For many vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, the Commando is what first springs to mind when you mention Norton. But while that bike was stunning to look at and fast, its design wasn’t really cutting-edge, even when new. For vintage racing fans however, the name Norton probably conjures up images of this bike, the Norton Manx, a bike whose technical specification set the standard for privateer racing in a career that spanned 20 years, an almost impossible-to-imagine longevity in a sport where last year’s bike isn’t a classic, it’s just slow.
The single-cylinder engine came in two flavors: 500 and 350cc’s. Both used reliable and precise bevel drive and tower shafts to work the dual overhead cams. But while the engine was sophisticated and reasonably powerful, it was just part of the picture and far from the bike’s defining characteristic. Instead, it was the bike’s “featherbed” frame that was the standout feature. The innovative frame was lightweight, stiff, and featured a swingarm rear for excellent roadholding that allowed it to compete against much more powerful machines.
Christened the Featherbed frame by racer Harold Daniel who described the experience of racing the bike like “riding on a featherbed.” That’s obviously a far cry from the “riding on a bedframe” experience of most motorcycles built when motorcycle frame technology was still in its infancy. But amazingly, the Manx was still winning races almost ten years later…
So the bikes were stone-axe reliable, nimble, and made decent power, making them hugely versatile tools for the wide variety of events held during that period. In fact, the folks at Molnar will still be happy to build you a perfect replica of the original Manx today, if you have the cash…
From the original eBay listing: 1961 Norton Manx Replica for Sale
I have for sale here a “new” Norton Manx Replica. This bike was built in the image of a 1961 Manx. The bike is a re-creation, built to modern standards. I am relisting the motorcycle with lower Buy It Now and lower reserve. It was previously listed as a 1962 Manx Replica but Andy Molnar pointed out the single-sided brake is proper for 1961 and earlier, not 1962.
The bike’s features are:
- New, never run, Molnar Precision Limited 500 cc. DOHC motor. I have a copy of the original build sheet.
- Believed new Mick Hemmings Quaife 5 spd. transmission.
- New Molnar Precision Lightweight beltdrive
- New Featherbed frame produced by Andover Norton
- Newly strung alloy wheels, built by Buchanan on proper period magnesium hubs, all new bearings/axles
- New Ken McIntosh oil and fuel tanks
- New tachometer
- New Amal GP carburetor and Matchbox floatbowl
- New controls including levers, throttle, rearsets and all cables
- New seat
- New exhaust pipe and megaphone
- Number plates are alloy, not plastic, and new
- All new nuts and bolts, proper Manx rifle-drilled where appropriate. The number plate and fender bolts are aerodynamic stainless from Racing Norton
- Rebuilt, period correct Featherbed forks, new internals, new rear suspension units
- New alloy fenders
- New fairing and windscreen
This bike has recently been professionally completed and as noted, has not been run, in respect for its “new” condition. The Molnar motor was factory equipped with a PVL electronic racing ignition hidden in the stock magneto housing, and initial timing was set at the factory. (NOTE: If you intend to purchase this motorcycle to race in a class that prohibits electronic ignitions, I do have a newly rebuilt Lucas magneto that is available separately.)
Andy Molnar is well aware of this motor and will be pleased to discuss it with a purchaser. The initial cost of the motor is roughly half the Buy It Now price.
An individual purchasing this motorcycle to display will be pleased with the beauty of the bike and the quality of construction and the fact that there has never been petrol or oil in the tanks (I believe this makes international shipping easier as well). A racer acquiring the bike to compete will need to safety-wire as required by sanctioning bodies.
Keep in mind that, in this case, “replica” is underselling it a bit. Molnar makes what are basically recreations of the original Manx bikes, similar to “continuation” Cobras. They’re the real deal in every way, except that they weren’t built fifty years ago. In many ways, this is actually more desirable to anyone who wants to use the bike in anger, since they won’t be risking an irreplaceable piece of racing history and will get a very authentic experience racing one of the most perfectly designed and executed motorcycles of all time.