Friday, 25 July 2014

1929 Model JE Norton

-SG- The JE and CJ models appeared at the 1928 Olympia show. However, actual deliveries did not start until April 1929, which seems to indicate rather inept forward planning in Bracebridge Street!  Neither model sold well - in my view, partly a result of the depression and partly because there were plenty of other cheaper 350cc bikes on the market and the CJ had not performed that well in Road Racing. Indeed, the records show plenty of both models being sold off cheap well into 1931.

We have not had much about surviving JEs on the site other than a few close-ups of a head, last summer, and photos of David's complete machine back in February 2010. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to see one on the Norton Owners' Club stand at the recent VMCC Founder's Day event. This bike was bought by the present owner and a friend back in the early sixties for less than £2 but pretty well all complete. It then got dismantled and ownership passed to the friend ... who did nothing with it for decades and finally sold it back to the chap who has it now, presumably with due allowance for inflation along the way! It is now very presentable and in case regular site visitors wonder why I am not carping on about the doll's head gearbox, later Lucas magneto and kneegrips, I can tell them the original LS box and magneto still exist, the box being in good shape although the magneto needs re-furbishing. And for those who want them, good 1928/9 pattern kneegrips are readily available in the UK from Hunters.

The machine has engine number 1102 - making it the third JE to appear in the records - and it was originally despatched to Coventry Motor Co in mid April 1929 but didn't find a buyer until December 1929. It is shown as being fitted with the Druid Enclosed Spring forks - standard wear for both JEs and CJs at this period - and these are still in place. The owner was not that complimentary about them - he says the damper doesn't work too well ... Unusually, it has 8 inch Enfield finned rear and front hubs, whereas standard fitments for these 350s were 7 inch Enfield rear hubs and 7 inch Hortons at the front.  For what it's worth, this variation is not mentioned in the records.

I am aware of two further JEs - one in UK and one in the Isle of Man - but there must be more survivors than that!

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Spring wanted

The valve spring in better days

-JdK- While cleaning my 1927 Model 18 (which I don't do often) I noticed that the inlet valve outer spring had broken. Rather annoying as I want to use the machine.

Approximate measurements of a 1927 Model 18 valve spring

They differ in size compared to the later Model 18 and ES2 springs; who knows where to obtain a set of 1927 Model 18 valve springs or has a set available? please contact me on

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

c1930 Model 18 Norton

-SG- Brett in Australia has sent in this nice family snap of his grandfather Harry Brown on his '29/'30 Model 18. Brett says he is not entirely sure when it was taken but judging by the tidy appearance of the bike and the original lights and magdyno still being in place, it might just be pre-war or early after it. He relates also that his grandfather - serving with the forces in New Guinea at the end of the war - somehow managed to acquire a quantity of Harley parts and windshields from the departing US contingent which were miraculously - and profitably - re-allocated back to Sydney! What ultimately became of the Norton is unknown.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

1930 Model 18 Norton

-SG- This machine has had the same owner (sadly now dead) for over fifteen years and is well known in the south of England where it has been much admired, used and has shown great reliability. It is for sale now at Vintage and Veteran.

It started off as a veritable basket case and has been turned into a very presentable machine. Engine 45715 began life in a 1930 Model 18 shipped out in September 1929 and it is for this reason it is fitted with the 1928/9 oil pump, like the bike in New Zealand, covered by the recent posting. The frame number pre-dates the engine by several months.

For the quite high asking price I would hope to find little wrong and indeed, I would rate the overall restoration as pretty good. However, there are a few points worth making - some plus and some minus! Potential buyers may like to consider the quite minor 'minus' points if making an offer!

First, the 'Plus' points:

  • It is fitted with a correct brass type 6 carburettor and float chamber.
  • The front hub is correct - a 7 inch Horton.

