Tuesday, February 14, 2023

1963 30M Manx

This is the highest number 500cc Manx from the last production run built at the Bracebridge Street, Birmingham factory race shop- Frame and engine number 102818. Built to full race specification, this 500cc DOHC short stroke, still retains many original parts often missing on such machines. 

All postwar Norton's have matching numbers because the stampings were only done after the bikes were assembled. The frame numbers are stamped through the paint!

102818 was sold new in California and was restored by Norton enthusiast Paul Adams, who stored the bike in New Zealand and returned each year to race it at the famous annual Pukekohe Classic Festival for over 13 years, until Covid hit.

The 1962-63 Manx build of over 110 bikes were consecutively numbered but the last 40 odd were built in January 1963. In this last batch there was a 350 built, 102819, one number higher than Paul's 500. This was sold in Aberdeen, Scotland. Remarkably it ended up in Texas at an auction in the late 1970's and was also bought by Paul Adams, who raced it in the Manx GP. For many years he didn't realize he had both.

In the Norton dispatch records there shows a final two bikes built after Norton production was moved to the AMC factory in London. 105047 (500cc 30M) went to (Syd) Lawton and Wilson, Southampton on 1st August 1963, and 105048 (350cc 40M) left Bracebridge Street on 28th January 1963 for AMC at Plumstead, London and on 29th April 1963 to Tom Kirby in Hornchurch for J.W. King. Why these bikes were not numbered in the same sequence is not clear, but Tom Kirby and Syd Lawton were both major racing sponsors at that time.

This ex USA 1963 Manx has a magnesium engine, original specification AMC four-speed close ratio gearbox, a Featherbed frame and Roadholder telescopic forks. The front brake is the correct double-sided twin leading shoe with AM4 linings, giving good bite after warming up. The wheels are the original narrow 19" Borrani rims used on all Featherbed Manxes after Norton's falling out with Dunlop in the early 50's. The photos reveal some of the minor flaws reminiscent of its racing history, including the missing air lever, dented tank, and damaged chain oiler, which is still fitted and correctly plumbed but not used with the O-ring chain fitted. It even has the original chain rubbing pad fitted behing the swingarm spindle. The bike was originally dispatched to California, via Berliner Motors of New Jersey and raced locally until an engine failure and was subsequently stored for 30+ years. 

The engine was fully rebuilt by McIntosh Racing using a kit of factory "new old stock" spares which came with the bike, The rest of the bike had been restored by then owner Paul Adams before being sent to New Zealand. 

After this Paul Adams rode it for many years at the Pukekohe and Hampton Downs circuits in New Zealand. In his own words;

I got the 63 Manx as part of a trade with a friend for the remains of some of Nortons' Daytona bikes of the late 40s early 50s. He had got the Manx in trade from an acquaintance in Ventura, California. I don't know who raced it and it was mostly disassembled, including the engine. The engine needed attention and it looked like it had let go early on because the chassis parts exhibited little wear and tear. The rear mudguard still has the original factory finish and Norton gold transfer, but I restored everything else. A testimonial to Ken and Pete is that the engine has held together splendidly through all my best efforts. I always tried to never exceed the 7200 rpm max.

Ben Creemers continues the story "the bike was bought in 2021 by my father, Robert Creemers, who now lets me ride it like it isn't mine... because it isn't! It arrived in New Zealand early this year, and requiring minimal work aside from some jetting, a new plug, and some fresh clutch plates. It performed well at the NZCMRR classic festival at Pukekohe, finishing ahead of some of the six-speed replica Manxes. The starts are certainly challenging with such a tall first gear, and the bike is left in the dust of the others at the beginning of the race." 

Ken recalls that the bike's output was 42 horsepower at  the rear wheel on the Dynojet dynamometer, after the engine was first rebuilt with 100% standard Norton NOS parts, which is about 47 horsepower at the crank. Probably about average for an "over the counter" 1963 Manx.

Photos courtesy of Keith Milne (bike photos) and Grant Paterson (racing photos).
- BC