Wednesday, January 28, 2009

RIKARD'S FIRST LOVE; 1931 NORTON

By John de Kruif

James Lansdowne Norton designed the company’s first experimental overhead camshaft (OHC) engines in the mid-1920s. After his death, Walter Moore took over development of this engine, resulting in the birth of the CS1 (‘CamShaft 1’) in 1926, an engine best known for the ‘cricket bat’ timing case. Moore also designed a new cradle frame which was shorter and stronger than the previous flat-tank design; the new combination did very well, until Moore redesigned the cylinder heads in 1928. According to Stanley Woods in a 1990 interview, Moore ‘made a complete mess out of it’; the redesigned engines were troubled by overheating due to a poor design of the combustion chamber. The TT races for that year ended with very few Norton victories. The heated discussions which inevitably followed resulted in Moore quitting his job [and moving to NSU – there is speculation that Moore intentionally hexed his engine, after being denied a seat on Norton’s Board of Directors - pd'o], saddling Norton with an OHC engine with a lot of room for improvement. A new OHC engine was designed by Arthur Carroll and Joe Craig, leading to the launch in 1930 of one of the most successful and good-looking engines ever. In 1931, Edgar Franks updated the Norton range, and in 1932 the famous International Models 30/40 were introduced. These were the road-going replicas of Norton’s OHC racing machines which had won many races. The CS1 name continued, although now reserved for the touring version of the OHC models; prior to 1932, the CS1 was the sportiest Norton available from the catalogue.

I bought CS1 Norton a year ago, in a condition described by previous owner Paul d’Orleans [gulp] as ‘The King of Bitza’s'. This description is an overstatement as the numbers have been checked with the Norton factory records and the frame turns out to be a genuine CS1 item, shipped to Germany on 30th of May 1931. The engine was replaced at some point, but is the correct early type, once fitted to a 1932 International M30 model - the basis for a very decent restoration, but most other bits are a blend of replica parts, newer Norton parts, and even a rear wheel from an Indian! I started assembling whatever would fit to ‘look right’, without worries about originality for now. A problem with these early 1930’s Nortons is a lack of reliable literature and pictures, so determining what the CS1 looked like when new is difficult.

Into our story comes Sven Jerksjö from Sweden, and the CS1 his father Rikard Jerksjö bought new and is still in his son’s possession. Luckily, Rikard had a decent camera and made quite a few pictures of the bike when new. “My father’s CS1 was dispatched to Arthur Nyström, the Norton agent of Trollhättan, Sweden on the 29th of June 1931.” Extra fittings and modifications made at the factory included a Magdyno, conversion to foot change, a speedometer reading in kilometers and a headlamp with chrome rim. The original owner planned to race it in local competitions and to that purpose it was stripped by the Swedish agent of the lights and the silencer. The cylinder head internals were polished, a Lucas magneto and a straight-thru exhaust pipe were fitted. Once the work was finished however, the customer who had ordered the Norton found himself in financial difficulties, and not being able to pay for this expensive bike the order was cancelled. Then Rikard walked into the showroom and at the age of twenty bought the CS1 that would serve him for the rest of his life. Rikard did not bother to refit the electrics and kept the Norton in racing trim. For the next nine years he used the CS1 for daily transport, enjoying this fast machine on trips to work and for fun in the weekends. Then World War II started and being very fond of his Norton he stored it for the duration of the war.


After the war, Rikard continued to enjoy his Norton. Small modifications were made, like a tiny bicycle dynamo fitted to the rear wheel, powering the taillight. In 1953, a Norton four-speed gearbox replaced the original three-speed Sturmey-Archer 'box.

Somewhere in the mid 1950’s, Swedish law required that all vehicles should be fitted with proper lights and the Lucas magneto was replaced by a combined Bosch magneto/dynamo unit to power ignition and a Miller headlamp. In 1951, Sven was born and the earliest childhood memory he has of motorcycles is of his father’s CS1.

In the early sixties, disaster happened when Rikard lent the CS1 to a friend who was so overcome with the speed of the Norton that he crashed it into a stone wall. He flew over the handlebars and luckily also over the wall and walked away without serious injuries; the CS1 however suffered badly in the accident. Frame, forks and the front rim were bent and the tanks, both mudguards and other fittings were mangled. Not wishing to part with his beloved CS1, Rikard repaired the motorcycle, but many parts such as the front mudguard and the handlebars with fittings were replaced in the process.


The Norton was the primary family transport until Sven’s father bought his first car 1967. The pictures show him in 1969, still the proud owner of his first love. In that year, Sven got his driving license and he used the CS1 for two seasons before upgrading to a more modern Velocette. The CS1 continued to be used by Sven and his father though it was joined by a 1959 Norton Model 99 Dominator that Rikard, getting older, found easier to start and handle. He used his Dominator every summer until he passed away at the age of 69 in 1980.

The CS1 at that time was due for some major maintenance and for lack of time it was left in the basement of Sven’s mother until 1992, when Sven started to rebuild it to its former glory. As he intends to rebuild it to the exact condition in which his father bought it, progress is slow. The frame and front forks needed additional straightening after the unfortunate event in the early sixties. The rear mudguard was salvaged after the spill but a new replica had to be made to replace the front guard. Many nuts, bolts and other fasteners were refabricated to original specification. The engine has been rebuilt by now but the correct three speed Sturmey Archer gearbox that was recently sourced awaits his attention. Sven is still looking for parts that were lost over the years and he has yet to find a suitable original primary chain case and the handlebar fittings.


The story and the pictures provide us with a valuable insight into what the first Carroll-Craig Nortons looked like when new. And we may draw the conclusion that a motorcycle bought new at the age of 20, rebuilt after a complete write-off in the early sixties (when no one cared about bikes), and kept in the family ever since, must be very good!

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Great in depth article. It's amazing how these old bikes become talismans for a family's history. They are so loved and cherished probably because they give less grief than that mean old alcolic uncle, crazy brother or holier than thou aunt. Good luck with your restoration.

JerryKap

Anonymous said...

That story is so typical of Swedes; when I worked on a square rigger they would take massive pays cuts just to get a berth, many of them had prewar cameras handed down through the family, great respecters of good things dave

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
Just wanted to drop you a quick line to say Hi and thank you for putting together such a great blog. I stumbled across it a few weeks back. It's a great read but what makes it, I think, is the amount of quality photo's you include - well done! Looks to me like it would take up a lot of your time. I for one really appreciate it and visit it every other day.

I was particularly interested in your article on Keith Hamilton as I lived in Adelaide for about 15 years (now live back in New Zealand) and recognised a lot of the landmarks that he spoke about. I was also in the RAAF but quite a few years later than Keith!

Cheers
Steven
Te Anau
New Zealand

Anonymous said...

Very good blog.

Thanks for the nice description of the 1st 4 cylinders as created by my grandfather.

My father, last son of Paul Kelecom is still alive and add worked at the FN motor cycles times.

Are there info you are interested in in and that we could provide ?


Baudouin Kelecom