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

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!