Monday, March 17, 2008

'One Long Term Owner'

by John de Kruif
1927 Norton 16H
Documentation on your old bike is such a neat thing. It gives you a feel for what a bike went through in it's long life, and transforms it from a piece of metal into a part of history.

I've had a soft spot for Nortons ever since I bought a 1969 Mercury 650cc twin many years ago. The Mercury got too modern to my changing taste and was sold, but it got me hooked on the solid feel of the famous brand. A 1935 ES2 followed, and the next step surely had to be a genuine flat tank Norton. I had a strong preference for one of the later models (built from 1926 to 1928) as I envisioned that the better forks, larger brakes, and automatic oiling would make riding these bikes much more pleasant.
Late flat tank Nortons are thin on the ground; whenever one came available, they were either too expensive or just 'not right'. After a year, a very nice 1927 16H cam up for sale at Verrall's; the pic with the green siding is copied from their website. But I was too late; when I contacted them the bike had already been sold. Another year went by and I even advertised for a flat tank Norton in the 'wanted' section of Old Bike Mart, to no avail.
I decided to contact Verrall's again, to see if they could find one for me; 'Sure' was their response, and they sent me a photograph, the top pic. It was OX2094 again, the only difference being that the horn had mysteriously lost its black paint! Apparently the buyer had changed his mind and sold the Norton back to Verrall's. The price was reasonable and I bought the bike in Dec. 2005.

Back to the documentation; the bike came with a VMCC certificate, which included all despatch details present in the original Norton factory records. These are in 'engine number order', and if you provide your engine number they'll send you a document which lists the numbers and types of all major components originally fitted; frame #, magneto, gearbox #, carb, tire size and chains fitted. In addition, the certificate lists the despatch date (8/3/1927), the selling agent (Premier Motor Co), and the original owner (AN Gough from Warminster, Near Banbury), who acquired the Norton on 10/10/27.

These data don't completely match the DVLA certificate which came with the bike (and which I tend to believe). These indicate a first registration date of Sep.26, 1927, with owner Donovan Edward Lafford, from Warwick (which matches the Warwickshire tax disc ('32) which came with the bike. According to the DVLA, Donovan kept the Norton until 2001 (74 years!). Next owner was Paul Donovan Lafford (son? grandson?) from Wellesborne, Warwickshire, who officially acquired the 16H on June 1, 2001. Paul Lafford sold the bike to Verrall's, and Paul Eason owned the bike for less than a year before selling it back to the dealer, who sold it to me in 2005. I enjoyed the bike for two years before buying a '28 Model 18, and selling the 16H to Franz Bergmaier of Austria.

All numbers and items in the VMCC certificate correspond to the parts still fitted to OX2094. A nice detail - the original Coventry magneto chain is still fitted. The bike wasn't worn out, but showed some signs of use (on wheel bearing cups etc) . The frame had been brush-painted black many years prior, but the general feel was of a low-mileage machine which had been well cared for. Most nuts and bolts are original and look untouched. It feels very solid, without the usual wear on forks, gearbox, and brakes, which you might normally find on such an original machine. It goes very well; not exceptionally fast, but will cruise all day at 80km/hr (50mph).

My guess it that Donovan Edward used the bike for a few years, then stored it in a shed. He kept it well greased and touched up paint which had deteriorated in storage. If he had purchased the Norton at age 20, he would have been 94 when it changed hands next! I imagine him having fond memories of days with the 16H, and, as an old man too fragile to ride, walking into his shed, patting the saddle, and thinking back to when he and his bike were young, impressing the girls with his stylish and sporting Norton. Happy Days!

1 comment:

nesster said...

Lovely sounding Norton flat tanker.
And a treat to watch the pushrods too!
Great site Pd'O
-Chris Barrie , Ontario Canada
1939 Mk VIII KTT replica