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Look who turned up...

Discussion in 'Access Norton Pub' started by gtiller, Feb 12, 2018.

  1. gtiller

    gtiller VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Remember our dear friend Mr Leadbeater?

    Well it seems that he’s posting content to the Norton Owners Club Roadholder magazine!!!

    6EECF58D-4B90-4E9B-ACA4-38AF6AB7D7A5.jpeg
     
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  2. frankdamp

    frankdamp

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    On the AJS motocross program in late 1967-68, the bike that became known as the "Stormer" had a frame very similar to the Commando shown in the above post. The major difference was that the top tube joined the head-stock close to the bottom rather than near the top and the gusset was on the top of the frame tube.

    We had several frame failures, all in the area just behind the gusset. One failure during a race actually completely severed the top tube. It wasn't until we got back to the factory and did the post-race strip-down that we discovered it. The fuel tank was holding it together and I think it completed a full race with the failure present. Our rider said something about the handling being "much improved".

    The production Stormer frame had a top tube with a long triangular filler welded between two semi-circular sections. It went from being obround and almost the full depth of the head-stock at the front end and circular at the cross-piece at the seat. I'm not sure if the works M-X bikes ever got that version. I think it was introduced on the production Stormer from Day 1.
     
  3. acotrel

    acotrel

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    An Egli frame might be better.
     
  4. Madnorton

    Madnorton

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    At least he puts his head above the parapet, where are the senior figures and decision makers from the NVT days that could add so much, embarrassed and holding there heads in shame I bet.
     
  5. Danno

    Danno

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Likely all dead.
     
  6. frankdamp

    frankdamp

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    I wasn't involved in the basic design of the two frames, as the Commando prototypes were already on the street when I went to work at N-V (Jan/Feb 1967?). The Stormer was already in the design process and was the M-X team bike that year. That triangular filler worked well and I recommendeed it to the Commando folks also, but they said it was "too complicated" to manufacture and went for the supplemental tube instead.

    I quit N-V in April 1968 and emigrated to the US in July that year. Danno may be correct, as all the "decision makers" were 10 years or more older than me and I'm now 76.
     
  7. acotrel

    acotrel

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2012
    It is easy to criticise the older generation when you have not experienced the economic and industrial climate in which they worked. After WW2, there was no Marshall Plan which might have assisted industrial recovery in the UK. So the British did what they do best - make something out of nothing. For what it is and the circumstances under which it was made, the Commando is an excellent bike. In Australia, our old defence factories operated under the British trade system - we had all their levels in our hierarchies. Under that system, the path to quality is difficult and slow, but not impossible. It is much easier when you spend many millions on automated machining centres.
     
    cliffa likes this.
  8. Madnorton

    Madnorton

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2008
    No its not easy, but were are only talking mid 70's here. There are many Wolverhampton employees about, some still working, but those from the NVT era? As for the economic climate, I remember queuing for bread in the 70's here in the UK, the daily power cuts, and the prolonged bin strikes. As for the machinery of the time, much of it still in use, some is still good, some worn out. Some foundry's are still hand tamping sand and gassing the melts to compensate for poor pattern designs that are left over from the old days.
    Those decision makers from that time had a love hate relationship with the government, they took the hand outs for trade and hated the government for supporting or doing nothing to clamp down on the unions.
    The Commando was an excellent bike, the early bikes being the best, the MK3 a pile of crap (I have 2) this reflects the demise at the time. Mind you with careful and sensible rebuild the MK3 is excellent. Even in the same camp quality varied, look at a P11 outer primary cover and and an early Commando primary chaincase, one made by the AMC side the other by Norton, the P11 is far better.

    Had the motorcycle press at the time and in the late 60's stopped pampering and blowing smoke up the backsides of the remaining bosses of what was left of the UK motorcycle history and told the truth about the Japanese bikes and UK bikes at the time, something could have been done - the drawings were on the boards and some designs nearly ready. Case in points are the rotary valve for two strokes - an attitude of it was too expensive and would never catch on, and an additional cylinder for BSA/Triumph triple are ideas that stopped short of creating new openings.
    There is report in one of the magazines, about an AS90 thing - it is tested from London to Portsmouth and back, rides without fault throughout and still gets slated, the journo should have been shot for this report, the bike was far better than the Bantam 175 kicking about at the time - the same dodgy decision makers indirectly paying his wages it seems, maybe some of the testers could explain if any are still about.
     
  9. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004

    :eek::rolleyes:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/marshall_01.shtml
    "Britain actually received more than a third more Marshall Aid than West Germany"


    "We all know the easy British explanation for our cumulative export defeat in world markets from the 1950s onwards, especially at the hands of the Germans. This story tells us that lucky West Germany had all her industries and infrastructure bombed flat or removed as reparations, and then was able to re-equip herself from scratch with Marshall Aid dollars. Meanwhile, so this hard-luck story goes on, poor old Britain had to struggle on with worn-out and old-fashioned kit.

