16/03/17: Bonhams at Stafford and New Flat Tanker Project - Douglas 2 3/4 hp: Read Article Here
Last April (2016) I viisted Bonhams Stafford auction looking for a Vincent RFM for my Grey Flash Rep project, but came away with more than I bargained for. Read about it here:
Bonhams Staffford 2016 Article
25/05/16: Vincent Comet Restoration Complete - Read Article Here
I have finally finished the restoratoin of my 1950 Vincetn 500 Comet. Read the article here:
Vincent Comet Restoration
25/03/16: M30 Magnesium Racing Crankcases - First Set Complete
Timing side view of our first set of magnesium M30 crankcases - freshly re-chromated and sprayed in duck oil after machining
I am pleased to report that (finally!) our first set of M30 500cc magnesium crankcases are now complete - and if I say so myself are looking really good.
For more photographs of the finished crankcases, as well as work in progress photos, press on the link to take you to a short article with more detailed photos: M30 Crankcase Page
If you are interested in putting your name down to reserve a pair of the first 10 sets, email me on the normal email address: email@example.com
20/03/16: Nice Quality Vincent Bike Covers from VOC
I actually bought these covers from the Vincent Owners Club over a year ago, but only got them out late summer 2015 . . . as I wanted to try them on both my Vinnies at the same time, and the Vincent Comet 500 was not back on its wheels until that time.
I took these photographs when I pulled out the Comet on its wheels and out in the sunshine for the first time.
I had seen them on the VOC website some time ago and thought they looked very smart. I don’t know about you, but in my garage, although I like looking at the bikes – but if I don’t keep them covered they soon end up with dust all over them. In the past I have used all kinds of hand-me-down covers, curtains, old blankets etc, but I quite liked the idea of a bit of luxury with specialist monogrammed covers for both the Vincent’s – one with the HRD motif and the other Vincent.
As you can see they both look very smart, are tailored to the bikes – with them slightly wider in the handlebar than the read end and they each have two gold bead lines running the length of the bikes. As you can see, they are available with both Vincent and HRD logos and are elasticated at the bottom – I note they are both all-enveloping and a very good fit. Since the photos were taken they have been fitted to both bikes for about 6 months and seem very durable, very pleased with them.
If you have a Vinnie and fancy one of these yourself then they are available at the VOC website:
Pre-War 'Roadholder' Catalogs - Why I like them so much
Blue background indicates this is the 1935 edition of Roahdholder - showing the 500cc International for that year
In the last couple of weeks i have treated 'the Norton Business' to a new A3/Colour/Duplex printer - the old HP8550 still giving great quality but now having got very long in the tooth and starting to get unreliable (the new printer has same capability but was on a special offer over the Xmas period - the normal price being £1.5k). Anyway – before I start going all technical and anal about the intricacies of A3 printers (another ‘pet’ subject of mine!) – the point of this blog was to give an unashamed plug for the Facsimile Norton ‘Roadholder’ pre-war catalogs we offer from our Online Catalog.
Because I wanted to use up all the remaining ink on the old HP before moving it out – I decided to print off a new batch of Roadholder catalogs – our 1939 catalog being first as this is currently out of stock (not any more by the way – they are now back in as at 02/02/16). But as always, when printing this latest batch off – I could not help but stop (on numerous occasions!) to read one of the pre-war race writups – or just to look at one the wonderful period line drawings – there being one for every model in that year’s Norton range in every catalog.
1939 is a particularly nice year – because as well as showing the Model 30, Model40, CS1/CSJ road going SOHC bikes, it also has a picture of the 1939 Racing Inter (i.e. pre-war Manx) – which shows the magnesium crankcase Manx GP Spec model, and if you look very closely even the rare ‘Suicide Stand’ Gardengate frame only fitted that year.
So although this blog may come over as unashamed advertising – it is not meant to be: I just wanted to check with my fellow Norton enthusiasts if they were aware of the format that Norton used for advertising their forthcoming range pre-war, and let them know they were out there. Each year through the 1930’s they would produce what they called their ‘Roadholder’ catalog. This was slightly larger than A5 format. It had a black card cover and was normally about 30 pages in length. The first half of the catalog gave interesting write-ups and (mostly unpublished) photos of Norton’s previous year competition achievements - remember Norton ‘ruled the racing roost’ through most of the ‘30’s, while the second half of the catalog gave a high quality line drawing and specification of every model in that years range. Added to this, the other interesting point about these catalogs is that Norton chose a different print colour each year – i.e. 1939 was a very ‘Art Deco’ green, 1936 was red, and 1934 was blue.
Now extremely rare and hard to find (and I have paid up to £200 each for originals) – these catalogs give a fascinating insight into the 1930’s world, have a lovely art deco feel to them – and also give a great insight for the restorer of what parts should have been originally fitted for that year.
. . . and finally, red represents 1936 - this being that years twin port OHV 500 engine - quite a rare bike today. Each year's catalog shows every model in the range, with a mixture of drive and timing side pictures
I know that the versions I sell may seem quite expensive for what they are – but I can assure you, if you knew the amount of time and effort it takes me to produce these (often having to spend a long time cleaning up the original tears and marks that the originals inevitably pick up – using Photoshop), and the fact that I use best quality paper, inks, printing quality – I hope you would see they are a very reasonable alternative to the great expense of finding an original.
And finally – although I only offer certain years at the moment, if you have a particular year you are interested in – then please let me know; they take a long time to prepare – but I have most original Norton catalogs from the late 1920’s through to the late 1950’s . . . I am always wondering which one to do next – so let me know if you have a year you are particularly after.
Here is the link to our Literature/Facsimile section of the Norton Catalog if you want to have a look: Norton Catalog Facsimile Section
Vincent Comet Rebuild - Making Progress
The Vincent Comet is slowly coming together and progressing well - although I have not had much chance to work on it since Xmas. That said, the main chassis/engine parts are now back together, front forks and RFM are built and I now have the wheels stripped down so I can have the original rims rechromed before lining them and then re-spoking using stainless spokes.
So far it has been a really enjoyable build with no major issues, and because the bike was a complete running bike - my fathers main two wheeled transport through the sixties and seventies, it has been far simpler than many of my builds, with all the major parts already there, just needing refurbishment.
By the way, I mentioned in a previous blog that with my free time being quite limited in the last few years, I have finally admitted to myself I no longer have time to do all my own paintwork - a job I used to do for most restorations, which although satisfying was also very time consuming.
Therefore for this Vincent rebuild, I had come to the conclusion the only way I was going to get it done in a reasonable timescale was to farm out all the paintwork to someone else.
Luckily, based in Leicester is an old friend of mine - Shane who owns Faircharm Restorations. Shane has been doing blasting and powder coating for me for many years and I have often admired his 'wet' paintwork when visiting. So with this restoration I just phone Shane up and asked him if he could blast and paint all the parts I was taking off the Vinnie. We arranged first for everything to be blasted, and as this was going to be a bike to be used, I asked for most of the chassis parts to be done to a good standard . .. but not show quality (i.e. the amount of rubbing down and filling reduced) . . . as the majority of parts were in good condition and not pitted anyway.
However, I asked for a concours job on the petrol tank and other high viz items like the fork blades and headlamp shell. Picking up all the parts (having visitied a couple of times imbetween to check progress) was great - the parts looked fabulous and the petrol tank was a 'show' finish (Shane had previously done the HRD tank on my Lightning rep and this was also the dogs doodahs!).
Anyway, now I have admitted to myself I cannot do every job myself anymore, I feel strangely soul cleansed - and it is nice just to leave it in the hands of someone I trust. No doubt I will be doing the same again for other builds. That said, I have no doubt there will still be some little jobs where I can do it myself - so I do not imagine my spray booth will fall totally out of use!
Nice example of Shane's work - professional photo of Vincent petrol tanks painted by Faircharm (not my photo I hasten to add!)
