1921 Norton

The Unapproachable Norton

I spotted the sad remains of this bike on a stall at a local swap meet (autojumble) in 1997. It was pretty much a rusty wreck: just the frame, forks, rusty guards, rear brake shoe, handlebars and a home-made petrol tank. The vendor - on the advice of a previous customer - had it labelled "1920's AJS V-twin". I looked it over carefully, but with admirable self control I left it lying there.

Later at home I rang my friend the Norton man.

Jack, should I have left a vintage Norton frame at a swap meet?

Leon, no-one should ever leave a vintage Norton frame at a swap meet.

So later in the day, I was on the phone to the vendor and later at his house to pick up the remains of the "AJS". Even having filled my head with the differences between a 16H frame and a Big Four, I was still uncertain about what I was dragging home.

With a very early frame number - 3009 - I am still uncertain about whether the bike is a Model 17C (the colonial model introduced in 1921) or a pre-1921 Model 16. For 1921, the Model 16 became the 16H and had the low ground-clearance frame. Mine has the Big Four style frame, but with the lightweight Druid fork as used on the 16 and 17C. At this time the Big Four used Mark 2 Druids with the extra set of springs, as fitted to my Blue Bird and Victor Blackburne.

1921 Norton, on the way up

Since bringing the frame home, I have added a c1922 motor (anyone with 79x100 crankcases with a 20xxx engine number can email me!), B&B carburettor, CAV 3U1 magneto with correct platform, Enfield cush-drive rear wheel with dummy brake rim, British Hub Company front hub, a pair of new-old-stock 26x2 1/2 Dunlop BE rims, Sturmey Archer CS gearbox and hand change lever, period handlebar controls, a rear stand and a seat. The major item still to find is a suitable fuel tank, even a rusty one to use as a pattern.

Yes, the bike is built from bits, but they are good bits....

1923 Norton 17C

Copyright Leon Mitchell 1999-2001


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