    This is utter myth. Britain actually received more than a third more Marshall Aid than West Germany - $2.7 billion as against $1.7 billion. She in fact pocketed the largest share of any European nation. The truth is that the post-war Labour Government, advised by its resident economic pundits, freely chose not to make industrial modernisation the central theme in her use of Marshall Aid."

    https://history.blog.gov.uk/2017/06...for-the-reconstruction-of-europe-5-june-1947/
     
  10. frankdamp

    frankdamp

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    Madnorton:

    I was a "tester", but for N-V rather than the magazines and newspapers. IIRC, I started there in mid 1966. On the Commando, we tried to do 1000 miles a day on each prototype, doing it in two shifts with 2 riders for each of the two prototypes. The bikes were out on the street from midnight to 08:00 then from noon to 20:00. Any required "fettling" was done by factory mechanics in the two 4-hour down-times.

    Initially, we had some fairly major reliability issues, so we did a "figure-8" route around the Midlands so the rescue van was always within 50 miles of where we broke down. As reliability improved, we went further afield. My favorite rides were one through the Lake District and another around Wales. I usually did the midnight run, and typically got somewhere around 440 miles in my 8 hours, including gas stops and food breaks.

    Motorway cruising was done at around 90 mph and that was my first 90 miles on the Lake District run (Wolverhampton to Levens Bridge on M-6) followed by a slower (60 - 70 mph over the Hardknott and Wrynose passes into Ambleside). From there on, 75 to 90 mph was typical on the A-66 from Carlisle and then the A-1 back to the Birmingham area. Lots of fun in Spring and Summer!

    Top management figured we'd done enough testing to prove the bikes, by late summer of '67 and it went into production at the Plumstead Road factory in London. Their first two bikes were on the N-V stand at the '67 Earl's Court show.
     
  11. Jerry Doe

    Jerry Doe Admin

    Joined:
    May 21, 2003
    What a great job to have!
     
  12. Danno

    Danno

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    I always thought Norton may have survived were it not for the encumbrance of Triumph and the subsequent Meridan debacle. Only thing good in the whole circus was the BSA rotary project.
     
  13. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2018
  14. Jerry Doe

    Jerry Doe Admin

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    May 21, 2003
    Oh yes. I forgot about the English weather. How could i ever forget o_O
     
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  15. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

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    Nov 20, 2004
  16. frankdamp

    frankdamp

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2005
    Actually, Danno, it was more complicated than it looked. The design and development people (including me) were located in the Villiers engine factory in Wolverhampton. This was after the company was rescued by a millionaire racing driver whose name escapes me right now. Villiers was already one of his companies.

    Manufacturing and assembly of the bikes was at the Associated Motorcycles plant on Plumstead Road in London. AMC was the parent of AJS, Matchless, Francis Barnett etc., and they also took over Norton and moved it from the Midlands. After the rescue, all the AMC brand names except Norton and AJS were dropped. This caused a lot of "not invented here" animosity between the two groups which wasn't helped when the new frame design by the Wolverhampton design office replaced the long-respected "Featherbed". Also, when the Commando was put into production at Plumstead, the Wolverhampton people were excluded from the program. That was after the 1967 Motorcycle show a Earl's Court. By Easter 1968, I decided Boeing looked a lot better (I'd had an offer of employment) and I pulled the plug. My last efforts before I left were involved with the AJS "Stormer" program to resolve the frame-cracking problem.
     
  17. Danno

    Danno

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    Was it Tony Vandervell? One could also add the short-sighted mismanagement and smug ignorance of those in control of the purse strings leading to no real ongoing development, only production of the same old thing, which was "good enough". When BSA paid for a cheap "design study" and put breadloaf tanks and spaceship pipes on the triples the end was near even though it all took several more orbits of the sun before death was pronounced. I lump them all together as an industry because that's the way they went to their graves.
     
  18. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

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    Nov 20, 2004
  19. 84ok

    84ok

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2014
    the brit bikes of those times have however stood the test of time, surpassing most all other make/models of that period, in terms of staying power,

    but even more important, with phenomenal support in comparison, now & into the future
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2018
  20. Danno

    Danno

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    If it weren't for creative owner/mechanics/machinists and an amazing aftermarket, my Nortons would have been retired to museum status by now. The fact that you can get any part, brand-new, in a factory-authorized package, and the availability of components much better and stronger than OEM keep these things viable. If they had to stand on their own merits, they'd be like Ariel Square 4s; a good idea that wasn't engineered well enough to stand the test of time and therefore relegated to antique curiosity status.
     
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