Sunday 3 March 2024

Grass track bonus or what!

-SG- It was 1960 and I had already owned my 1930 Model 18 for all of four years. I took part in various Vintage Club competitions and decided to try my hand at grass track - the VMCC having organised such an event at Cassiobury Park, Watford.  Preparation consisted of fitting a used 'knobbly' rear tyre and riding over carefully as I had no fourwheeled transport at the time.

As far as I recall the track was a dusty bumpy oval - bumpy to such an extent that the forks clashed onto the front mudguard several times per lap during practise and the handlebar clamps moved and clouted the tank top.  Having tightened everything up as much as possible, the machine was a bit more controllable during the heat and final, in which I think we finished fourth and fifth!  If nothing else this dabble with grass tracking convinced me that road racing was more in my line!

However the Watford event resulted in two unexpected 'boni' - certainly outweighing the event itself.

Bonus number one came in the form of an introduction by J W Anstice Brown - very much into Vintage racing Douglases - to a young acquaintance who dealt in scrap metal. And right then he was in the process of dismantling a Norton engine and gearbox like mine. His method of dis-assembly involved use of a large sledge hammer and he told me proudly he had already shattered the gearbox. However, given a small financial incentive of £2, he agreed to desist from further assaults on the Norton remnants until I had had a chance of collecting them from his garden at nearby St Albans!

Bonus number two was better still! It came from a small Welshman, to whom I was chatting while re-adjusting the handlebars. " I've got a Norton much like that," he said. "it's pretty well complete and you can have it if you want - for nothing.  Only problem is - it's down in Wales."

Anyway, it transpired that he worked as guard for Britsh Rail Western region, and he kindly arranged to move the Norton as his personal luggage to the 'left-luggage' office at Swindon station. A week or so later, he gave me a ring to say it was there and awaiting my collection. So I borrowed my mother's Morris 1000 van and drove down to Swindon.  With the front passenger seat already removed the 'new' Norton was squeezed in without too much of a problem.

Apparently, when my new Welsh friend finished his shift at the London end of the run, he used to stay in digs at Ashford, Middx.  I dropped him a line to tell him I had collected the bike and to repeat my thanks. I was surprised to get my letter back in a few days marked 'GONE AWAY.'  Unfortunately I did not have his address in Wales and thus lost contact with him almost as soon as I had met him.

And the Norton?  What a find! It was a 1929 Model 19 frame, forks, wheels etc. to which had been fitted a nice mid twenties LS Sturmey Archer gearbox, and better still, a dry-sump engine - never did check if it was Model 21 or Model 25 - dating from 1927.  In those distant days I did not have access to the Norton despatch books which were probably still held by the Police ...