Nit-picker's 'Minus' points:

  • Tank lining is not quite correct.  The black lines aren't quite wide enough in my view.
  • The kick start lever is wrong and comes from an LS gear box. It should be straight, not curved.
  • The restorer has plated the brake arms - as I've said before, by this date they should be BLACK!!
  • The clutch lever is a later type and the clutch arm on the gearbox is not Sturmey Archer.
  • It is fitted with a very nice - but incorrect - 'Square' ML magneto and there is no magneto shield, which in any case, will only fit the correct ML CMAK magneto.
  • Bearing in mind the overall finish the restorer has aimed for, I am surprised he failed to re-plate the scruffy cylinder base nuts and rocker box support/cylinder head sleeve nuts.
  • The rear hub is not the right one being - I believe -  slightly later but it fits well and this is not a noticeable point.

Friday, 11 July 2014

The Model 17C Norton

A Model 17C

-SG- Early Norton literature does not mention the 17C until 1921 at which point the regular Model 16 became the 16H (H for Home market) and the 17C came into the range, being intended for the Colonial market. The recent printing block images show the 17C and it is clearly quite different to the 16H, having a tank akin to that of the Big Four (Model 1). In addition, it had increased ground clearance to make it more suitable for the rudimentary roads in many of Britain's colonies in the twenties. It did not however sell that well and entries for it in the records are few and far between. A basket case SV machine in a very rough condition and incomplete, from the early twenties, was sold by Bonhams a couple of years back and this has been re-built from stem to stern (photo below). It is considered to be a 17C, although one 'Doubting Thomas' of my acquaintance made the rather grudging comment that a 17C was only a factory-assembled 'Bitza' - a Big Four with a 16H engine! Incidentally the frame and engine numbers of this particular bike pre-date the records.

In point of fact, my friend made a very valid remark. The Big Four is catalogued as having 6" (15cm) ground clearance - the same as the 17C - and such essentials as tank, forks, gearbox and wheels all show in the parts lists of the early twenties as being the same on both of these models. However, it seems that the 17C frame differed in some small way to that of the Big Four until 1926, at which point the spares lists shows the same frame for both models. The main differences appear to have been in the mudguards, footrests (the 17C had footrests and the Big Four footboards) chain guards, and of course, the engine capacity.

There was, however, one massive order for the 17C model in 1927 when no less than 160 machines were supplied to the Soviet Trade Delegation for use by the Soviet Army. These were delivered in two lots in May and July 1927. They were fitted with B and B carburettors, 26 x 3 tyres and Druid forks of the type used on the Big Four. The 'Extras Column' for these machines in the records shows that they were all equipped with various non-standard bits and pieces - to whit: "Terry Saddle: Footboards (I assume like the Big Four): Front and Rear Powell and Hanmer Acetylene Lights and Generator: Bulb Horn: Tyre Repair Kit: Spring Link and Cranked Link: Valve Lifter (I assume this was a description for a valve spring compressor,as the 16H engines were fitted with a valve lifter as standard)."

I have never seen a notice of this large order in any of the periodicals current at the time. Neither have I seen it mentioned in any of the various Norton histories, although that is perhaps not surprising as, dare I say it, most of the authors thereof are not, or were not, specific Norton enthusiasts but just jobbing journalists. I suppose it is a possibility that the Norton management felt it was better not to publicise it as memories of the 1917 Revolution and murder of the Czar and his family might have been too fresh in the minds of the general motorcycling public. What is intriguing too, is that, shipped at about the same time, also to the Soviet Trade Delegation, was a solitary Model 25. Perhaps this was a 'sweetener' for the Soviet official responsible for negotiating and placing the 17C order! It is beyond the realms of probability that the Model 25 has survived but, perhaps not so surprising, in view of the numbers involved, that at least two of the Army 17Cs have. One - incomplete - is now back in UK and the other is owned by Juris in Latvia, who was responsible for finding both machines. This too is incomplete in that it is missing a fuel tank so if anyone who reads this has  a 1926/7 Big Four tank spare, Juris would be very pleased to hear from you!

