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1957 Norton 30M
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The Manx may well be Norton’s most famous motorcycle. What’s it like to own a living legend? Dave Catton explains...

The Manx Norton is such a famous motorcycle that they fetch phone numbers at auction and there’s a steady market in building and racing modern replicas of the beast. Dave Catton’s 30M is a genuine, factory built bike which dates from 1957. Dave has devoted considerable effort to keeping it smart and in track-going trim, but he has avoided updating or modifying the machine. ‘I haven’t deviated from the standard set up’ he says, ‘or at least not as far as I know!’

Norton’s flagship Grand Prix racer was an overhead cam single which owed much to a design that dated from 1927 and, in one form or another, the Manx was built at Bracebridge Street until 1962. The Model 30 was introduced as Norton’s works racer in 1930 and it began its long run of TT wins the following year. In 1937 the first dohc version of the Manx was produced.

1957 'Manx' Norton 30M, Dave Catton on board...

The 498cc single stayed competitive in the postwar years thanks in no small measure to the McCandless featherbed duplex frame, which slung the heavy flywheels down low. This low centre of gravity and short wheelbase perfectly suited the demands of the TT course. The all-welded, tubular featherbed frame was sleek and trim, with none of the usual forgings or castings that added unnecessary weight. In 1950 the featherbed Manx recorded a double hat-trick of podium positions at the TT.

Engineer Leo Kusmicki, working under Norton team manager Joe Craig, tweaked the dohc short-stroke version of the engine until it produced near-as-dammit 50bhp at around 7000rpm (and Leo even extracted 36bhp at 8000rpm from the 350cc version).

The result was a racing package of just 310lb, capable of 140mph, and which proved ideal for the riding style of one of Britain’s rising stars. Geoff Duke and the Manx Norton became world champions as a result.

Even today, a standard Manx is a formidable opponent on a track. Dave Catton fondly recalls ‘beating a 750 triple BSA through the bends at Chertsey track day.’ The bigger capacity bike would pass Dave on the straight – just – but ‘I passed him every time we got into the bends!’

When Dave first got the Manx it was a little tatty, and needed a good tidy up. Dave stripped and rebuilt the machine, but wisely chose to get an expert to tackle the engine work on the complex cambox. ‘I had the cambox rebushed which cost around £500,’ he explains. ‘I used the services of the Norton Owners’ Club cammy expert to strip and rebuild the cambox for me, while Andy Molnar machined the cambox and supplied the parts.’

The frame and tanks were repainted, and the Manx was good to go. Dave rides his Norton in parades and demonstrations – he’s also taken it racing in the past but takes things a little easier these days. The Manx has behaved perfectly apart from a split oil tank, and always impresses Dave with its ‘handling and overall performance. I don’t really think it could be improved – I just love it as it is.’

'Manx' stuff on eBay.co.uk

The Manx also impressed the judges at this Spring’s Malvern RealClassic Bike Show, where Dave was awarded the Bike of the Show trophy. If you have the opportunity to ride or own one of these bikes then Dave offers nothing but encouragement but says you should tread carefully before spending big money: ‘get as much advice as you can from an expert, as parts to correct anything you miss can be very expensive.

‘Then just enjoy it!’

1957 'Manx' Norton 30M, Dave Catton getting his breath back...

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Show Off!

The next Malvern RealClassic Bike Show is on Sunday 2nd November at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern in Worcestershire. All kinds of classic motorcycles are very welcome, be they rare or everyday; rapid or just plain reliable. If you’d like to show your classic bike at the event then apply in advance for a pass. See www.ClassicShows.org

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Club It!

The Norton Owners’ Club are at: www.NortonOwnersClub.co.uk

A Manx Norton, yesterday.... 1956 Manx Norton

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