If you are looking for a professional service and top quality paintwork, then Faircharm are at the following website address: Faircharm Restorations
Collecting Parts for a New Vincent Project - Guess What It Is?
The picture on the left shows the latest additions to my personal scrap metal collection, photographed on the kitchen floor (before the missus got home!).
I am sure those of you familiar with the Vincent marque will recognise the top casting as being from a Vincent single, but the gearbox may be a bit less familiar.
For the background behind this interesting collection of bits and to provide an explanation as to why I am so chuffed to have acquired them - then have a read of a short article I put together to explain:- Mystery Vincent Article
18/08/14: 'Article' Webpages and Articles Now Updated!
As well as adding a new Vincent article (shown below as being in June . . . but actually only just published! now in August), I have now had a major cleanup and update of the Racing Vincent Website, and have sorted all those old articles and updates and added new 'carousel' links on the 'Articles' webpage (available on the main Header button bar at the top of every RacingVincent webpage and also a link by pressing the photograph on the right.
The upshot of this, is that I have now made available all my old website Product updates and Latest News articles, Racing updates as well as some odd ones like the article on the right - giving an update on when i first purchased my now sadly lamented KTM 660.
I cant help but feel there may be a few further old articles still not listed - and I will add these if I find them, but at least they are now all accessable from one 'master' webpage, and in some semblance of order!
29/06/14: Progress on Vincent Build's (note:Plural)
It seems like a long time since I gave a proper update on the Vincent lightning build - about 18 months ago actually, so just like buses that come along in pairs, this time I can give an update on two Vincent builds.
Black Lightning Replica BuildThe last article I did for the long term Lightning build was back in November 2012, where I covered the primary drive assembly. Well a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and I am pleased to report that other than a few smaller tasks, the build is now almost complete, with only the fuel pipes still to add and a few smaller tasks still to do. All through the build I have taken photographs as I have gone along, but with the normal long hours of the day job and running the Norton business at the weekends, I have not had time to write up articles up or publish those photographs until now.
I am not sure how many articles I will get time to write before I move on to the next build, but I have at least made a start and wirtten up the next instalment following on from where I left off in November 2012 - this being the Clutch build, which you can read here: Vincent Clutch Build
I suppose that once I have fitted the fuel pipes (and sealed inside the tank) I will not be able to put off anymore having to start the bike. I know I should be sounding keener than I am, but although I am looking forward to starting it and hearing the likely thunder it will make fitted with its open 2" diameter Lightning exhaust pipes, I also know that this will just be the starting point for the next stage - tackling all the fettling tasks associated with getting a new build sorted. Well no rush to do that . . . what is another year or two when the build has already taken 25!
Above: I only meant to take a couple of bits off to repaint them and before I knew it the bike looked like this! notice absence of forks at this stage
Below: And by the time this photo was taken I was resigned to a more major cosmetic restoration. Notice that at this point only the engine/gearbox remain together in one piece, and top half of engine also stripped
Vincent Comet Restoration
If you click on the Norton picture on the RacingVincent Homepage it will take you to the photo Gallery for my own bikes. If you scroll down until you get to the Vincent section you will see a picture of our 1950 Vincent Comet. I say ‘our’ Vincent because although it is my bike, it was actually owned by my late father Les Norman before me, and has been in the family since 1959 . . . now 55 years ago, and I am very aware that although my father passed away four years ago, I can still feel him looking over my shoulder when I work on this bike, no doubt grumbling that I am doing something wrong!
It has not been ridden on the road since the early 1990’s and although my father has been gone for a while now, I have only in the last year collected the bike from my mothers garage. It was left equally to my two sisters and I (although my two sisters have always known it was myself that would use it), so I did not want to do anything until I had come to some mutual arrangement with them first, which I now have.
I have been keeping it sprayed in oil for some years now, even while my father was alive, but when I came to clean it down last year I found myself with a real dilemma, should I try and run it as it was – very original, but on close inspection looking very tired in some areas, or do a restoration? In December of last year I decided to strip a few parts off it and have them chromed while I was having some Norton parts done, but you know how it is . . . before I could stop myself I had stripped it down to the bare bones and gone for the restoration option!
Having made this decision now, life has become much easier and I am pleased to say that so far I have been very pleasantly in stripping it down – touchwood, I have found no major horrors and actually it’s overall condition looks very good – Bigend feels good, piston looks relatively new (I remember my father rebuilding the engine in the mid 1970’s, but had an idea it might be quite worn again by now, or at that time he might not have been able to get parts easily and used the best of his second hand spares). I am trying to be sympathetic and re-use as many original parts as possible, but I have now had all the black parts re-painted (see my separate blog) and have decided to replace many of the original fasteners with stainless stuff from my favourite Vinnie suppliers – Maughans and Sons. I would like to have it finished and back together by the end of this year and am already really looking forward to riding it - I hope to do at least one article on this restoration in the next few months
600cc Manx Crank . . . Not the most common of sites!
Newly rebuilt Manx 600cc Gardengate Crankshaft - it uses 500cc flywheel billets but note mainshaft shoulder does not correspond to Big End recess - which is further out than a 500cc crankshaft
Recently back from my Bigend and crank rebuilding supplier is the Manx crankshaft from my 600cc (sidecar) engine. The flywheels for this crank are standard late longstroke Manx 500cc type billets, but with the Big End journal machined further outwards from standard to increase the stroke to 112mm (from 100mm of the 500).
The giveaway to identify the 600 crankshaft from the 500 is that the Big End recess (for the Big End nuts) is not in line with the corresponding mainshaft shoulder recess, unlike the 500 version, as the stroke is lengthened on this crankshaft. Now this has been rebuilt with new Bigend and Manx conrod, it will be put into storage until I am ready to start the eagerly awaited build of that bike - something I am really looking forward to. I am intending to use a set of my own magnesium (pre-featherbed) Manx crankcases, as I want to be able to give this bike a bit of welly when I get it together - so want to use crankcases I can trust.
Interesting Comparison: - bottom of photo is standard OHV ES2 with BigEnd outer journal fitted. At the top is new Manx Longstroke 500cc rod (no BigEnd fitted yet), but in the middle is the conrod fitted in the 600cc Manx crankshaft when purchased - Model 19 OHV 600cc conrod, but with outer ring bored out to take a Manx BigEnd - would you trust this in a racing Sidecar outfit??!!
Maybe I should not Re-fit the Old Conrod??!
I was very fortunate to be able to find this rare 600cc crankshaft about 5 years ago. About 2 years previously I had managed to buy from an old friend the frame and some parts of one of only 17 600cc Manx (sidecar) frames made. This particular one was the first 600cc Manx to be sent out to Australia (where quite a few of these bikes went). However, I held little hope for finding any original 600cc engine parts - particularly the crank and long barrel. Therefore, I was over the moon when I was able to buy both this crank and a genuine 600cc barrel at the same time a couple of years later. I bought it from an enthusiast in the Malverns who had the rest of the bike, but at some time in the past had converted the engine from 600cc configuration to the more usual 500cc configuration, therefore these parts were surplus.
Anyway, having bought the assembled crank, 600cc barrel - which had been relinered back to 500cc and showed signs of having been used with a very low compression 500cc crank! and a few other 600cc engine items, I considered myself very fortunate and have since been slowly accumulating other parts for the forthcoming engine build - including bronze bi-metal Manx square head, magnesium cambox etc
What was interesting about the crankshaft though - other than it being based on 500cc flywheels, was that a previous owner had done a little bit of 'home engineering' on it, so that it was not to the same racing specification as when it came out of the Norton factory! I would hazard a guess that at some time in the engines lifetime the original 600cc Manx conrod had 'let go' and broken. It would seem that the owner at the time had been unable to get hold of the proper Manx replacement 600 conrod, and had instead bored out an OHV 596 (8 inch long) conrod to fit a Norton SOHC 350 Big End! Now I would be the first to give whoever it was that did this job 10 out of 10 for ingenuity, but 0/10 for practicality, the surrounding metal of the OHV conrod looks extremely thin and fragile - particularly as there is no webbing around it, unlike a Manx (or even Inter) conrod. I would have been very nervous to have given that engine any welly in a race, particularly with a sidecar hung on the side. Anyway, replaced now with a new rod so I can have a bit more piece of mind - and another addition to the curiosity bin!
