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Norton Singles

Remember Howard's Big 4 which was undergoing a mechanical overhaul? We can now show you the photos of it. And David Yeats explains how the Big 4 got its name, and reveals his own collection of Norton singles...

We left Howard's Norton single with a leaking fuel tap, a non-existent regulator, a deceased drive chain and facing the daunting prospect of an MoT. But we didn't know quite what it looked like - so here's the photographic evidence! Howard reckons that the dual seat is 'so ugly that it will be replaced ASAP.'

Patina. This is a colour that doesn't come in tins.

That feature awoke some interest in other RealClassic readers on the subject of Norton singles, and David Yeats has some answers to our nomenclature conundrum. Over to you, David...

Hopefully, without appearing to be too much an anorak, I can answer the question which was raised about the name of the Norton Model 4. Norton had a number of variations on the sidevalve machine in the 1920s;

  • Model 1 - Big 4 633cc, 3 speed Sturmey Archer gearbox
  • Model 2 - 490cc, 3 speed Sturmey Archer gearbox
  • Model 3 - Big 4, 3 speed Sturmey Archer gearbox, belt drive
  • Model 4 - 490cc, 3 speed Sturmey Archer gearbox, belt drive
  • Model 5 - Big 4, 3 speed hub, belt drive
  • Model 6 - 490cc, 3 speed hub, belt drive
  • Model 7 - Brooklands Special, 490cc, direct drive with Phillipson pulley
  • Model 8 - Brookland Road Special, 490cc, direct drive with Phillipson pulley
  • Model 9 - Tourist Trophy 490cc, direct drive or Phillipson pulley
  • Model 10 - Touring machine, direct belt drive
  • Model 11 - Big 4 633cc, direct drive touring machine
  • Model 12 - 490cc, colonial model, 3 speed hub, belt drive
  • Model 13 - Big 4 633cc, colonial model, 3 speed hub, belt drive
  • Model 14 - Big 4 633cc, 4 speed, all chain
  • Model 15 - Big 4 633cc, 3 speed, De Luxe sidecar outfit
  • Model 16H - 490cc, 3 speed, chain drive, touring model
  • Model 17 - 490cc, 3 speed, chain drive, touring colonial model

    Whist this is a long list, it does show that there was some logic to the Norton model numbers although only the Model 1 (or should that be Model 14?), and 16H survived to the end of production.

    This is either a 1935 ES2, a 1942 WD 16H or a 1947 Big 4... I think it's the ES2. Nice view, too.

    The Big 4 appears to have got its name from being the largest engined model, rated at 4.5hp by the ACU at that time. Although the method of calculating the horse power changed, so becoming 14hp, the name stuck.

    The Big 4 was in production from 1908 to 1954, although along with the 16H and all the ohv models it was 'modernised' in the early 1930s by Edgar Franks. We will never see another production run of 46 years again, I suspect.

    Sometimes, one sidevalve Norton isn't enough.

    I own three Nortons, a 1935 ES2, a 1942 WD 16H and a 1947 Big 4, as seen in the photos here. Sidevalve machines are very underrated but, owning two, I cannot see why. What they lack in speed is more than compensated for in power and reliability. They rate very highly on smiles-per-mile too!


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