Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Model 7 Owner's Lament

I was perusing the postings on a forum dedicated to Norton Model 7's where a member placed a link to a 1951 Model 7 for sale on Australian Ebay. I am always anxious to view other Model 7's of my year in an effort to garner as much knowledge as possible about the bike. There seems to be a tremendous amount of variability in construction as well as sensible bodges that the term "period correct" always results in a fair amount of disagreement. Intrigued, I immediately took a look and was shocked.

My first impression was that it looked like a bobbed Harley particularly with the fishtail exhaust and fat tires. Closer inspection revealed a chimeric combination of Model 7 frame, Commando 650, and ES2. I have to say that with all due respect it is not a winning combination. I have posted another customized Garden Gate framed bike with a bit better results but I have to say that for one reason or another the Plunger-framed Model 7 doesn't lend itself  to "bobbing" very well. I should state for the record that I enjoy customs very much but the term custom implies more than removing or bolting on stuff. I consider it an art-form involving creative and technical talent just take a look at my friend Roland at Outta Control.

The failure of of both of these bikes highlights a major problem with the early Model 7. Being a rare but not coveted bike, it suffers from poor spares availability especially tinwork. Enthusiasts are faced with a real problem in that it may take years to find the right parts at pretty steep prices. Prices difficult to justify in light of the modest price these bikes fetch at auction. The resultant choice is opting for a "custom". I know I have thought about it on more than one occaision. I don't have a real solution for this problem but I do have a lesson for those entering the classic motorcycle world. It's important to research the bikes one might be interested in with an eye to parts avalability, mechanical expertise, club support, etc. I also believe that old bikes have a soul and whether an owner chooses to do a restoration or a custom the motorcycle should be respected.

Finally, the bike pictured above represents the Alpha and Omega of Norton Twins. The Model 7 was Norton's first twin and naturally the Commando its last.

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