Sunday, June 27, 2010

A little Norton Model 7 history


Mention the name Norton and several iconic motorcycles come to mind. These include the Manx, the Inter, the Commando, even chimeric combinations such as the Triton or Norvin. Behind this backdrop of pedigreed performance, there are some well-known utilitarian mounts such as the 16H, the Big Four, and the ES2. The Model 7 unfortunately doesn't generate a great deal of excitement except for those that own them or those that understand the motorcycle's place in history.

The Model 7 Dominator  made its debut at the Earl Court Show in late 1948. It was Norton's first in-house foray into twin cylinder engines under the direction of Bert Hopwood. Hopwood came over from stints at BSA and Triumph where he was responsible for the Speed Twin. The resemblance between the two is uncanny although conincidental in my mind considering that the chassis came from the pre-existing, plunger-framed ES2.

Model 7 Dominator


Triumph Speed Twin

The Model 7 was a 496 cc, 360 degree, vertical twin featuring a new "laydown" gearbox intended to fit below the oil tank. It wasn't a performance bike and I think Bert Hopwood correctly understood the social reality of post-war Europe. It was an era of practicality and the Dominator was a sensible machine that was reliable, easy to maintain, while still offering style. Back at the home office, it was controversial. Joe Craig and J. Moore were not enthusiatic. They felt it was a departure from the racing tradition set by the famous single cylinder machines that were the foundation of Norton's reputation. The clash of styles eventually led to Bert Hopwood's departure from Norton before he really was able to see production in full swing.

The reviews of the Norton Model 7, on the other hand, are very complimentary on both its performance and presentation. Again, the mentality had changed from the pre-war years and in an era of rationed fuel and rebuilding of nations, the motorcycle fit perfectly. Hopwood understood the economic reality of the times. The earliest road test from my archive is March 1949 in The Motor Cycle shortly after the Earls Court Show boasts that performs with the power greater than 500cc's!




The Importance of the Model 7 Dominator doesn't rest in the bike itself but as the progenitor of a 30 year production run ending with the Commando. Not too shabby. It's great to see that tradition reborn again in the Norton 961 in all its incarnations. By all the reviews, I hope it will be as successful as it historic commpetitor Triumph. By the way, Thanks Bert Hopwood!


Norton 961 Commando

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Early Father's Day Present

My wife Kate is pregnant with our first born and my wonderful mother-in-law sent me this super card for Father's Day. My wife's parents are both very accomplished artists and slowly my mother-in-law has gotten more and more interested in my motorcycle hobby.


Her first artistic foray into the subject was the Cock-a snook that I am infatuated with; however I have selected a few motorcycle pictures for her to draw. She is very excited at the prospect and depending on the outcome may be willing to do some commissions. Stay tuned for the results!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

2010 Classy Chassis Show


Last week-end, Kate and I went to the Houston Classy Chassis Concours. The Classy Chassis is a benefit show that has grown over the years to benefit the Shriner's Hospital. The Shriners are a benevolent organization that support children hospitals and the benefits from the show support local programs. It's truly a show for cars but there were a few bikes.

Custom Featherbed 500cc racer


Best in Show- Dupont Sports Car


Cool Guzzi Combination  in Parking Lot

Check out the slideshow!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A Confluence of Ideas

It has been one of those introspective week-ends. A steady strem of ideas beginning with the 100th birthday of Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau was an idol from my youth. As a kid growing up on the French Atlantic coast, I remember donning my first mask and flippers with dreams of wild marine adventures. My brother and I had a collection of Super 8 Cousteau films, books,even small plastic figures that were constant bathtub companions. I have never scuba dived but I have spent a great deal of time on the ocean sailing, surfing, and fishing. Cousteau inspired my sense of adventure.


With Cousteau as a backdrop, I read in its entirety two very interesting blogs that have nothing to do with classic motorcycling except philosophically. (I'll come to a point in a bit.) These blogs are about getting out there and doing it and I mean living the adventure. The first of these is Sons of Savages written by what I consider the real McCoy. His name is Audwin McGee and he is an artist, philospher (although he wouldn't say that), sportsman, and adventurer. From the little bit of correspondence I have had with him, I know he likes whiskey and hates pretenders. The other blog was listed on Sons of Savages and it is called Logcabineer. It chronicles some guy's time spent at his cabin while fishing, hunting, eating.........living. There's no nostalgia at either of those sites just forward looking, in the moment, enjoyment of life.