New Commuter Bike . . . because some lowlife took the last one!
Not long before leaving my old job at Selfridges, back in October 2013, some lowlife tosser nicked my KTM 660SMC Super Moto road bike. . . from my works car park - right under the noses of the security guards who must have been asleep at the time.
I am hoping that the wanker, whoever he was, has subsequently broken his leg trying to start the bloody thing (as indeed some bloke my local KTM dealer told me about has with his own similar model - twice!, 660SMC's are not renowned for being easy starter's), but I suspect the reality is that the asshole was a semi-professional lowlife from the local estate and (as the police also suspect) and it has now been carted off to one of the local dodgy dealers and stripped down for parts - so regrettfully I have had to say goodbye to it, and just enjoy the memories of what was one of the most extreme and amazing bikes I have ever ridden - with an engine like a modern day Manx Norton and handling so awesome that even an old fogey like me could run it off the edge of the rear tyre!
So although I went through what seemed like a suitable period of 'mouring' (which in reality was waiting for the insurance money to come through), I have now just about got over it and have consoled myself by buying myself a new 'Commute' bike - 2006 Honda CBR600RR
Never being a person to let the burden of practicality get in the way of something I just fancy - I decided this modern mid-weight race replica would be the perfect tool for riding through the winter and nipping over to see my mother each week.
To read the background of how I came to pick this new addition to the stable - read the accompanying article - CBR600RR Article
Send me your photos . . . Again!!
Andy Marks lovely early Racing Inter is one of the bikes already showing on the 'Your Bikes' webpage - send me your photos if you would like your bike to appear as well
About a year ago I asked customers and reader if they would like to submit photos to go onto a 'Your Bikes' page. This webpage was going to become a showcase for your SOHC Norton motorcycles, which as well as giving customers a chance to show their bikes, would also provide with examples of various specification and sub-models for other restorer's to look at and help them with their own restorations.
Well, since that time, I have now written the webpage (see the Your Bikes button on the Heading Bar above) - but due to earlier problems with the PC, have lost 'chunks' of my email history whcih includes many photographs sent to me. Therefore, if you would like your bike to appear on this page, then please could you send them again, and I will get them up.
When you send the photos, send a little bit of detail as well, so other readers can know a bit about the bike as well - Year, model, special bits fitted, stuff like that.
And finally - do not worry if the bike is in unrestored condition, or is in large lumps - for restorer's these are often the most interesting photographs
Lower Bevel Gears Almost Ready For Sale
If you read my recent Newsletter 18, you will have noted that due to much and regular demand from customers - I have embarked on having SOHC Bevel Gears made.
Due to the high cost of initial investment I will be doing the gears in two seperate batch's - with the lower bevel gear pair being made first, as these seem to be the gear most likely to be damaged. I believe this is in the main part due to the bevel gear bearings losing it's little balls and then dropping into the timing chest - with predicatable results. A well known SOHC fault that my old friend Titch Allen once cynically remarked - kept Norton's Service Department going for many years!
Well I am pleased to report that this first batch of gears are now almost ready for sale, with the crankshaft bevel gear being complete and the lower vertical bevel gear just requiring one more finishing operation. I am expecting them to be availabe on the catalog in the next four weeks.
The photograph on the left shows the new crankshaft gears at the top of the picture, with an original Norton crankshaft gear in the lower part of the photograph. I am also confident in saying that these new gears are effectively identical in dimensions to original Norton gears, and are therefore fully interchangeable - including the tooth profile (unlike some other Longstroke bevel gears that have been occasionally manufactured in the last 30 years).
For the crankshaft gear shown above, I will be able to offer both variants - the more normal Norton International type (fitted to aluminium crankcase models) and the Norton M30/Manx type (fitted to pre-featherbed magnesium crankcase engines), which are shallower in depth - both types are shown here.
As far as manufacture is concerned, I used many examples of original gears from which to make drawings and provide the patterns, and a specialist UK bevel gear manufacturer was engaged locally to make them - they have certainly come out looking of a very high quality.and look virtually indistinguishable from originals. Incidentally, while I was collecting this first batch - I noticed another customer had bought in an ERA magnesium (differential?) bevel box and gears - for which new helical gears were being commisioned . . . so it seems the historic racing car people are using this same manufacturer as well.
First batch quantities are limited, so if you would like to reserve a pair now, please email us at our normal mail order address - firstname.lastname@example.org
Do you ever get tired of 'Bump starting' old bikes?
For those of you that have competition bikes without the luxury of a kickstarter (or even worse, God forbid - an electric starter), then you may be interested in the latest RacingVincent purchase - a Solo Bike Starter, designed to make life easier (and safer) than the old fashioned method of running and bump starting a bike.
I have been doing it the old fashioned way since I first started racing in the mid 1980’s, but for the last 10 years I have been watching on enviously in various race paddocks and events, as I have seen a large contingent of my fellow competitors switching over to using one form or another of this type of starting, and on a few occasions have even blagged a go myself– realising just how easy it makes things.
Even I am having to come to terms with the march of Old Father Time – I am now the wrong side of a half century mark – i.e.51, and although I can just about still manage to bump-start a Norton, there has been more than one occasion when I have been left heaving and gasping and dripping in sweat thinking – what the hell am I doing this for?!
This is even more relevant to me now with the Norton parts business, as I sometimes have a need to fit new Norton bits to one of the racer’s for trying out, before putting it on the catalog for sale. This was bought home last Winter – continually bump starting the ‘38 Norton in sub-zero conditions, with Castor oil the consistency of treacle and ice cold Methanol making life very difficult (not helped any by my wearing multiple layers as thermal protection against the snow!). I decided then that a more practical solution was now a necessity.
So having seen that Solo starters look to be one of the best known and widely accepted starters being used in the paddocks, I got in touch with Chris Hawksley the owner of the company and asked him what would be most suitable for starting Manx Norton’s as well as also being capable of coping with a Vincent twin? (as my own Vinnie twin approach’s completion). He recommended that although a 12v version should be sufficient, it would be worthwhile going for a twin starter motor version.
Well the starter duly arrived last week – a nice personal touch being that Chris and his wife dropped it off personally, doing deliveries on a Saturday morning and although I have not used it in anger yet, I have to say it looks a very nice professional piece of kit and I am very impressed with the overall build quality.
I asked Chris what battery he would recommend – and he suggested an Optima Red Top dry gell battery (50ah/815cca), as although these are expensive, they are high quality and have a faster recovery time than normal quality car batteries.
I have now bought one of these, and although I am a bit busy for the next few weeks, I will look to be giving the starter a trial run on both Longstroke and Shortstroke Manx’s in the coming weeks, and will no doubt report back through this Blog page on results – might even do a quick YouTube video.
If you want to check out these starter roller's yourself, then you can visit the Solo website at: SoloMotorcycleProducts Website
08/09/13: Latest RacingNorton Newsletter and Important News on SOHC Online Catalog Website
Click on the photo on the right to read the latest www.RacingNorton.co.uk Newlsletter (No 18).
As well as a brief update on new parts, it gives an important update about our SOHC Norton mail order catalog - www.RacingNorton.co.uk, which we are going to temporarily close for two weeks commencing 08/09/13 while we make some operational changes in the background
07/09/13: Crappy Modern Technology and Email Woes
Just in case some of you have sent me emails over the last two months and have not got a reply - I have been having issues with the super-duper high spec laptop I purchased about a year ago - which has resulted in 4 unrecoverable crashes over that time period - and have meant me having to go back to the last good backup image I had made - in each case resulting in some email messages being lost. The latest of these happened two days ago . . . just when we are in the process of transitioning from Martin to Rob for the online mail order side of the business - not ideal timing!
