Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The ES2 – what’s in a name?

-SG- The ES2 conundrum has been rumbling on for years and we have had postings about it too (reproduced below). Perhaps, just perhaps, the answer has come to light, thanks to a 2016 letter to the Norton Owners' Club magazine. 
It reads: "During  a recent conversation with a learned gentleman in Kent, the following came to light. He discovered in the records of a motorcycle dealer, Howards of Ramsgate, an invoice for the repair of an ES2 frame returned to the works  in '48/'49.  Norton's invoice itemised the frame repair as being for an 'EXTRA SPECIFICATION 2nd MODEL 18.'  Unfortunately the invoice was lost with the closure of the business in the mid nineties."
Bearing in mind this description came from the factory and not some imaginative journalist, it may indeed be correct.  Draw your own conclusions!

(right-click and open in new screen to read)

Considerable discussion has gone on over the years as to the origins of the ES2 model name. These were mentioned in ‘Titch’ Allen’s Norton Story', which appeared earlier on these pages and among the possibilities were – in no order of importance:

A: named as a tribute to Ernie Searle, the very successful Norton sprinter of the mid twenties who also rode – much less successfully – in the TT.

B: named ES because the push rod return springs on the original (1928) production model were enclosed in thimbles, hence ES for Enclosed Spring and 2 because it was the second version, the first being the regular Model 18/19 etc OHV models on which these springs were exposed. This latter seems to have been the answer to the conundrum provided to Titch by Edgar Franks.

On the grounds of commercial probability, I am inclined towards yet another possibility i.e. that ES stood for Extra Sports and the figure 2 was added because the CS1 was the first sports machine in the 1928 range. However, I guess Edgar Franks was in a position to know the real answer even though he did not work for Nortons until after the ES2 came on the scene.

Reverting to the Ernie Searle option however, I was recently browsing in the final issue of Classic Motorcycling Legends (Number 34) and this reveals an interesting anecdote by Frank Farrington, also known as RADCO, well known author of many articles in various Classic motor cycle magazines as well as the excellent book ‘The Vintage Motorcyclists’ Workshop’ Frank – he sprinted and raced a very swift flat tanker in the sixties which I am glad to say is still in existence in other hands – lives in Lancashire and was personally acquainted with fellow Lancashire man H F Brockbank, in his day as well known as Searle and almost as successful. Read more about him in the attached Dennis May article (not as good as some of his others in the series).

Anyway, it appears that ‘Brocky’, in a continuing search for yet more speed from his Model 18 based sprinter, hit on the idea of off-setting the head by a few degrees so that the inlet stub was angled to the right and the exhaust port, instead of being straight ahead, was angled to the left, with the exhaust pipe thus missing the front down tube, without needing a kink in it. This must have been a seriously major task from an engineering point of view but none the less, it was apparently done and Brocky gained a very few much needed BHP as a result. From various tuning articles I have read over the years, I would think the angled inlet port was the main contributor to this improvement.

Ernie Searle and Brocky being friendly, Ernie learned of the head experiment and, such was his relationship with Nortons, it is suggested that Ernie asked for such a head to be cast by the works for his use. Frank goes on to put forward the idea that, perhaps, as a token of recognition of his input into the head shape, Nortons may have incorporated his initials in the new model designation of the ES2.

Makes a good story but I am not really convinced! For one thing, the ES2 designation did not appear in Norton publicity until the run-up to the 1927 Show. At the 1927 TT, it had no specific type number – it was just an OHV version of the exciting CS1 and received poor press coverage of its technical details, which I have attempted to unravel – hopefully I will find time to make another contribution on this subject later. For another, although the production versions of the ES2 head had a left hand angled exhaust port, the inlet stub was in line and not offset. It is basically an OHV version of the first CS1 heads. And finally, when Titch Allen went to interview Ernie Searle, the only reference made to heads was that he DID have a head specially made by Nortons but that it was simply to accommodate a larger exhaust valve diameter. No mention was made of special heads with angled inlet and exhaust ports, but, there again, perhaps Titch did not ask the right questions: at this stage, who knows?!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

c1926 Model 18 Norton

-JdK- This Norton was recently found in the UK. Simon: "It's a bit of a conglomeration of vintage parts but with a bit of a tidy up, it could be very usable. The engine number 297XX originally belonged to a Model 18 with frame 230XX which was despatched in April '26 to a dealer called Tom Davies. He sold it  later in the month to a chap called Barlow, whose address is illegible. I have not spent hours looking for the frame number 123XX (they are not in numerical order in the records) but am pretty sure it dates from early '25.

