Monday 1 July 2013

Norton numbers

-SG- A few years back I did a some articles for the VMCC magazine regarding the information to be gleaned from the extant Norton Despatch Books - at the time under the care of the Science Museum in London but now held by the VMCC in Burton-on-Trent. Let me say here and now that I am not proposing to re-hash the articles concerned for the web-site but equally, as and when time permits, am happy to look up individual queries raised by other pre-war Norton enthusiasts. However, my data only goes as far as 1932 and queries regarding later bikes need to be addressed to the VMCC or the Norton Owners’ Club.

One point arising from my earlier efforts was not explained satisfactorily by anyone at the time. This related to the fact that in March 1925 the despatch records go from 13999 to 24000 as far as engine numbers are concerned. Let me hasten to add this was not the result of an omission or loss of some 300 pages of entries. Indeed the bike with engine number 24000 was shipped out before that with engine number 13999 and the ledger records are absolutely continuous.

Now thanks to Mike in Wales, we can see a possible reason for this situation: it is simply that, during World War 1 and indeed up to 1920, Norton engine numbers incorporated two digits indicating the year of production - mostly before the actual engine number but in two years (1917 and 1918) after it. By omitting the figures 14000 to 23999, Mike suggests, there was no risk of confusion if, for instance someone ordered parts for a bike fitted with engine number 16220. The works would have had no difficulty identifying it as being produced in 1916.

Despite the very small number of machines produced annually in the war years, this explanation seems an acceptable one to me but any other ideas will be welcomed!