I have managed to get most things back, but can see there is a gap of about 3 weeks around early August missing in the email - so if you have a query from that time, please resend.
Just as background (in case you are considering a new laptop yourself) - this laptop is a Dell XPS with a an Intel I7 2760 Ivy Bridge processor, 8gb RAM and and seperate graphic card and full HD screen. I then paid extra to have a Blu-Ray writer fitted. It is a semi-professional model and is well made with awesome performance.
I decided to buy something with this level of specification, because I run some very performance hungry applications to write the website and run the Norton business - i.e. Dreamweaver, Photoshop, Premier Pro, Fireworks, Autocad, full Microsoft Office Suite etc - and for these purposes it is has proved excellent.
However, the last bit of the specification is the Hard Drive (the component that holds all of the data on it). The other 'extra' I specificied when commisioning this laptop was the latest 500gb Solid State hard drive (SSD). This new technology does not rely on a spinnning disk to hold data - a very significent change in hard drive technology, and helps make the processing memory-I/O speed of the laptop extremely fast. The bad bit though, is that I suspect these new drives are still in their early stages and I think this could be the cause of my woes - I seem to be getting irrecoverable I/O errors on some occaosions, and as I started by saying - four of these instances have resulted in the laptop becoming unusable . . . bugger!
Of course, it could be something else, but talking to friends at work (I work in an IT department remember), I know a couple of them have also had issues with the bigger SSD drives and one colleauge has had to buy a replacement for his within a year - same main brand disk drive manufacturer as my own..
After a similar laptop crash about a year ago I purchased backup/image software (NovaBackup), so I could take full 500gb images of the laptop, and this has turned out to be invaluable.
I take regular(ish) full image backups to a 2 Terrabyte backup hard drive, and also setup a seperate 750GB SATA disk, with an indepedent full image of the same PC permanently loaded on it. Now, at least on those occasions where the worst has happened, and the laptop has got corrupted and become unusable - I attach the SATA disk, re-boot using the SATA to load a seperate operating system, then attach the 2gb Backup disk, and restore the laptop from the last good backup image.
All this is a total pain in the backside (as having just spent all day yesterday doing it has reminded me!), but at least I can normally manage to get the laptop back operable within a day, and know it is (almost) up to date . . . handy if you have as many applications loaded on it as I have - as to load every application on it from scratch would probably take a week.
So if you are considering a new laptop and fancy something very fast - by all means go for SSD technology, but just be aware it might be worth checking out other specialist IT websites to see if there are some more reliable than others.
And by the way, I will also be truthful enough to say the other reason you may not have got a reply to an email yet - is because I am always drowning in email!
06/08/13: Mallory 1000 Bike Festival - Write Up
Well, I attended Mallory 1000 Bike Festival on 14th July, and it was a good day - very hot, with loads of motorcycling exotica to be seen and heard.
I was off on holiday to Spain the week after with my family (their once a year opportunity to remember what I look like - not considered a fully good thing by them), which gave me the chance to do write up (and a brief Video) on the day.
So - click on the photo on the right to read my update on the day
02/07/13: Mallory 1000 Bike Festival - Preperation
Just a quick note to customers and readers to let you know that it is Mallory 1000 Bike Festival over the days 12/13/14th July, which is always a good meeting to attend.
I am down to participate myself again this year, on Sunday 14th, when the Race bikes will be running.
I had originally entered the Vincent Black Lightning at the beginning of the year, but knowing it would be touch and go to have the bike ready in time - I had asked if I could swop over to my doubleknocker Manx (which I havent ran for a couple of years), if need be.
Well no surprises that the Vinnie is still not ready, but actually is not too far off, so I will be running the 55 Manx DOHC in the Race Parades, but will take the Vincent Black Lightning Replica to show as well,
So if you fancy a nice family day out, why not come along - as well as seeing some fantastic machinery making lots of noise, there will loads of other events going on, lots of famous bike names and hero's to be seen. . . not to mention a big fat git wobbling round on his Manx trying to not to look like he is getting too old for this kind of thing!
If you want to hear what an unsilenced Manx sounds like, press the picture on the right to see a few seconds of my doubleknocker being started for the first time in two years last weekend - I suspect I might need to fit the silencer for next week, we will see!
28/05/13: Deja-Vu - Of a Sort!
Royal Enfield Constellation propped up against wall at my mothers house last weekend - this year marks 30 years since I first propped it against that wall (and approx 40 years since my father first did likewise!)
As I reported some time ago, 2013 has been a difficult year for myself and my family, with my elderly mother being taken seriously ill and in hospital since early January and having undergone a difficult operation that has not been as sucessful as we would have hoped.
Anyway, without going into too much detail, my mother is now back convalescing at home, and I am now taking regular trips each week to visit her there (rather than a series of different hospitals), and depending on weather conditions and what kind of rush I am in - either 2 or 4 wheeled transport (normally my modern KTM 660 if 2 wheeled), but as the photograph on the right shows - with the UK weather now approaching reasonable, I recently visited on that old family heirloom - my 1960 Royal Enfield Constellation.
The background to this, earlier this year I finally bit the Bullet (spot the play on words, Fnarr), and managed to repair the head gasket on the Royal Enfield Constellation, after it had badly let go (for the 3rd time!) 3 years ago. At the time, although I had been enjoying riding the bike (despite it being the most incontinent bike in my garage!), I had been having one issue after the other with the engine and this was being made worse because of it being a total bitch to strip down. As I reported at the time - when the head gasket had expired the last time I had chucked it into a corner of a garage in disgust - where it is has resided since, it's only duty being to act as a makeshift platform for storing my fishing rods (another hobby I would like to re-commence later this year).
But having had a rough last 6 months, and deciding not to race this year - for fear of knocking myself up, which would not be good for my mother at the moment, I thought I ought to at least get this bike sorted out so I could enjoy a couple of rides on the road.
As expected on stripping the left cylinder pot down (about the only mechanical plus point with a Royal Enfield twin engine - the cylinders can be stripped independently), I found the head gasket completely blown at the point where it is closest to the other barrel - the amount of head face at this point only being about 10mm. The Constellation was well known for blowing head gaskets at this point, as it was not a good design, made worse by a high compression ratio, and the next model the Interceptor Mk1 changed this design and switched to using a spigoted face I gather.
As I had suspected last time I stripped the engine that the head might be slightly warped after years of blowing, using the original copper flat gaskets, but Hitchcocks told me they had just introduced a new type of crushable gasket that worked much better - similar to car type head gaskets. I decided to fit one of these first, and certainly it lasted for some time, but when it did fail it was far more abrupt - sounding like a conrod had punched its way through the crankcase at the time!
Anyway, having stripped the left side of the engine down this time, I rang good old friend Rob (who has become an indispensable engineering resource to me in the last 18 months!) and he was able to do the business and skim both head and barrel for me in a short period of time.
So I am pleased to report that It is nice to have the Royal Enfield back on the road and I have enjoyed a couple of pleasent country rides in the last few weeks, despite a small amount of pinking, an issue I still need to get sorted. Also, it still leaks its guts out wherever it goes - but that is how it has always been so I will not lose sleep in that direction!
To the point though where I started this article - it occurred to me as I parked the Constellation up against the left wall of my mothers house (where I grew up), that for the RE this was like coming home!, it being where it used to reside for many years, first of all with my father and then later with myself. I remember as a boy we finding the bike looking very dilapidated and abused, in the early 1970's in Wells, in Norfolk. My father restored it well enough to do the occasional ride (with Busmar sidecar fitted), but passed it on to me for my 21st Birthday (the only bke I did not actually buy or build myself!) . . . and I am now 51 . . . which is what made me realise it has now been 30 years. Gosh . . . where have all the years gone!
