Rare, Matching Numbers, 1962 Norton 500cc Manx
Engine no. 11 102808
Frame no. 11 102808
The Isle of Man TT was contested every year from the inaugural 1907 race into the 1970s, a feat unrivalled by any other manufacturer. Their successes were down to magnificent riders aboard equally magnificent machines, so much so, the racing version of the International was dubbed the ‘Manx Grand Prix’ when introduced in 1936. However, Norton’s production was stalled by World War II. When production resumed after the cessation of the hostilities, Norton’s greatest racer was simply known as the Manx. Much was the same on the 1946 model: garden gate frame, single overhead camshaft, upright gearbox and the square boxy fins on the head. The only difference was the employment of Roadholder front telescopic forks. 1949 saw a significant development with the double OHC, which had been enjoyed by the works teams for several years. And then came 1951. ’51 marked the introduction of Norton’s inimitable Featherbed frame. Designed by McCandless, the double loop frame with swinging arm, transformed Grand Prix racing; in the hands of Geoff Duke, the world championship was secured in both 350cc and 500cc classes. Not bad for the first year out!
The all-welded, tubular featherbed frame was light and trim, without the usual forgings that added unnecessary weight. Through a low centre of gravity and short wheelbase, the bike became the backbone of privateer racing that was perfectly suited to the challenging and twisty Island TT course. The cycle parts remained unchanged through its production life with the exception of the front brakes, while the engine was under constant development until production ceased at the end of ’62.
Racing is inherently hard on a bike. Crashes, engine implosions, trackside rebuilds, lead to racing motorcycles starting with one list of parts and ending with a totally different set up. That makes a matching numbers machine all the rarer. One of the very last to leave the Bracebridge Street factory, reportedly in the last 10, this matching numbers example is offered is truly superb restored condition. Acquired about 20 years ago by Jeff Gilbert, the bike was stripped, and every nut and bolt restored, refurbished or replaced to the very highest standard, continually associated with Jeff’s restoration projects. Collector/restorer Gilbert is credited with international concours level motorcycles ranging from Triumph TT Specials to the very rarest of pre-War Americana, and the finest of European machines, including Crockers to Vincent Lightnings.
Gilbert sold the bike to Mike Taggart, who placed it on static display among a very fine collection of roadgoing and racing motorcycles and cars. As such, this bike will need the usual re-commissioning.
This is a rare opportunity to acquire one of the most successful and recognizable racing motorcycles with impeccable pedigree and provenance.