Another guy I admire that is getting ready to go on the adventure of a lifetime is Matt Olsen. He is riding the Cannonball Run, a cross-country race across the United States on pre-1916 motorcycles only. Matt is planning to ride a Sears Motorcycle that he is building from scratch. You can read about all about it at Put the Huffle in the Shuffle.

Which brings me to nostalgia and the vintage craze. At many of the blogs I follow and everywhere else there is this buzz about vintage. Vintage this and that fetching top dollar. You see people in Manhattan with Filson, Hudson Blanket Coats, Belstaff, Barbour each one acquiring and outdoing each other in how "authentic" one can get. It exists in motorcycling as well with people dressing in vintage tee shirts and engineer boots recreating photos of another era. It's the worst type of consumerism namely plagiarism When I think that RRL by Ralph Lauren is charging $2700 for torn overalls reminiscent of the Great Depression, it makes me think that the movie Zoolander is a documentary on ridiculous fashion elites. How about this folks. Instead of hitting the flea market for other peoples' lives why not make your own.

The reality is that companies like Filson were built on their reputation for sportsmen. That's right people. That treasured, distressed jacket that you wear with red wing boots to the lower east side for cocktails made with single barrel rye got torn up and dirty by someone clomping around fields shooting at something and not shuffling around New York in Grenson wingtips dodging dog crap. I personally think that you can't hang a head of anything in your house unless you actually shot it. The same goes for all those J. Crew Belstaff Trialmaster wearers that never swung their leg over a motorcycle.

Why the rant? Well it's simple. At a point in history where we could have gotten back to some important fundamentals we just fell back into our bad habits. Buying nostalgia rather than making our own history. Copying rather than inventing, creating, doing. Thanks Audwin for screwing my head back right. Point blank. The day you see me with a Bonneville Salt Flats shirt will be the day that I will have raced there. That project folks is in the works.

I am making some changes and returning to some basic principles. It starts with the counters at the bottom of this blog . I stated at the beginning of this project that it was about community and camaraderie. The counters symbolize the worst form of narcissism and had me clicking it incessantly rather than following my passions. Enough. I'll keep writing because I like it. I want to share and have others share with me. All I have say is get out and do something then tell me about it. Don't live the lifestyle, live the life!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday's pin-up

Velocette Speed Trialer


Indian Flats Racer

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Now something practical......


It has been a bit since I have posted something related to bike restoration mostly since I am still in the midst of getting my shop squared away since the move to Houston. I collect parts for my Norton Model 7 but never really catalogued what I had. So I have taken the time to sort through everything and see what I have acquired and properly organize the parts for future use. Needless to say that it's quite a bit of stuff and some of it I think will end up getting sold.

In restoring my Norton, I have found that it's the little pieces like fasteners, special tools, etc. that are difficult to find. When I get ready to start a project, I always start out by sourcing everything first then seeing if they will work like I envision it. This is a bit backwards and some projects have sat around until all the little pieces have come together. With that type of strategy, one needs a supplier of tools and raw materials and here are a couple of spots I recommend.

The first is McMaster-Carr, the true industrial superstore, If they don't have it then it probably does not exist! McMaster-Carr has tools, hardware, raw materials all contained in a website that is easy to use. The prices are very reasonable as well.

Next is Graham Tool. Graham tool has some cool stuff in it. You could probably find it at McMaster-Carr but there are some hotrod and racing applications that might be difficult to find elsewhere. Not the cheapest prices though.

Gardner-Wescott is a fastener specialist that has the most expansive inventory of motorcycle specific fasteners imaginable. If you have a specific need for your restoration I would go there first.

This next site is for the tool fetishist. Garrett-Wade has a carpentry bent to it but there are definitely cool tools for every hobby including gardening. Some might find gardening inappropriate subject matter for a motorcycle site but think about this. Imagine I need some diamond files which aren't cheap so why not grease the skids with the wife with a handy set of japanese pruning shears all found at the same site and arriving in the same package. Win-win!

Best of luck on all of your projects!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Another Great Artist

I was running around the internet the other day and found Tom Fritz. Tom Fritz is from southern California and spent many years as a commercial artist and designer before turning to his real passion. He draws his inspiration from the motor culture of his youth and strives to capture the essence of the era and the motion of the subject. His work is classic. Check out his site here.






Friday, June 4, 2010