When the top photograph was taken, I had just arrived at my mothers house and had only just propped it against the wall (and it was seeing it there that gave me a strong feeling of Deja-Vu). But what I am pleased to be able to report - is that the first thing my mother said to me as I walked through the door - was to ask which bike I had come on?, when I reported I was on the Constellation she immediately told me to get some newspaper underneath it - she might have been ill recently, but she was now well enough to remember a lifetime of living with my father and I, and that the Royal Enfield liked to spill its guts all over the driveway!
20/05/13: Look What I Found In The Workshop Recently . . .
Big 'Ultimate' radio controlled aerobatic biplane - having been hanging in the workshop for the last 12 years, was bought into the kitchen for a final clean before being stripped down and put into storage in the attic.
Our cat Ringo looks on, but is not impressed!
. . . Or as Monty Python said some years ago 'Now for something totally different':!
I have probably mentioned before, that my workshops are not blessed with the most amount of available room, being just a double garage attached to our modern’ish house. The outside garage is packed with bikes, while the inside garage is my workshop and bike building area - and although it is my little oasis to escape to and relax, it has been becoming increasingly cramped in the last 2 years - particularly as I also keep a lot of the larger quantities of SOHC Norton mail order parts in the garage attic space and above the bike projects - on purpose built shelf’s.
Well until a couple of weeks ago, from that 'build area' also hung a relic from one of my previous hobbies - a large aerobatic radio controlled biplane called an 'Ultimate' - a beautiful highly powerful and manoeuvrable plane - quite capable of hanging vertical on its own prop! Although very pretty in its own right, and a nice talking point when people visit (particularly young children), of late I have been struggling to work around the damn thing, and have ended up more than once hanging from the rafters trying to pull out some obscure item of Norton stock from behind its wing or fueselage, much to the amusement of Martin who waits patiently while I swing there swearing and tottering, on the edge of losing my balance.
So two weeks ago I finally succumbed and spent a couple of hours carefully untying it from the rafters it was hanging from and bought it into the kitchen (wifie was out!) where I could wash it down, before stripping the wings down and placing it into the attic.
It did remind me though, how much I used to enjoy this hobby, and actually that I have quite missed it - a shame really, as I would like to do it again, but too many other things going on . . . like any hobby involving expensive toys, they take a lot of time and effort to keep them running well, and always seem to need something doing to them after each flight - the consequences of one of these piling into the ground can be quite serious. . . . They are substantially bigger and heavier than an Airfix plastic model!
Stripping the big Ultimate down, so I could put it up in the attic got me thinking to the last time I actually flew a radio control plane – and I dug out the photograph below which I found was dated 2002 – eleven years ago, although I think I flew for another year or so after this.
The two planes in the photograph are both purpose built aerobatic aircraft (both of a popular design at the time called Excelsior’s) and were my two most regularly flown planes at the time I stopped flying. Although I did not rate myself as being good enough to actively fly in competitions, I was at least able to sometimes manage a full ‘Standard’ class schedule, the least complex of the 3 competition classes – and just occasionally, I could even make one look quite elegant . . . but not very often!
Taken back in 2002, this photograph shows the two large Excelsior aerobatic radio control planes I last flew, before giving up R/C flying. You can just see my transmitter in the background, to give an idea of scale
As you can see from the photgraph, they are both largish aircraft, and a lot more powerful and accurate to fly than your standard ‘club’ plane – a pleasure to fly . The one on the right was about 5.5ft long and was powered by an OS 45 SF glowplug engine, with a tuned pipe (that ran under its fuselage. However the one on the left was physically much bigger, well over 6 feet in length and used an OS 90 glowplug engine and a propeller of approximately 11 inches. This larger plane was a serious piece of kit (built by my best mate – a very proficient competition flyer, who I bought it off when he gave up flying). Running on a mixture of methanol, Klotz oil and 20% nitromethane – you got high just holding its tail down when you ran the engine up before flight! The idea with these large aerobatic planes was not to fly fast, but be able to keep a constant and moderated speed, regardless of if you were flying horizontal, vertical or diagonal ( and either in normal flight or inverted). It was an impressive sight to watch this plane switch to vertical, and on opening up the throttle watch it just hanging from its huge propeller and biting through the air it would just go vertical – until a small speck in the sky! Not being as proficient as my mate, I only used to fly this plane when I had had a couple of flights with the smaller plane – and then only if I was feeling on form, but bringing it in to land after a nice flight, felt pretty good! When I gave up flying about 10 years ago I had just finished building a very pretty SE5A First World War fighter, with a brand new 4 stroke engine in it. Maybe sometime I will start up again and give it it’s maiden flight . . . think I will need a bit of practice with something smaller first though!
11/04/13: Dr James Kelly Swanston (1908 - 2013) Passes Away
While reading this months VMCC club journal I noticed in the obituary section that Dr James Kelly Swanston had passed away on the 26th March 2013 at the grand age of 105 years old.
Although I did not know Dr Swanston, he was clearly a talented rider in his time - having won the Manx Grand Prix premier class in 1935 (narrowly beating Freddie Frith no less!), as well as competing in many other similar events in the late 1920's through the 1930's. It is amazing to realise that he was provided and raced one of the very first KTT Velocettes - KTT 128 way back in 1929!
Although there is always sadness when someone passes away, to have reached the age of 105 years old is a huge achievement in itself, so although I wish my condolences to Dr Swanstons remaining familly and friends, I hope the loss is not too sad
However, my reason for this piece, is that I feel the significence of Dr Swanstons passing is that it marks possibly the last first hand link to anyone that participated in that fantastic period of motorcycle racing between the two world wars - i.e.the 1920's and 1930's.
I am sure that many of the readers that come to this website share the same passion, and a similar background to myself - and part of the reason we own and ride these bikes is because of their association with a bygone age.
I was fortunate to have been bought up close to Mallory Park in the '60's-70's where the fledgling VMCC race section would run race meetings, and at that time almost all the bikes being raced were pre-war, and many of them looked, sounded (and smelled!) just as they would have done back in those days of the 20's and 30's. I was also lucky to have been good friends with some other men with similar backgrounds to Dr Swanston, that raced at that time and I listened earnestly to their stories and exploits - a very different world to today.
So while I too love watching modern World Super Bike while doing the paperwok on a Sunday morning, I would also like to pay my final respects to Dr James Kelly Swanston's memory, and also to the memory of that Pre WWII racing era that he represented - RIP to both of them.
Progress on SOHC Manx Crankcases - Back Burner Project
I know I have been giving the occasional update on the subject of crankcases for what seems like forever now (well, 2 years actually), but my old mate Rob and I are now starting to make good progress of the first machining and setup of the SOHC Manx magnesium crankcases that have been a long term project we have had going on in the background.
For those that might not be familiar with the crankcase type I am talking about, this type of crankcase is the original magnesium 500cc racing crankcase, which were fitted to racing specification bikes from (approximately) 1936 through to the point where the Featherbed type DOHC crankcase (with its deeper sump pear shape) replaced it in 1950-51. However, this crankcase was only ever made in small numbers and due to the age, anyone that has a bike with this set of crankcases fitted will probably have a nervousness of running the bike hard, due to the reputation of magnesium alloys to become brittle with age. About 5 years I embarked on a project to re-manufacture this crankcase pattern, making it as close to the original manufacture as possible – so that it would be possible to use an engine with this crankcase type in competition again, without fear of wrecking a pair of historic original crankcases.
I was warned back at the time by a couple of friends (much more learned than me on this subject matter, one who had already done similar) that this would be a major undertaking, and although acknowledging they were right, it has not stopped me progressing on regardless. The patterns were finished about 2 years ago and were themselves a work of art (my patternmakers are artists in their own right!) and from this I have had two trial sets of castings produced – one set are of pre-war type and the other set of post war type (with pinchbolts).