There are a few surviving flat tank Nortons with a saddle tank like this one. Such tanks seem not to have been supplied by the factory but as an aftermarket accessory by some enterprising company. As regards the rest of the bike, in no order of importance, it has been fitted with wired on 19 inch tyres, the oil pump is Pilgrim instead of Best and Lloyd and the rear brake pedal and rear engine plates are '29/'30. The spacers to carry the footrests are missing as are the footrests. The rear brake is also '29/30, hence the Heath Robinson arrangement to provide an anchorage for it. The primary chain case is not Norton - I think it's BSA but am far from sure. The carb looks like a 1929 Amal and the magneto almost veteran; not sure what it is. The magneto platform/front engine plates are also '29/30 and the front wheel (Horton) could be '28 to'30."

PS. Simon's curiosity finally overcame him and he spent a good while seeking a Model 18 with the frame number 123XX.  Perseverance paid off and it turned out to be the frame of a standard Model 18 despatched  in mid July 1924.  No final customer details are shown but the dealer is shown as Hassall - which we believe to be connected with the Hassall family members who worked for Nortons in the early twenties.

Friday, 11 August 2017

1929 CS1 booklet

-SG- Ian has sent another splendid batch of sales literature taking us through to 1934. These will be scanned and posted in due course but in the mean time, many thanks! To start the ball rolling here are copies of a very small and humorous open-out booklet produced by E T Fisher and Co of Melbourne in 1929 covering the CS1 (click this link). I have had to enlarge each section for scanning purposes but overall size initially is only 61 x 45 mm.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Just another CS1?

-SG- The other day I came across a 1979 copy of Motorcycle Sport containing a BMS advert for some of his then new publications. He used a photograph of the late John Griffith's 1928 CS1  accompanied of course by some appropriate text, to promote his new book 'Cammy Nortons.' Certainly it's a tidy example though fitted with a 7 inch front brake instead of the usual 8 inch Enfield type (of which more later).

I have it on good authority that this machine previously belonged to the late Arthur Horn and it was raced to good effect in Vintage events in the early sixties, ridden by John Hurlstone. It was featured in Griffith's Motor Cycling article 'Built for Speed Number 45.' He mentions that Stan Johnson had built up the engine and gearbox for Arthur which was probably the reason it performed so well -  and on petrol at that. A couple of scans show it in action and also, with tank removed, wearing a twin float Binks carburettor.

I was on good terms with Stan and he told me that Arthur had complained the bike vibrated like crazy and did not go as fast as he expected. Hence asking Stan to 'sort it'. Stan found the cause of the problem quite quickly - the crankcase mouth sloped from one side to the other by 0.010"! Makes one wonder how that got through Quality Control!  Anyway, an after hours session in the tool room at Stan's place of work (Hoovers, Perivale) soon had it corrected and the results of his labours resulted in a return to the performance it should have had.

And that front brake? When JPG bought it from Arthur, John wanted to know where the 8 inch front brake was and also the twin float Binks, only to be told by Stan that they belonged to him personally and not Arthur, so he had naturally kept them ... Where this CS1 is now, I have no idea!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Howards new bike - 1926 Model 18 Norton

-SG- Howard has recently acquired a 1926 Model 18 Norton and from the photos he has sent, it is in very nice  shape. I have checked it out in the records and it was supplied early in 1926 with matching frame and engine numbers. While I appreciate the problems associated today with the use and supply of beaded edged tyres, I am pleased to see this bike still wears its original tyre type and in my probably biassed view this greatly enhances the overall appearance of the flat tank Norton. It retains the 'lean and hungry' look!  It is unusual in that it has an LS gearbox fitted and while this may have been a later modification (the records in early '26 do not show gearbox type or number), the serial number of the gearbox shows it to be of about the same age as the rest of the bike. He has been fortunate in obtaining some early photos of the machine - below: dating from about 1946 - by which time it looked pretty well used and still carried its obligatory war-time head lamp black-out mask. I note it already had the LS gearbox fitted, incidentally. It was apparently on the road until 1946 when the then owner bought himself a new bike - a Norton, of course.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The Bigger Picture ...

Arthur Horton and passenger Donington 1938

-SG- The recent posting about pre-war sidecar racing (this article by Bob Zwart) prompted Ken McIntosh in NZ to send me on a copy of one of several lists compiled by Peter Roydhouse containing data from the 'despatch books.'  This one lists the 588 and 596 cc OHC models produced from the end of 1929 up to and including 1939.  If asked the question 'how many do you think there were?,'  the average Norton nut would probably answer 'don't know: not that many!'  I included myself in that bracket and it came as a real surprise to learn there were 69 in Peter's list, including four 588 CS1s early on. Of the remainder, a very few were 596cc versions of the CS1 but all the rest were Model 30s. 38 of them were exported, 19 to Switzerland, 7 to Germany and small numbers to Belgium, Austria, Australia, Sweden, Argentina and - of all places - Java. The rest were of course sold in UK.  Over 20 were to racing specification! As the saying goes, you live and learn!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Classic Motorcycle Mecca Invercargill

-SG- In December 2015 we had a posting about the Motorcycle Museum in Nelson, New Zealand - containing sundry Nortons (listed below). Due to the owner's ill health, this closed last year but the entire collection has been moved to Invercargill, in the extreme south of NZ. It has re-opened as Classic Motorcycle Mecca, located in Tay Street. The web site is www.transportworld.co.nz. Next door is the Bill Richardson Transport Museum. Invercargill is also home to Burt Munro's Indian special and Velo sprinter - in the Hayes Ironmonger  store - while the Museum also has Munro exhibits and a good FACTUAL film about him and his achievements!

