The 650 Norton thread

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wakeup said:
Syd was part of the push for the development of the Thruxton Bonneville (T120R) in the late 60s. A bike which was possibly (almost!) the best 650 ever.wakeup

I have a lot of respect for the unit Bonneville and T100, but their success was as much due to money, development and sheer numbers which was never available to Norton.

The trophy for making the biggest impact simply due to the design of the machinery itself will always have to go to the featherbed Norton Manx and Dominators, the SS Dominators have to be the best British twins overall.
 
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beng said:
The trophy for making the biggest impact simply due to the design of the machinery itself will always have to go to the featherbed Norton Manx and Dominators, the SS Dominators have to be the best British twins overall.

The sales volumes of Commandos would suggest that buyers also thought that of the Commando.
Even more so...
 
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beng said:
wakeup said:
The trophy for making the biggest impact simply due to the design of the machinery itself will always have to go to the featherbed Norton Manx and Dominators, the SS Dominators have to be the best British twins overall.

I agree, for my money the 650SS is probably the best all rounder, certainly of its time and maybe ever?? I would be the first to admit that this is highly subjective and there are others who would disagree violently!! However as far as I'm concerned the 650SS would make a good, albeit old fashioned, modern bike, with the single exception of a decent disc brake being fitted. I'm talking an everyday road bike here, something you could jump on and do 1,000 miles at the drop of a hat, or down to the shops for a packet of cigarettes.

Can't really dispute the success of the Commando, although I always preferred the stability of a featherbed, Commandos always felt "nervous" at high speed. Can't argue with results though. Like so many things it comes down to personal preference.

As I must have said before, I would have another 650SS in a heartbeat, if I could afford it!!

cheers
wakeup
 
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Wakeup I am sorry you can not afford a 650ss, that sucks. I know I am lucky to have one to ride any time I want. I wish you lived close so you could borrow it. I like to see those who rode the bikes back in the day have access to them, as opposed to current day collectors and investors who have no history with the bikes at all, they are the ones who drive the prices up.

For me 1962 is the peak and end of the classic era. If a later bike was one that was available during 1962 I will let it slide, but designs and models that came out afterwards don't seem classic to me at all.
 
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Do you only drink wine made by folks who don't wash their feet before doing the grape trampling ??
And plugged with a real cork, with real lead wrapping....

I'd comment that something that Commandos don't have, and which was a vast improvement over 'Classic', was that piping around the seat edge - legs go numb from the circulation being cut off.
Was sometimes mentioned in road tests back then too.
Anyone intending to do anything more than short trips on one of those type seats should bear this in mind. ?
 
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Rohan said:
Do you only drink wine made by folks who don't wash their feet before doing the grape trampling ??
And plugged with a real cork, with real lead wrapping....

I'd comment that something that Commandos don't have, and which was a vast improvement over 'Classic', was that piping around the seat edge - legs go numb from the circulation being cut off.
Was sometimes mentioned in road tests back then too.
Anyone intending to do anything more than short trips on one of those type seats should bear this in mind. ?

Rohan, I drink wine from bottles with a screw top cap!! I'll even drink wine that comes in a cardboard box, the wine being in a plastic bladder, inside the box.

In all the tens of thousands of miles that I've done on motorcycles with piping around the seat edge I can honestly say that I've never suffered from numb legs, a numb backside yes, but nothing attributable to piping. I found that footrest/handlebar/seat positioning relativities had more impact on numb bits than piping.

I'm not viewing things through rose tinted spectacles. I've had several new Hondas and have been thoroughly impressed by them, but they don't have "soul". Yes I understand that this is rather subjective, but I like to have a relationship with my vehicles, two wheel or four. For my money a good 650SS with a disc brake would be very close to being my perfect bike. Others will undoubtedly not agree, and that's fine, after all it's my choice. As a f'instance, my perfect car would be an MGB GT V8, with a manual gearbox and air conditioning, again people will differ. I once had an MGB GT with the standard 1,800cc 4 cylinder engine, it took a couple of years but once sorted out it was a lovely car, I did 110,000 miles in 11 years on it, all it needed was a bit more oomph. I think the best bike I ever had was a new 650 Honda NTV, Vee twin, shaft drive, it went well, handled beautifully, being Japanese was stone cold reliable, but it didn't really float my boat, because it had no identifiable soul.