And here are the patterns for the crankcases. There is another box full of the smaller corebox's and removable componenents that allow both pre-war and post-war type crankcases to be produced - a testament to the patternakers art!
p.s. - don't ask to see a bigger version with dimensions visible - as refusal may offend!
Obviously, I cannot take any credit for the machining – I have left that squarely with Rob, who is a very experienced CNC machinist, having spent much of his professional life manufacturing parts for the aircraft industry, but I have spent the best part of 2 years (off and on) producing the Autocad drawings for these, working backwards to take every dimension from original crankcases. I have a surface plate and measuring equipment setup in the back room (office) of my house, and have made a variety of plugs and inserts to ensure dimensions are accurately reproduced. What it has given me an insight into is all the minor differences that Norton’s made over the years, even to crankcases made in such small numbers as these . . . I now know a whole multitude of trivia on this subject matter – although I doubt it will ever be useful in a pub quiz, shame really! I think though, what has worked best around the arrangement that Rob and I have, is that we are both doing it at our own pace (I am commissioning Rob on a time and materials basis) and because Rob shares an industrial unit not far from where I live, whenever he has a query – of which there have been many, I can quickly nip around and we can talk through it together. What this has bought home to me is that this would have been virtually untenable if I had used one of my other normal manufacturers that are based much further away – and I do not think it would have worked at all. As a commercial exercise, I am sure the project will be a dismal failure – there is no way I ever expect to get back the cost of all the hundreds of hours I personally have put into the project, not to mention the very substantial cost of patterns and castings already spent (i.e. well into the £x,000’s). Likewise, I am sure Rob is not charging me for every minute of time he has already put into the setup (for which I am very grateful), but it also very gratifying to be able to have got this far, and I am hoping we can get to a point where we have a set finished and able to test in earnest. Anyway, I will give further updates as we progress – hopefully with positive news, but the intention is still ultimately to be able to embark on a first production run of at least 10 sets of crankcases by the end of this year if possible, but I know that the based on my past progress this might be a bit optimistic! . . . as always, email if you are interested a set and want more detail.
First trial fitting together of crankcases, with locating dowels fitted. At this stage both crankcases are part machined but with much work still to do - particularly all the bevel case chamber and oilways (and sorry about photo - taken on phone)
24/03/13: Progress on 38 Racing International Norton - One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
You may remember an update I gave back in October 2012, detailing my tail of woes after a particularly unsuccessful race meeting at Cadwell, resulting in cracked crankcases and a failed BTH magneto on my 38 Racing International (see the blog below if you want a reminder).
Well since that date I have been slowly but diligently working to repair the damage and get the bike back together - particularly as I need it back operational so I can test a new batch of parts just being manufactured. Unfortunately it has been fighting me all the way and has not been an easy process at all (hampered more so by recent family illness, making my time even more limited), but progress is finally has now been made and in the last two weeks I have it back rebuilt and have been able to put a few miles on the new engine build.
For a more detailed update on the rebuild, take the link here:
Racing Inter Rebuild Article
Sending Me E-Mails - An Update
Please can anyone that is trying to send me query emails at the moment be aware - I am currently only able to reply to a minimum number of emails at the moment, and this is likely to continue for the forseeable future.
Unfortunately, I have family illness at the moment, with my mother being very unwell and in hospital, which is likely to continue for some time. Therefore, as well my normal full time job, I am having to fit running the Norton parts business around regular visits to the hospital. I am trying to answer what emails I can - but bear in mind I now have very little available time for doing this.
My apologies if you have sent emails to me in the last few weeks and have not had a reply, but sorry to say I cannot see things getting better for some time. By all means resend an email if you have a specific question - but please do not be offended if you do not get a reply. As I am sure you will appreciate - what little time I have for the motorcycle side is being prioritised to those customers with orders in progress and keeping the manufacturing/supply side afloat
However, just to make this clear - the Norton parts business is still open and Martin is still running the online ordering process as normal. Therefore if you have any queries around an order you have placed, you can still contact us on email@example.com
With this in mind, if you visti our Online Catalog you will notice I have added a new background information page titled 'About Us', which gently(!) updates readers on the present position: Online Catalog Website - About Us Page
Paul Norman, January 2013.
£15K Vincent Basket Case on E-Bay
Far be it for me to comment on someone else's choice in motorcycle restoration projects, but I could not help but feel that the recent E-Bay listing I saw for a Vincent basket case just before Xmas was maybe pushing what was achievable to the limit!
As you can see from the accompanying screen shot taken at the time, someone paid just over £15,000 for a 'do it yourself' kit for a Vincent twin, based on what looks to have been an early (Series B?) Rapide. Now £15k is a sizeable wad of money in anyone's book, but when you look at what the sale included - or more importantly, what it did not include!, you can easily understand that the person who restores this bike is still going to have find a lot of the large missing parts - and still has a considerable sum of money to spend!
In the accompanying advert for the 'kit', the previous owner made it clear that there was only what you saw in the photographs - well if you look carefully at the engine parts, you will notice a distinct lack of gearbox/clutch/timing case parts etc. I know from my own experiences that trying to find any of these parts is extremely difficult and indeed - very expensive.
I also noticed that the timing side crankcase has been in a fire (which the old owner pointed out), so there was definitely some substantial welding and re-machining required. The good news is that there looks to be a complete set of forks, petrol tank (I am just working on mine, making bigger carb cutaway) and a very grubby but complete Rear Frame Member (RFM), which is of the very earliest and correct Series B type - identifiable by the brake stop being a casting, rather than a bolt in part.
(my own RFM is the 'later' early type - straight holders still, but cable holder was a seperate part)
I have to admit, I was somewhat bemused to see this ebay listing - not just because of the substantial sum of money the bike fetched, but more so because I realise that I too embarked on a very similar rebuild exercise when I first purchased my vincent back in the late 1980's. Even then, Vincent twins were fetching substantial sums of money, and at the time I paid what felt like a lot of money for mine. However, although not cheap - the parts represented good value for money, as all the main castings were in extremely good condition and of good background (and actually I am told by the VOC Registrar secretary that the engine unit for mine confirms it as the Rapide that was ridden by my old late friend Phil Heath to 2nd place in the 1948 Clubmans TT!
Save to say, I have never for one minute regretted buying mine - in fact it has been a pleasure working on it, but I also know I have also spent many thousands in buying all the best parts - both mechanical and cosmetic (Maughans stainless parts are beautiful quality!) to get it to a complete usable bike.
I wish the new owner all the very best of luck - but knowing what I do now - I am not sure I would want to go through all the work ahead it entails!
Yet Another Project - Manx Frame Lugs
I thought you might like to see these - newly created frame lugs for a Gardengate Plunger Manx Frame. This particular set are to go onto another future project I have in the background, which is a 1948 Gardengate Manx 500, which is using a standard ES2 plunger frame as a donor.
I will not bother going into all the many differences between an ES2 frame and a Manx frame - save to say there are very many - enough that I would not even try to attempt this job myself, but there are some castings on a Manx that are so different, they either need to be fabricated - or as we have done here - to have them cast from scratch.
These castings we made by a good friend of mine, who is also a serious Norton restorer. If he cannot find parts for a restoration, he will invariably have them made. In this case he had the main Manx frame lugs cast, and I then was able to obtain a 'part set' of these castings and have them machined.
There is still a bit of work to do on the castings - for instance, the original Manx front down tube castings were scolloped, and also the petrol tank mount castings still need to be drilled to take studs, but this latter task will probably be done once the final top tube angle is confirmed. I will now pass these castings on to another friend of mine who is doing the work on my frame.
In case you are wondering, my friend has no plans to make any further sets of these castings, and the machining of the castings was not cheap - the raw castings are cast with a couple of inchs of solid metal protruding from each end of the cast lug (i.e. representing a section of tube) and these take a lot of machining to remove. However, if I receive enough interest I will at least look at if another batch is feasible - email me at the normal address.
