Skip to main content

Manx Norton

Manx Norton classic racing motorcycle

Of all the motorcycles to have graced the world's race-tracks over the years, there have been few so emotive as the 'Manx' Norton. Throughout the '30s, Norton were nigh on unbeatable at the Isle of Man 'TT'. Their top roadster at the time was the 'International'. It was the production racer based on this bike that was first to sport the 'Manx' badge. However, it was not until 1950 that the most memorable Manx Norton of all arrived on the 'island'. So supple was its frame that one of Norton's aces likened it to riding a feather bed! His words stuck ... it was dubbed the 'Featherbed Manx'.

But a great bike still needs a great rider. And riders do not come any greater than Geoff Duke! A perfect fit for the Featherbed, in '51 Duke took both the 500 and 350cc world championships. Supreme sportsman that he was, Duke would have been first to acknowledge the part played by Irishmen Rex and Cromie McCandless. They were the legendary engineers who designed the flexible Featherbed frame.

Nowadays, it seems inconceivable that a bike as successful as the Manx could have been a single-pot 'thumper'. Air-cooled, four valves, 54 bhp - a far cry from the 'rocketships' of today! Indeed, it would be the first four-cylinder forays at the TT - by Gilera, and MV Agusta - which would finally see off Manx indomitability. What to do, then, with such a machine - once its glory days are behind it? Sell it for scrap ... its famous frame fetching the going rate for steel? Thankfully, not! Glorious single-cylinder sounds can still be heard at classic race meets to this day ... as the majestic Manx Norton swoops into sight, on its way to completing yet another lap. Basso profundo, basically!

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Chrysler Airflow

The Chrysler Airflow was where Art met Science! The lines of its bodywork were drawn from aerodynamics - at a time when that discipline was a mere glint in a boffin's eye! Certainly, it was far from being routinely used in automotive design. Indeed, the Airflow was the first production car to feature the fledgling craft. A 'wind tunnel' was duly developed. Even today, such systems are considered arcane ... but, in the early '30s, they were tantamount to a black art! The engineering wizards overseeing the project were Carl Breer, Fred Zeder, and Owen Skelton. Breer was the catalyst ... he had been first to be smitten by the science of aerodynamics. Zeder and Skelton soon followed suit. And it did no harm at all when Orville Wright - father of aviation - was brought on board! More than 50 test cars were built. By means, then, of painstaking refinements, the Chrysler Airflow gradually took shape.But the Airflow was not just about aerodynamics. 'Weight lo…

NSU Ro80

The styling of the NSU Ro80 was ahead of its time. At first glance, masses of glass were straight out of science-fiction. Closer inspection revealed the gently rising line of its profile - giving it a low front, high back stance - which would influence automotive design for years to come. The 5-seater body was supremely aerodynamic for a saloon car - making cruising at speed a breeze. So flawless was it outwardly that it was hardly touched in ten years of production. Just the tail-lights were modified, on later versions.The Ro80's handling was equally impressive. FWD - and precision power-steering - kept it perfectly pointed. The long-travel strut suspension soaked up bumps. High-efficiency disc brakes were fitted all round. The 3-speed semi-automatic transmission swept through the gears with aplomb. Top speed was a sound 112mph.But, of course, nothing is perfect. The Ro80 was powered by a twin-rotor Wankel engine. Unfortunately - in a rush to get the car into showroom…

FN Four

In terms of breakthroughs in the history of motorcycling, there cannot be many to rival the first in-line four engine. Belgium was the birthplace of this landmark layout. FN was the much-to-be-thanked manufacturer.The FN Four first hit the highway in 1911. It produced 4bhp. That, from a 491 cc capacity. At the time, such figures described state-of-the-art technology. Top speed for the FN Four was 40mph. Not bad - for an 8-valve inlet-over-exhaust set-up. Oh, it was air-cooled.The FN Four was light - tipping the scales at 165lb dry. Not only the motor, but the chassis, too, was avant-garde. It featured an early form of telescopic forks. A new-fangled clutch - and 2-speed 'box - only added to the FN Four's slick box of tricks. Solid shaft-drive output the power. Who, then, designed this visionary vintage? You will not hear the name Paul Kelekom shouted from motorcycling's rooftops. But, you should - for it was he who fashioned the FN Four. In so doing, he ki…