I've been fortunate enough to have owned and to have ridden a lot of "classic" bikes, there are a lot that I haven't ridden that I would like to, for instance a Silk 700S, a Seeley Condor or something similar, Bultaco Metralla, a Honda VF750 etc etc. With the exception possibly of the Honda can you identify the common thread here? (its handling by the way, not being British) Everybody has a personal favourite, complete with all its foibles, obviously a 50 year old bike has more foibles than a modern bike, but that doesn't prevent the 50 year old being perfectly useable, in my eyes.
cheers
wakeup
 
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An early 1961 Norton Manxman that my father serviced in his shop in the early 60s. This bike had an engine shop number a few digits under 50 and the original owner bought it new in April 1961. After a fashion I bought it from him with about 5000 original miles on it, cleaned it up and rode it for quite a few years and miles. Four years ago the bike was passed to a third owner who is still putting miles on it, the engine has never been apart except for taking the head off and doing the valve seats, original guides are still in it. Mag has never been off the bike either, and has it's original points.

I had this Manxman up to 100mph and over 6000rpm many times, and to a drag strip more than once. I was leary of taking it towards 7000 rpm, I guess that is why it is still in one piece as opposed to all the scarred and welded 650 crankcases I have seen over the years.

When I got the bike back on the road after the original owner had let it sit for close to 20 years, he was about 80 years old. I rode to his house and he grabbed his original Indian biker jacket, gloves and Roemer helmet and we took off on a two lane black top along lake Erie in wine country, beautiful day. He died not too long afterwards.
 
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Just noticed this thread that contains mention of Syd Lawton's 650SS production racer.
As I worked for Syd in the early 60's I know a lot about this machine, but it was sorted out before I joined Syd, his workshop foreman then being Ken Sutton. Ken it was who spent long hours after work with Syd, working on the fine details. Syd was a stickler for detail and perfection, and would work on a problem all night if necessary until he was satisfied he had it right.

I once had the pleasure of racing the 650SS at Snetterton in place of Syd's son Barry, who had suddenly gone down with some kind of virus. The then top rider in production racing was John Bowman on a Triumph Bonneville, and in a drag race down the Norwich straight, the Norton would pass the Triumph with considerable ease,
the rev counter indicating well over 7000 rpm. It was incredibly smooth as I remember, but I couldn't stop it as newly relined brake shoes had not been machined to fit the drums, so eventually the Triumph triumphed.

A handling problem came to light when Syd, having been told by his riders that the bike had a definite tendency to steer to one side, did some tests and when riding hands off found that it was indeed the case. He used to check the wheel alignment, not using string or boards, but by bending down behind the machine and looking from between his legs along the side of the wheels. The problem was eventually solved by re spokeing the wheels and moving the rims across relative to the center of the hubs.

Syd was indeed a member of the works Norton team, and won a number of races, but practicing for the 1953 TT he misjudged the corner at the Creg ny Baa hotel and hit a gatepost, severely breaking his left arm in many places. He had the surgeons set it by assuming a riding position on a chair so as to be able to ride a motorcycle again once it had mended.
Despite his left elbow having virtually no movement, folks swore they saw Syd's arm straighten when he took cash off a customer.
 
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There is a great and quite long article on Syd and his Thruxton days in "Classic Racer" Summer 1984 edition, and is under the heading "500 Miles to the Flag" and it is concluded in the Autumn 1984 edition with the 650ss. It's a good read, plenty on eBay.
No one could work out why the 650 would not go round left hand corners so he had Ken Sprayson from Reynolds straighten the frame on his jig which was way out of wack from the factory (Norton started making their own frames) They thought this would fix it but it still would not turn left handers, so he figured there must be too much weight on one side and tested it by riding in a straight line with no hands while moving around the bike. This is when he came up with the idea of shifting the wheel over I think about 1/8 of an inch and after he did that it became one of the best handlers ever made.
There is also a bit on his Aermacchi's in the Spring 89 edition.
 
