Wednesday 4 September 2013

c1926 OHV Norton

(read the complete story via this link)

-SG- Burton- on-Trent dealers 'Vintage and Veteran,' run by Phil Hayward of bearing fame, have an interesting vintage Norton hybrid on their site. In their own words:

"Fantastic 1926 Norton 19 ... frame number matches the engine which gives it as 588 Model 19 although from the way the motor fits it’s an 18 frame! ... certified copy of the county records for the 19 ...  Sold by One Tia garage  to Mr H Claydon in 1926 registered CX8040 ... The only significant parts re-made are the rear brake pedal and the clamp for the steering damper everything else is genuine ... 21 inch wheels (there is a NOS rear tyre to go with it) ... Qualcast works type rear brake ... Ultra close gear set the type with 1st in the middle (unbelievably rare) ... New flat top piston (3 miles ago!) ... Amac TT carb bored 1 1/6 ... Amac Levers, proper cloth covered cable outers ... Narrow sprint tank ... The price is £26,000"

Ignoring - or perhaps admiring, depending on personal taste - the chequerboard tank finish (see 'No Limit', the mid-thirties film starring Lancashire comedian George Formby), the bike is indeed a mixture but hardly lives up to the short but rather fulsome description. Yes, a 588 engine has been shoehorned into a Model 18 frame, but otherwise it seems to be just a special made up of what was available to the builder!

As for the first gear in the middle position being 'unbelievably rare,' not so: many 1924/5 OHV Nortons, and some side-valvers, were fitted with this arrangement, which, from personal experience works very well. The problem with it is simply that it was primarily used in the 'fine pitch' CS gearboxes and these do not stand up well to the increased urge achievable from a mid twenties Model 18/19 engine. Thus, in 1926, the gear pitch was changed to something stronger ... I freely admit to not having seen a photo of the right hand side of the machine but what's all this about the 'Works Qualcast' brake?  Have I missed some facet of Norton racing history? As I recall, from when I saw this Norton last, the rear brake was standard but perhaps I overlooked something crucial.

I checked the numbers on this bike a few years back and the character who re-stamped the standard Model 18 frame (not the recent owner, let me hasten to add) made a rather basic error in his choice of frame number: he used the frame number which went with the 588 engine number. BUT, as it happens, this particular engine was fitted first to a four speed model, the frames of which were entirely different!  Poor choice! I did advise the then owner but unsurprisingly he didn't reply to this perhaps unwelcome information.

Let me end this comment by saying we have nothing against a nice looking flat tank Norton built from bits and pieces like this one but we see no need to invent a story about 'completely original,' 'rare gearbox,' 'works brake' - all uneccesary when it is so easy to check the numbers and specification in the records. So much inaccurate rubbish is published by dealers, auction houses, the press and, dare I say it, a few museum owners, that it becomes increasingly difficult to establish what machines (not neccessarily Nortons) looked like in the first place. All of these organisations have a responsibility to check their facts and print accurate information. 'Vintage and Veteran' don't seem to me to have performed too well against this yard-stick and £26000 is a lot to pay for a Flat Tank Norton bitza.