I must warn anyone considering this though - bear in mind that having these castings made is just the tip of hte iceberg - you still need to find a donor frame, consider all the other lugs that need some change - and then find someone that knows how to safely alter the original frame!, I will leave that one to you!
Burma Star Assoiation and a Passing Generation
As a brief aside from motorcycling talk for once, I thought it might be nice to share with you this particular update. I was recently asked by my mother if I could help with a task for the local Wigston (Leicestershire) branch of a society for ex-servicemen that my late father used to be a member of - the Burma Star Association, and I have to say that it was a real privilege to be able to do so. The task asked of me was to update the Plaque of Remembrance with a small brass nameplate for all those in the association branch that had now passed away, and it is sad to report that there are now so few of them still alive, that keeping the plaque updated has not been done for some time, and is probably beyond the surviving members - therefore they were reliant on asking one of the groups offspring to perform the task – something I was only too happy to be able to do.
Before his death 3 years ago, my father had been an active member of this group of ex British and Commonwealth servicemen, all of whom had served in the Burma and Indian continent on active service with one of the armed forces at some point during the Second World War.
Like so many of my age (I was born in 1962), I was part of a generation that grew up with parents that had lived through the Second World War, and when I was a kid it seemed a normal thing for boys to do - playing with toy soldiers and guns and all the other things associated with WWII. For my part, as well as the normal toys I loved building Airfix kits of Spitfires, Messerschmitt 109’s and other such planes. To this degree I think we took it very much for granted what our parents went through, and it was only as I got older I realised what it really must have been like to have lived through the turmoil of that particular time in history, and have served service with one of the armed forces.
For my father’s part, he was a Sergeant in the RAF towards the latter stages of the Second World War, having lied about his age he joined in 1944 at the age of 17 and trained as a heavy goods driver before being posted out to India where he drove a variety of vehicles. Although he did not talk about it very much, I have vivid memories as a child of looking at all his photographs and asking him to tell me about them – I particularly remember him telling me about a time just after the war finished (late 1945 in their theatre of war), and how he helped dispose of the large quantities of munitions off the airbases by driving them into large clearings in forests, where they were blown up in a controlled manner. On one such occasion, he was driving a lorry load of detonators (the most dangerous component!) into the clearing where the entry flags were set at Green, only for the world to erupt around him. It seemed the young Lieutenant in charge of changing the flags had forgot to set them at Red. My father survived the incident, but did not let the difference in rank stop him from telling the Lieutenant exactly what he thought of him! Although I do not remember ever telling him so while he was alive, I was always very proud of the small part my father played – and of all the other servicemen like him who made that sacrifice.
My father only joined the Burma Star Association after he had retired, which I think was the same for many of his friends in the group – and they certainly knew how to enjoy themselves, but it was nice to see them all socialising together, and with my mother he went away to many functions with them including Remembrance days and similar parades in London and France - it seemed a good way for many of them to relive old times together and enjoy each others company.
So with that backdrop I visited the local Wigston Working Mens Club, where the Burma Star Association had a small Hall of Remembrance at the side of the building, to pick up the wooden Burma Star Association plaque, and then over the next two weeks gave it a thorough clean and was able to add the remaining name plates, which had previously been prepared by another member – including my father’s who had died 3 years ago. In fact there were only about 4 people still alive from the original group, so they and the remaining widow’s had decided that it might be prudent to add everyone now, so that they knew it was complete. As well as adding the remaining brass nameplates, I also added some brass rods to frame the plates, and then polished all the existing brass plates – which totally transformed the finished look, as this had not been done for some time.
Initially I was sad that the nameplates I was adding were of the last few soldiers of the Second World War who were now passing away, but as I progressed I realised this was not a sad task at all - as every generation eventually passes and is hopefully remembered by the next – and what a great privilege it is to be able to do something small to help remember those that fought in that war, and ensure they are not forgotten.
As a footnote to this, about a week or so after placing the finished and polished plaque back in the Hall of Remembrance, my mother received a Thank You card from the remaining members and widows of the Burma Star Association, who had got together for a now infrequent meeting and had all visited the Remembrance room to look at the updated plaque and see their loved ones name on the wall. Reading this letter of thank you from them was very touching and reward in itself – as I said at the beginning of this article, to be able to do something small for my father and his friends and comrades was a privilege indeed.
By the way, If you would like to read a bit more about my father - I wrote this obituary to him at the time he died 3 years ago:
Les Norman Obituary
Norton Hubs and Painting
Another week - another bike! I mentioned in a recent blog that I had just purchased a plunger hub off E-Bay so I could build up a spare rear wheel for the 38 racer, with a Roadrider soft compound tyre, leaving me to keep the current Avon GP shod rear wheel for the wet.
Well this dutifully arrived, along with an original 20” Dunlop rim laced to it, with the original stepped spokes. That means it was originally fitted either to an International or possible Manx. Although tempting to keep the original rim, its overall condition was pretty rough and a few of the original spokes had been replaced, so I did not deliberate for long before continuing with the original plan to remove the rim, and prepare the hub for a new alloy 19” rim.
So I stripped the hub, by carefully unscrewing each spoke nipple (rather than my other method of doing this job - running a large angle grinder through the centre of the spokes - far quicker!) so I could keep the old spokes as patterns, which then left me with the task of blasting and de-rusting it.
I was in a similar position with the front and rear hubs and brake plates for the 1937 Road Inter build, which is where I had got to when I last worked on it at the end of 2011
- so I decided that it was probably worth doing all of them at the same time.
All told, these are all pretty unpleasant jobs to carry out, but it always gratifying when they are done and I can apply the first coat of etch primer and then primer filler.
Anyway, it was not long before my spray booth was back in service and the hubs are now resplendent in black 2-pack and looking much better. I treated myself to a new mid-size gun and space heater from Machine Mart as well. The space heater is the biggest 13 amp electric heater they sell (before going over to the industrial type propane heaters), and is perfect for my small spray booth, which is half of my 10” x 8” workshop shed, and gets very cold at this time of year – too cold for spraying without pre-heating. The mid-size spray gun was an impulse buy – top loading and with a paint capacity and spray range somewhere between my normal ‘topcoat’ automotive bottom load gun and my small ‘fine spray’ top feed Devilbiss MP gun. It is perfect for smaller items like hubs and other motorcycle parts, and does not waste paint like my larger gun. This new gun was a fraction over £30 and worked flawlessly straight out of the box. Say what you like about about Machine Mart selling cheap and cheerful tools – but they have come a long way from the dodgy quality Chinese/Taiwanese rubbish of 20 years ago. The gun looks really well made, and even if it only lasts a couple of years (and I think it will last longer than that!) represents great value for money, especially when you consider it is probably about one eighth the price of the Devilbiss!
Now with the hubs themselves painted I am just waiting for spokes to arrive then I get on and build 3 wheels up, the spare for the racer and front and rear for the 37 Road Inter.
I have now moved onto the 37 Road Inter front brake plate, but I will probably cover this in a later update . . . save to say – still plenty of work to do! .
Bronze Skulled (Bi-metal) 500cc Manx Cylinder Heads - New!
Have a look at the photos attached and tell me you do not think these look beautiful!
This is probably the most desirable cylinder head to find for anyone trying to restore a pre-Featherbed racing Norton (i.e. early Manx) - a 500cc bi-metal (bronze skulled) big 'Square' head . . . of the type fitted to Manx Grand Prix spec Nortons from 1938 until approximately 1950. There are lots of minor differences between this type of head and the early double-knocker alloy skulled square head of the same design, but the DOHC type head has slightly different valve angles, which means that although it can be made to fit at a push - it is not ideal if you want to seriously use it for racing with a single knocker cambox.