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From Ken Sprayson- " Everybody thought the head angle was 64 degrees, but with the machine on the road ready to go the angle was actually 62 1/2 degrees"


Glen
 
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That seems to be a wild claim - wonder how it can be verified. ?

If you have a Commando sitting side-by-side with one, they don't look that different in the steering head dept.
And 750 Commando is 27 degrees, and the 850 is 28 degrees....
 
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Not so wild/really, the source is Classic Bike magazine and the Author is Val Ward. He interviewed Ken Sprayson as part of a 1982 Classic test of the Norton 650SS . The Norton came off nearly as well as in the original 1962 tests done by the big mags of the day.
Although VAL Ward said the big1982 Japanese multis would leave the 650SS for dead in an acceleration test, he was sure the SS would do the same to the multis on a twisty road.
Having just spent the afternoon out riding on the SS, I would agree. Sounding a bit Hobbit like here, but I cannot get my Triumph Daytona 955 around tight bends as quickly and effortlessly as with the Featherbed 650 SS, not a chance.

Glen
 
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Yes, but just looking at the steering head assemblies side by side,
they don't look different enough for that claim to be true. ?

Some of the japanese etc sports bikes have steering angles down to 22 degrees.
On the other side of the coin, I can recall going for a test ride on something a bit older a while back,
and the guy warned me about "the slow steering".
It was about twice as nimble as a Commando !
You could steer around the leaves on the road....
 
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I think we have to go with Ken Sprayson's information, he was Reynolds long standing welding expert in charge of building the Featherbed frames.
Reynolds did not build the frames to Nortons original drawings. Sprayson said " When we dug out Norton's own Master blueprint and made a frame to it for sidecar racer Cyril Smith, we discovered the front forks did not work properly- they were flapping up and down instead of telescoping. Also, the engine would not fit because the frame lugs were a quarter of an inch out of place. Simple corrections overcame both troubles"

Glen
 
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worntorn said:
Not so wild/really, the source is Classic Bike magazine and the Author is Val Ward. He interviewed Ken Sprayson as part of a 1982 Classic test of the Norton 650SS . The Norton came off nearly as well as in the original 1962 tests done by the big mags of the day.
Although VAL Ward said the big1982 Japanese multis would leave the 650SS for dead in an acceleration test, he was sure the SS would do the same to the multis on a twisty road.
Having just spent the afternoon out riding on the SS, I would agree. Sounding a bit Hobbit like here, but I cannot get my Triumph Daytona 955 around tight bends as quickly and effortlessly as with the Featherbed 650 SS, not a chance.

Glen

In the late 70s I had a bit of a "go" with a guy on a fairly new Honda 750, across Salisbury Plain. For those that don't know, when they made the roads across Salisbury they had good motorcycling roads in mind. Anyway, my 650SS, two up with panniers and tank bag, left the 750F for dead on the swoopy bendy bits. Sure the other guy could have been a plonker but there we are.
cheers
wakeup
 
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So when Nortons took over making their own frames, whose drawings did they use? Reynold's or their own?
And when did they take over?
 
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Who said that Nortons took over making the frames ?

It has been mentioned here before too that Ken Sprayson was not the only person working at Reynolds.
And that some of his stories have other versions.
It would be interesting to hear some of the AMC employees take on this stuff...
 
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Syd Lawton said it. According to him, the 650ss frame was made by Norton, and that's why he took it to Ken to see if it was out compared to his jig. It was and needed a lot of straightening to Reynold's standards. I'm just going off what I read though.
 
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anyone got a picture of any with ace bars or that sort of style on a dommi with an original tank?


Thanks

Tom
 
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