Thursday, August 23, 2012

1947 Norton Manx 500


1947 Norton Manx 500

Since 1907 the Isle of Man, a tiny nation in the Irish Sea, has turned its public roads into the world’s most storied race course. The “Manx” people, as native citizens of the Isle are known, embrace motorcycles and racing as their national identity – even printing images of racebikes on their coins. Their beloved annual race is known as the Tourist Trophy, or TT, and no other bike could be more emblematic of this event than the machine named for the island’s people: The “Manx” Norton.

Built from 1947 to 1962, the Manx is a marvel even today. Using only one piston kept the bike light, a scant 313 pounds (by comparison, today’s “replica-racer” sportbikes range from 350-375 lbs). Yet this single combustion chamber could propel the bike to over 130mph. The Manx was the dominant competitor of the TT’s 264-mile racecourse.

The Manx featured here is owned by Portland motorcycle icon Tom Young.  In over 40 years of experience on two wheels, Tom has ridden street, dirt, trials, ISDT in Scotland, Baja Desert, Club TT, Supermoto, Central America, South America, motocross, choppers, sand bikes, road racers, endurance race, cross country, desert race, dualsport, vintage MX, vintage trials, and Alaska with a sidecar. Yet of all these experiences and bikes, Tom reports that the first time he heard the Manx start:  “It was Beyond ear-splitting!”

Noteworthy features of Tom’s Manx are its ‘Garden Gate’ frame (predecessor to the Featherbed frame), exposed valve springs and, especially, its magnesium front hub and crankcase covers. Following WWII magnesium was in extremely short supply in England. The government doled out precious little of it, and only to vital industries.  Evidently deemed vital, the Norton motorcycle company was allocated just enough magnesium to build its Manx motorcycles.

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