Norton SOHC Background

I have been fascinated by ‘Cammy’ Norton’s of all varieties since I was a child, but really it is the earlier SOHC type – officially classed as the Model 30 (500cc) and Model 40 (350cc), that I find most interesting. Particularly, that golden period between 1930 and the late 1940's - when Norton were almost unbeatable in Grand Prix Racing, that holds most attraction. I watched them race with my father at early VMCC events in the 1960's, and have always remembered the fantastic noise they made, the charimastic smell of Castrol R30 as you got close, and more often than not, the yellow glaze of the caster oil covering the engine and oil tank, that had escaped from the Hairpin valvegear. They epitomised the classic profile of racing bikes of that era.

My 38 Inter

My 1938 Racing International in the paddock area at Brooklands

In recent times, the later Featherbed twin cam variety (the immortalised Manx) has attracted more glamour (and not without good reason), and in the last 15 years has enjoyed a resurgence of serious racing use, thanks mainly to the engineering prowess of companies such as Summerfield, Molnar and Walmsley in the UK and McIntosh in New Zealand.
Indeed, it is now possible to purchase a complete, brand new replica Featherbed DOHC Manx Norton, with which you can go out and start Classic Racing immediately, safe in the knowledge that the bike underneath you is not about to grenade itself, due to terminal old age.
Although, I too love the Featherbed Manx, far less has been said about it’s SOHC relative, even though the two types are very closely linked (and it could be said, that one evolved into the other). Apart from a small band of marque specialists – notably Stu Rogers and George Cohen, very little information (or parts!) is available for the Single Knocker variety. I hope this new section of my web site will help put this right.
As well as including a little bit of history about the SOHC Norton, I shall also include sections detailing the build and restoration of my own (two) Cammy Norton’s. Additionally, I am hoping to be able to offer for sale some useful engine parts (both new and used) later in 2006.

My Interest in SOHC Norton’s

I have been interested in all Cammy Norton’s since I was a boy, and if truthful would say that I actually feel more of an affinity to them than I do Vincent’s, despite my website having originally been written to cater for the latter!
Just like with the Vincent, my interest with Norton’s was as a result of my father, who as well as owning twoVincent’s also had a late ‘30’s 500 International, although he had parted with this bike before I turned up on the scene. Never the less, while I was a youngster he did own a couple of 1940’s-50’s ES2’s (the more humble pushrod Norton single), and it was with these that my first hand experience of Norton’s grew. My father never lost his admiration for the Cammy Norton he previously owned though and I think this love for them must have rubbed off on me.

38 Inter Engine

Classic lines of Norton OHC Engine

38 Inter Drive Side

Drive Side of 1938 Inter, showing huge filler on wrapround oil tank

  Restoring a 1938 Racing International

Unfortunately, when I was racing myself in the mid 1980’s my meagre finance’s could not run to affording a camshaft engine, so I had to make do with tuning the more humble pushrod relation. This did not stop me going to look at a couple of potential purchases, but somehow at the time it did not quite happen and eventually I ended up putting all my available savings into the Vincent basket case that you see featured on this site.
I did manage to acquire quite a few engine bits over the years though, and in more recent times with finances not quite the problem they were when I was actively racing, I was able to acquire another complete engine and put together the bike you see featured here. It is the engine restoration of this 1938 Racing Inter that forms the basis of the articles which I cover in this section. As with the Vincent restoration, I hope you find the different articles interesting and informative. I offer my standard disclaimer of saying - please don’t take everything I say as gospel!, but that said, I suppose it is fair to say that over the years I have had a fair amount of experience of Norton singles as a whole, so at least some of it should make sense!  


I would also like to offer my sincere thanks to Stu Rogers, who has been a great source of useful information and advice for the last two years (as well as giving me the chance to renew a friendship that goes back to when we raced together in the 1980’s). Thanks also to George Cohen and Charlie Smith who have also given assistance and advice of late. (Incidentally, it has been nice talking to George again, I originally got to know him over 20 years ago, as we both could be found at autojumbles, rummaging through the same parts bin’s searching forlornly for Norton close ratio gears!).

As I write this article in February 2006, I am in the process of sympathetically restoring a lovely late 1930’s SOHC Manx Norton outfit, which previously belonged to my old friend and ‘driver’, Titch Allen O.B.E. This very period racer has a customer version of the rare ‘Big Plunger’ chassis, as fitted to the Works Norton’s in 1936-37. He always referred to this outfit as his 'Posing Outfit', so I feel quite honoured to have been entrusted with it.
I currently have on my workbench an original SOHC magnesium full 'Manx spec' engine, which I am in the process of rebuilding. Although I don’t intend to race/sprint this outfit, it should make a great Eric Oliver lookalike, which I hope will be good fun for the odd posing events. It should also provide the basis of further Norton sections to the site later this year.

If you have any questions you would like to ask me, suggestions for future articles on this website, or would like to enquire about any parts I have for sale or swap, then please feel free to email me at the following address:


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