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1902 Norton Energette
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You've probably seen plenty of Norton motorcycles from the 1970s, 60s and 50s; even from the 1940s and 30s. But now the National Motorcycle Museum can show you the oldest Norton of all...

The first powered two-wheeler to carry the legendary Norton name is now on display at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham, England. The Norton Energette, a pedal cycle with a small engine attached, was launched late in 1902 by James Lansdowne Norton's Birmingham-based manufacturing company.

Simplicity itself... 1902 Norton Energette

James Norton was born in Birmingham in 1869, and at the age of ten he first ventured into an automotive endeavour when he built a model steam engine. Norton was initially apprenticed into the jewellery trade but in 1898 he saw an opportunity in the growing popularity of the bicycle. He set up the Norton Manufacturing Company and operated as a supplier of parts and fittings to the cycle trade. This logically led to building motorcycles when engines were first bolted to cycle frames, and soon the Energette was born.

...some would say it's been downhill all the way ever since. 1902 Norton Energette

The Energette's power unit is a 55mm x 60mm, 145cc four-stroke single with an automatic inlet valve and mechanical exhaust valve, manufactured by Clément in France. A belt takes drive directly from the crankshaft to the rear wheel while pedals, chain drive and a free-wheel hub are provided for starting and assistance on hills. An accumulator carried in a wooden box on the seat tube provides ignition power, while the small petrol tank was suspended beneath the top frame rail The whole machine weighed about 70lb. The 20mph machine was advertised as being 'for business, touring or racing'.

Norton also offered a version with a two-speed pulley mechanism driven from the crankshaft by chain and mounted ahead of the bottom bracket. There was a Ladies' Model, and one which was touted as being 'the ideal doctor's bike.'

In 1904 the Journal of Commerce praised Norton's machines; 'since the first day of bicycle manufacture the Norton Company has given special attention to all improvements.'

Norton's workshops built frames for the Clément-Garrard powered bicycle marketed in Britain and the Energette is very similar to that product, but has a longer wheelbase. It was built to order and only three examples are known to survive.

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'We have owned the oldest Norton in existence for a long time', said NMM owner Roy Richards, 'but it was in a very poor state. I am delighted that we have recently had it fully restored by Dr George Cohen, an early Norton specialist, to join our large and ever-growing display.'

Norton concentrated on building its own motorcycles from 1904 and first came to prominence when Rem Fowler won the multi-cylinder class of the 1907 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race on a Peugeot-Norton V-twin. The marque went on to win another 42 TT races, the most recent in 1992 with a rotary engine.


See The World's Oldest Norton

If you'd like to look at the 1902 Norton then you'll find the National Motorcycle Museum one mile east of Birmingham International Airport at the intersection of the A45 Birmingham-Coventry road and the M42 motorway. It is open every day from 10am to 6pm (except over the Christmas holiday from 24-26 December inclusive).

Admission charges: Adults £6.95, Senior Citizens £4.95, Children (under 15) £4.95, Family Tickets (2 adults and 2 children) £20.
Tel: 0121 704 2784


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