get hold of a Norton to do some filming with. He is currently doing a BBC NEWS project which features three very short scenes of a person riding a Norton 500cc in 1943, so the Norton would ideally be mid/late 1930’s and should be in civvy colours, not a WD model.

The shots would take about 20 mins to film, he is hoping to shoot something in the next few weeks, ideally in Yorkshire. If there is anyone willing to help then contact Jeff on jeff.smart@bbc.co.uk