Finally I am very grateful to Juris for the scan above dating from 1929, actually showing a worthy Soviet soldier with one of these machines ... all in all a small but important part of Norton history.

A Model 17C
Note it has been fitted with an internal expanding front brake
 in place of the original (dodgy!) bicycle type.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Blocks from down under ... 1921/22 Norton Models

-SG- 'Down under' as we say in the UK rather sweepingly to describe Australasia, many houses and commercial properties were - and for that matter still are - built of wood, on substantial wooden piles.  There are various reasons for this which no doubt informed residents of New Zealand and Australia could expound on but perhaps this would be of only passing interest to site visitors! However, a result of this trend is that there is often a large space beneath the ground floor which is an admirable place to store things which are too good to chuck out but no longer needed for day-to-day activities. Needless to say, complete bikes have been resurrected from below-floor storage areas and indeed, a friend of mine in Auckland has an ex-John Hempleman head on his early sixties Manx Norton which came from just such a resting place.

Peter Thompson (Thompson's Motor Cycle Museum, Palmerston North) is well known in the area but it came as a pleasant surprise when he was given some early twenties printing blocks depicting most of the Norton range of 1921 or 1922, by a builder who was working on a local commercial property. At one stage, this had apparently housed a printing firm but this had long since been replaced by other tenants. And the blocks - they were found, with a lot of other miscellaneous stuff, below the floor! Many thanks to Peter for the resultant images attached.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

1929 Model CS1 Norton - SOLD

Sold on, a c1929 Model CS1 Norton. In the vendor's words: "Norton CS1 restoration project for sale. Mostly complete. Old and current UK registration documents. Known missing parts are primary chain case, magneto sprocket, oil tank filler cap, nuts, bolts, chains. £8750"

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The (???) Bennett bike ...

-SG- We touched on this subject before, when the 1926 Model 18 flat-tank bitza fitted with 1925 TT crankcases came up for sale at Bonhams. I have just come across this rather indistinct snap of it taken in probably the late forties, when it was owned by the Bovingden Brothers - that's them in the back-ground.

The Bovingden Brothers and Bitza

Times were very different then and many a Vintage bike appeared with such niceties as aluminium mudguards and even dual seats. The object of the exercise was to get a bike up and running and if it meant fitting a few non-original parts, so be it. The Bovingden stable also included a CS1 fitted with thirties forks and doubtless other bikes I don't know about. By the time I joined the VMCC in 1958, the brothers seem to have discontinued their membership but I understand they were very active in the fledgling speed events organised  in the Club's early days.

Friday, 27 June 2014

1928 Model 18

-SG- Derek had this nice 1928 Model 18 at the Banbury Run earlier this month, where it performed with its usual reliability. It was first despatched to Petersens, Norton's Danish agents in March 1928 and re-imported into UK just a few years back. It still has matching frame, engine and gearbox numbers although it now wears a brass 1 1/8" bore Amal in place of the original Brown and Barlow - and a rather sporty primary chain guard and silencer.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Mills Carburetters‏

-SG- While attention tends to focus on OHV models, it should not be forgotten that several thousands of SV Nortons were produced before 1940. And of these, a fair number were Big Fours, serving many a family as reliable transport with side-car attached. During the early twenties the Big Four was fitted with the Mills carburetter - patented in 1919. This in due course became the Villiers carb. which many of us of a certain age came to know from our earlier days of motorcycling on Villiers engined lightweights. I have to say I don't think I have ever seen an early twenties Big Four fitted with a Mills but I guess there must be some out there somewhere!

I am indebted to Richard Rosenthal - a regular contributor to Classic Motor Cycle - who has kindly provided me with a copy of the appropriate Mills booklet, now available via this link in case it's of interest. Peter Thompson (Thompson's Motorcycle Museum in New Zealand) happens to have an actual Mills carburetter - more or less all there -  and has sent the photo above. Whether it's ex -Norton, he doesn't know and nor do I, but it fits a 1" OD stub!