  • 1925 Model 16H & Sidecar
  • 1940 Model 16H
  • 1934 Model 18
  • 1951 Dominator 7
  • 1938 Model 19
  • 1928 CS1
  • 1938 International Model 30
  • 1937 CS1
  • 1929 Model 19
  • 1951 500T
  • 1952 Manx 500cc
  • 1947 Manx 350
  • 1961 Manx Replica
  • 1962 Manx
  • 1949/51 Manx 350

Saturday, 5 August 2017

A DOHC Norton from 1937 ...

-SG- Several months ago David Crawford (author of the Stanley Woods biography) sent various photos of a restored 1937 racing spec. Model 30 belonging to Harry Turner, a late friend in Northern Ireland. These were taken, I believe, nearly thirty-five years back and show the very presentable machine, which is unusual in that it has DOHC valve operation. Richard's view is that the cambox was probably a post war fitment but it is difficult to be sure as the bike disappeared after the owner's death in 1988 or '89, and has not been seen since.

Where is it now?  Any news or ideas welcome!

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Simon's Norton ...

-SG- I was recently attempting to tidy my disordered files when I came across this photo of FDF869 which has all the appearance of a 1939 ES2. It is and it isn't! The registration number kings will identify FDF869 as dating from 1946. And when I bought it in 1959, complete with child/adult sidecar on the side, that's what it said in the log book. I think it cost me £40.  I used it as regular transport for a year when foolishness and disaster struck!

I took off the sidecar body as I had arranged with a friend to fit a channel to the chassis on which to mount my Vintage Model 18, to go to race meetings.  I set off: without the sidecar body the bike was very lively on left handers and rounding one quite close to home at my usual speed, the wheel came up and - an automatic reaction I suppose -  I straightened up a bit to get the chair wheel down, which of course took me onto the wrong side of the road. And who should be coming the other way at that precise moment but a nice 'ex-pat.' Pole driving an A35 Austin van. I went straight into him, landing on the bonnet and when I opened my eyes a couple of seconds later, I saw him looking out at me in considerable astonishment through what was left of the windscreen! The boring aftermath of visits to hospital etc. do not need repeating but in due course I got the outfit back home. The forks were entirely knackered as were the front wheel, mudguard and the front of the sidecar chassis. There did not seem to be any other damage, apart from the big dent in the tank visible in the photo. but I felt uneasy about the frame and resolved to change it for another if I could.

As it happened, my old friend Frank Pearce had a bare frame from a 1939 ES2 with no documents which I had for a couple of Pounds, while a new set of ex-WD forks from Russell Motors (still going) in Battersea cost me a tenner.  Frank came up with a front wheel and mudguard suitable for the WD forks (brake on the left, whereas mine had been on the right). I literally swopped everything over into the 1939 frame and thus it became more 1939 than  '46. As far as I recall - and as it's now 57 years ago, my memory is a bit hazy -  the 1939 ES2 frame differed from the 1946 Model 18 version in the provision of pillion footrest lugs on the rear frame tubes. I think one had them and one didn't, but not sure which.

I sold it in 1984 for not very much money and the new owner provided the photo not long before he and a friend departed on a somewhat disastrous trip, I think to Greece.  Wish I'd kept it!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Norton mudguards

1930 Model 18 Norton guards

-SG- Most restorers of Vintage bikes will agree that inappropriate choice of mudguards can spoil the whole effect. I am pleased to say that, as far as Vintage and pre-war Nortons go, a new company in Western Australia - appropriately called 'Vintage Steel' - has put in a lot of effort and expense to produce guards of the correct radius, width and profile for flat-tankers and later models. Visitors to the recent Banbury Run in UK may have seen some examples and I certainly have had favourable comments from those who saw - and in some cases bought - them. The article attached (this link) gives much more information about the enterprise, plus contact details etc. Their website is worth a look too. Guards are made for lots of other bikes from 1900 to the 1960s and sometimes later, if the rollers in stock are suitable. Note that although Andrew is shown in the article with a  Vintage American X vee-twin, he also has a few Nortons including a 1910 Belt-driver which has been featured on this web site before!