Because the original bronze head was only made in comparatively small numbers, and they had a propensity to break fins, they are now extremely rare and can cost a huge amount of money if you are lucky enough to find one. Added to which, often when you do get them you find the combustion chamber can show signs of having had previous catastrophic valve failure - with obvious consequences, and the bronze is very difficult to repair.
With this backdrop, can you imagine the luxury of being able to just go out and buy a brand new one 'off the shelf'! Well I found myself in that very enviable position some months ago, and here is the actual head. It is virtually identical to an original and is extremely well made. The patterns were made to cast the bronze skull first - as per the original, then a second set of patterns are used to cast the alloy finning around that skull. The result is stunning, they look just as per the originals.
I bought this one to fit to my 600cc SOHC Manx Plunger engine (for which it will need a small amendment - to fit the larger bore), which I will shortly be building up. The heads were made (at much expense) by a good friend of mine, who is very serioius about his builds. There is a small possibility there could be further heads available in the future, but due to the very large outlay this would have to be based on the amount of interest shown. If you think you might be interested then email me at the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Safe to say, if you have to ask how much they will cost - then you probably cannot afford one! . . . but you can ask anyway.
Lovely reproduction of Bi-Metal Manx cylinder heads, as fitted to SOHC Manx Nortons from 1938 - 1950.
Further Racing Update - BHR Cadwell (a catalog of errors!)
I attended my second BHR (British Historic Racing) race meeting of the season at the beginning of October, and frankly it all ended up being a bit of a nonsense - and I have no one else to blame but myself! . . . make a mental note Paul . . . do not enter proper race meetings unless you have made time to fully prepare!
In my last update I had mentioned that in the first race meeting of the year at Mallory, back in April, I had gone out in the second race with crank failure. This was a bit of a mystery at the time, but there did not look to have been anything serioiusly amiss - other than the balance factor was quite well out - in main due to me changing piston types before the race - from an Arias piston to a much lighter Omega piston. I did not actually notice any excessive vibration in the first race . . . but then again, i was not really thinking about much else but trying to keep on the black stuff!
Anyway, after Mallory I had the crank rebuilt and had got the balance factor spot on for the new Omega piston, and put everything back together. I had also put a new alchohol TT needle in the carb and a few other bits were replaced that had suffered from the previous failure
The problem was, I had had precious little time to do any of this since the last race and was trying to fit it in alongside everything else, I had only got the bike finished a week or so before the meeting. So, when good friends Ric, Erica and myself travelled up to the 2 day Cadwell VMCC weekend on the Saturday night, I had only ran the bike up for a few minutes on the driveway the week before, and had no idea really if it would run ok - particularly as I had changed the carb settings . . . Cockup number 1, you can see where this is going cant you!
Although a two day event, I was only down to race on the Sunday, and I awoke very early on the Sunday morning - stuck my head out of my VW Van (more comfortable than you might think) to find it was a very cold, drizzly, grey Sunday morning . . . Mmm, think I would like to go back to my proper bed now!
Forcing myself up, I quickly got ready, donned leathers (and thermals underneath . . .big girls blouse) and headed off with Ric for scrutineering and noise meter testing.
This all went smoothly, but because they had not got the full agenda of races in the day before, they were moving very quickly. I knew first practice was at 9.00, but starting the bike up, I could sense carburation was off, so quickly came in to adjust the needle which took about 10 minutes. By the time we got to the practice area first practice had already started and I was then told there was only 1 practice on the Sunday of a two day event . . . and I had just missed it! . . . Cockup number 2, this was not looking good.
Fortunately, the VMCC guys took pity on me and told me I could go out in the first race, providing I start from the back of the grid - suits me!
While waiting for my first race, it occurred to me this was Full Circuit Cadwell (i.e. the Mountain Circuit), and I had not gone round Cadwell for almost 20 years . . . not a good position to be in starting my first race, without practice.
However, I needent have worried - as we went out for the warm up lap (and waiting on the line it started to heavy drizzle . . . Joy!), it was clear all was not well - the carburation felt rough as a badgers backside, and it was not picking up cleanly. But just as I reached down to attempt some (pointless!) adjustment to the TT carb, there was a brief lurch followed by a completely dead engine - Bugger! I freewheeled off the circuit and sat the race out cursing silently to myself.
Back in the pits, still furious, I tried to figure what the issue was - it seemed very strange that the engine was still turning normally but would not fire. It did not take long to find the cause - a very obscure issue - having removed the points cover off the KD1 BTH mag, the points plate just dropped out onto the grass . . . ahh, that would explain it . . . no sparks! It turns out that the centre screw that holds the points plate to the brass armature body had stripped the brass thread from the armature body - I have never had this issue before, so I can only surmise that the previous crank failure, which had shifted the magneto, had also weakened the thread . . . another reason why I should have done a practice session before hand - Cockup number 3.
So, although pissed off, I was feeling a bit better that the cause of the failure was not too serious, when looking down at the engine crankcase, I noticed a slight oil mist line running just above the bearing housing, that did not look quite right to be oil spray from the primary chain . . . in fact, on looking a bit closer . . . it looked suspiciously like a crack . . . balls!!
So that was end of play for the day, and not suprisingly I was pretty brassed off with the whole weekend. But it just reinforced what I already knew - there is no point going racing proper unless the bike is sorted before hand.
Due to my lack of time in the preceding weeks, what with my job and the Norton business, I had not had time to do the necessary preperation and practise runs, and this had been the (not surprising) consequence.
I could easily have come away from this thinking - right thats it, no more racing, and stick the covers over the broken Norton, while I go back to one of the other bikes. But that would be a bit too much like giving up, so in the subsequent two weeks I have now stripped the motor down (again!), and the crankcases have been carefully cleaned and re-assembled and have been bolted together with a steel mandrel fitted between the two bearing housings. Assembled thus they have been sent to my best specialist welder (Arther Sosbe in Leicester- now almost retired) in the hope he can maybe save them. They are pretty serious cracks, but at this stage they have not distorted the bearing housings, so providing the bearing housings are kept rigid while he welds the outside, there is a small chance they will repair without me having to jig bore the bearing housings afterwards - we will see
I am also in the process of building a new 19" rear wheel as a spare. The current rear on the racer is fitted with a 19" competition compound Avon GP. When I was at Mallory earlier this year, Mike Farrell and Ian Bain were telling me that the better compound to use in the dry these days is the Avon AM26 Roadrider in a race compound. These look to have a fuller tread pattern than the GP (i.e. more rubber on the road), but Mike told me the Avon GP is probably a slightly better tyre in the wet (bigger gaps between the blocks for better water dissipation?). Therefore, I thought it would be a good idea to build up a new rear for the Avon Roadrider, and keep the current wheel, with Avon GP, as a 'wet' wheel. Incidentally, as per the current wheel, I am using a Plunger rear hub, even though it is going in a rigid chassis. The reason I prefer ths hub for racing is that this hub, with its 3 locating studs and 3 threaded studs, takes the ribbed rear brake drum, which I prefer for racing. I am not sure how much benefit the ribs give - but in my view this should result in slightly better cooling, and maybe slightly more rigid. Also, this type of brake drum has a much better mounting arrangement than the rigid (cotton reel) type hub, which only employs 3 tapered wheel nuts, which I think can have a tendency to loosen off under heavy load.
Although not short of the plunger spindles, I only have one spare Plunger hub (reserved for another Manx build in the future), so a search on E-Bay was called for. Eventually a suitable hub came up, so i sat there with my finger poised over the keyboard as normal. I probably paid a bit over the odds for it, as it was laced to a rare 20" rear rim, but thirty quid or so either way is hardly here or there when you need something - and although it did not have any bearings or spindles, as mentioned, I already had these and would always fit new bearings anyway.
So that wraps up the racing for 2012, not the best entry back into racing, with just a single race under my belt, but we will give it another go next year I think, and maybe have a session or two on a rolling road/dyno before venturing onto the track again. I will keep you informed!