Showing posts with label Norton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norton. Show all posts

Norton CS1

Norton CS1 1930s British classic motorcycle

Classic Nortons are as iconic as Brit bikes come. That certainly includes the CS1. Norton was based in Bracebridge Street, Birmingham. In 1913, the fledgling firm went bust. In true champion style, however, it got back on its feet, dusted itself down and came out for another round! James Norton teamed up with Bob Shelley and his brother-in-law - ace tuner Dan 'Wizard' O'Donovan. The chemistry must have been spot-on, if the Isle of Man TT was anything to go by. Rex Judd was among the riders to win on Nortons in that most iconic of road races.

The CS1 arrived on 'the island' in '27 - prepped for its first TT. The 'CamShaft 1' production racer boasted a bevel-driven overhead cam engine. It was a sensation from the second Stanley Woods swung a leg over the saddle. Fast-forward a year - and the CS1 roadster appeared, in supersport mode. Again, rival marques were left reeling in its wake. Sadly, James 'Pa' Norton - company founder - died before his bikes saw success.

Before taking on the CS1, 'Wizard' O'Donovan had plenty of practice. He built the Brooklands Special. It was designed specifically for the unique challenges of the legendary English oval. When sold, Brooklands Specials came with a certificate - confirming they had reached 75mph. Detuned Specials were sorted for street use. The roadster's sale certificate guaranteed 70mph - just 5mph less than the racer. So, the CS1 had a tough act to follow. It did so, though, with aplomb. Stylishly engineered, it sported silver-and-black paint - Norton's trademark colour scheme. It was a shame 'Pa' Norton's heart could not hold out a little while longer. Never really a businessman, he loved bikes to the core of his being. He would have loved to see and hear one of his company's masterpieces. Thankfully, at least the Norton CS1 has been exhilarating classic bike fans for many years since!

Norton Commando Fastback 750

Norton Commando Fastback 750 1960s British classic motorcycle

Unlike some of its 'Brit bike' brethren, the Norton Commando Fastback 750 was a smooth and comfortable ride. Well, by 1960s standards, anyway. That was due, in no small part, to Norton's proprietary engine-mounting set-up. Made up mostly of rubber, it was dubbed 'isolastic'. The Commando's motor was a parallel twin - not a layout synonymous with seamless power delivery. The isolastic system, though, duly dialled out the worst excesses of the inherent engine vibrations.

Norton had long prided itself on its bikes' handling prowess. The Commando turned out to be no exception. In '73, the bike was taken to the toughest road test of all - the Isle of Man TT race. Norton's road-holding claims were upheld. Peter Williams - the Commando's rider - took the Formula 750 trophy.

The road-going Fastback's performance was almost as impressive. Its 745cc motor put out 58bhp. And with the Commando weighing in at just 418lb, that meant a top speed of 117mph. With so much all-rounder status in its pocket, the Commando was bound to sell well. Sadly, though, not well enough to save Norton from its date with financial destiny. For its uncommon blend of style and substance, however, the Commando Fastback 750 will be forever revered by classic bike enthusiasts!

Manx Norton

Manx Norton 1950s TT race bike

The Manx Norton has a proud heritage. Throughout the '30s, Norton were nigh on invincible at the Isle of Man TT. Their top-selling roadster at the time was the International. It was the production racer based on this bike that was first to sport the legendary 'Manx' badge. However, it was not until 1950 that the most memorable Manx Norton of all arrived on 'the island'. So flexible was its frame that one of Norton's race aces said it was like riding a feather bed! From then on, it was known as the 'Featherbed Manx'.

But a great bike still needs a great rider. And riders do not come any greater than Geoff Duke. Clearly 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 top-flight engineers who designed the Featherbed frame.

Today, it seems inconceivable that a bike as successful as the Manx could have been a single-pot 'thumper'. Air-cooled, four valves, 54 bhp. Indeed, it would be the first four-cylinder forays at the TT - by Gilera and MV Agusta - which finally signalled the end of Manx indomitability. Thankfully, though, those booming single-cylinder sounds - exiting megaphone exhausts - can still be heard at classic race meets. As the majestic Manx Norton swoops into sight - on its way to completing yet another lap. Basso profundo, basically!

Norton NRS 588

Norton NRS 588 1990s BSB race bike

The Norton NRS 588 - the 'rotary' Norton racer - was the brainchild of engineer Brian Crighton. His innovative project was at first rejected by Norton management. Crighton built the bike anyway, off his own bat. In the caretaker's shed! Subsequently, it performed so well in speed tests that Norton's top brass had a sudden change of heart! They flashed the green light for its development.

Riders Trevor Nation and Steve Spray were joined at the hip with the 'JPS Norton'. In their black, silver and gold leathers, they and the bikes were a stunning sight at British circuits. 'Rocket' Ron Haslam, too, played a pivotal part in the bike's success.

Revered for its jet-like straight-line speed, the rotary engine's braking - or lack of it - made cornering much more of a challenge! The rear end snaking this way and that on entry was often the source of much spectator mirth. The Norton NRS 588, then, was an iconic British race bike - one guaranteed to render misty-eyed race-goers of the time. And all thanks to Brian Crighton ... and his powers of perseverance!