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1963 Norton 650SS race bike. Am I up shits creek?

12304 Views 56 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  Sluggo503
I know nothing about Nortons, I have been in the market for one and just bought this on eBay. I may have a POS or not. I have never bought a Ike on eBay and I'm quite nervous about it. Land vehicle Vehicle Motorcycle Motor vehicle Car

Here is some of the description
No reserve - high bidder owns this 1963 Norton 650 Sports Special Dominator. Clean and clear title in hand
This 650 Sports Special was active in the 1960's at local Pacific Northwest tracks where it was raced by Bob Waring. The cover of Cycle magazine from May 1965 features this very same Norton 650 motorcycle in action during the Canadian Motorcycle Road Race Championship race at the old Westwood Racing Circuit in Vancouver B.C. forever capturing a tangible piece of this bike's race history.

Bob Waring has since passed on and one of the two previous owners of this bike since Bob added the street legal trim as presently seen in the pictures. I purchased this motorcycle from the last owner as a buy and hold considering the fact the 650/SS model was produced in limited numbers for 2 years only (1962 and 1963) making it a very rare bike in the USA since only a handful were exported from the home market. The race history was icing on the cake in my purchase decision. Here's the specs:

Frame#: 20 1048xx. Featherbed slimline frame.

Engine#: 18SS1048xxP. Engine turns over, I have not tried to start it.

Wheels: Twin leading shoe 8" vented front and 7" rear.

Front rim: C.Borrani Record-19 x 2 1/4 -TD 324 A with Dunlop Racing KR76 3.00-19 tire
Rear rim: C.Borrani Record-19 x 2 1/2-TD 324 B with Dunlop Roadmaster TT100 3.60 H19 tire
These shouldered alloy rims are possibly from a BSA Goldstar...

Gas tank: Aluminum alloy dual oil/gas tank in the classic Norton design style with aircraft style flip-up gas caps and internal race style baffling from unknown maker. Paul Dunstall??

Bumstop seat: Fi-glass Limited of Edenbridge Kent is the name on the badge, made in England.

In true race bike form there is no center stand or even a kick starter-this bike is bump start only! I verified the engine turns over because the gearbox clicks through all the gears and in the top gears you can rotate the rear wheel by hand and hear the engine turning over. The gearbox inspection cap was taped over when I received the bike so I sealed the peephole again when I got it before I washed the bike and inspected it. It really is a period race correct bike with safety wiring on parts and evidence of racing hard as seen by the rash on the right header and very end of the right muffler (possibly Dunstall mufflers?). That seems to be the extent of the rash although the right clipon might have unseen end damage because the grips are unscarred and are newer Doherty units.

Carbs are Amal 1 5/32 Monoblocs with GP/TT type Amal remote float chambers. The frame looks good with some ancillary tabs removed, all the major mounting points are present and accounted for that I can determine. Frame and engine number and gearbox number will be revealed to the winning bidder only out of respect to the winning bidder (the last two numbers are all factory stock OEM stampings). It looks like the original 6v electrical system has been retained as evidenced by the 3 cell battery and the brakes actuate freely and the clutch lever still actuates the cable and hardware.
The front and rear hubs are Norton Manx magnesium hubs.
The front forks are Norton Manx and the swing arm is Manx too.
The gas tank is factory Norton but likely someone has welded the oil tank onto the Norton tank. The internal race style baffling is the correct dimpled hole design style as used by the Norton factory.
The magneto is special, no one as of yet has identified it and I find no stamped #'s or riveted tags, so if there is identification on the magneto body it is hidden by installation.
The two valve assembly on the right side under the seat is an anti-sumping oil line shut off valve. The lines to the oil tank are disconnected.
The toggle switches on the left side under the seat are for the charging system and lighting system. There is a handwritten wiring diagram explaining the function of these 2 switches in all the papers and letters and drawings and diagram specs I received in the purchase of this Norton
The 2nd owner of this 650SS was Sir Edward Bilton-Smith. The title for this bike is from 1974 and the name shown on the title is Edward C. Bilton-Smith. If you do a quick search on y0utube for "Sir Eddy Edward Bilton-Smith Norton Celebration of Life" video you will see this very same Norton 650SS you see here on eBay shown in that video at 3:29 into the video.

Also, a very knowledgeable Norton enthusiast has solved the magneto mystery. It's a Lucas square body 2MTT magneto but a rare and unique one with 2 spark leads.
Here is a pic of the bike from the video when Edward C. Bilton-Smith owned it Land vehicle Vehicle Motor vehicle Motorcycle Car
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Nice bike I would have bought it blind - no question.

That ain't no café racer, someone spent a lot of money on that bike back in the 60's, those wheels and fork would have cost 6 months salary in 63. That's a race bike.

Front forks are manx, so are the yolks c 1957 to 62.

The wheels are also Manx, in magnesium, front is the later type 2ls from 57 to 61. The date of the rear can be determined but you need to look inside specifically the cast webs. The magnesium is Electron and is quite stable, however they should be stripped and the hubs checked for cracks, stove enamelled after and rebuilt if they are OK. If you are precious you can remove the spokes (lots of penetrating oil 1st), have them plated and use again. Manx hubs were not chromated just painted.

Swing arm is also Manx.

The mag isn't a 2MTT. Better photo please and ill be able to ID it, has a PAL look about it.

Combined oil / petrol tank isn't a good idea though lovely warm oil heating the fuel = NO.

The 650ss is a great motor when prepared well. Weak points are rods (fit steel or Titanium if you are going to use in anger). The original pistons can nip up use forged items. The original cam (X1 or later X2 which is nitrided and the same cam used in the 750 commandos) with flat foot followers is nice and torquey. Or fit a PW3 my favourite. You can fit bigger valves and bore the seats but I wouldn't, standard valves with bored seats and skinny valve contact (4 angles). Mains are strong, pay close attention to the crank, rebuild with bolt kit from Steve Maney in the Uk. Re-balance is a must.

What carbs are they? The long inlet tracks were a normal mod in period helping hi RPM breathing.

Engine breathers look like SU items.

Nice thing, as I said I would have bought it.
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Each wheel is worth more than a 2MTT mag, so are the forks. The 2MTT is a single cylinder magneto. Lucas did make twin cylinder version for the domiracer project which are super rare. I have 70% of one and will get around to making the missing bits at some point.

The weak point of the 2MTT is the rotor which can come loose on its shafts. Bearing and condensers are available. You can modify SR/SR1 rotors to fit a 2MTT and the coils are easily rewound.
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Front rim: C.Borrani Record-19 x 2 1/4 -TD 324 A with Dunlop Racing KR76 3.00-19 tire
Rear rim: C.Borrani Record-19 x 2 1/2-TD 324 B with Dunlop Roadmaster TT100 3.60 H19 tire
These shouldered alloy rims are possibly from a BSA Goldstar...

All later manx used Borrani rims. Back in 1953 (I believe) at the IOM, Dunlop tyres proved troublesome and shed their treads on the TT course. Joe Craig complained to Dunlop about their lethal tyres, Dunlop respond saying it wasn't their tyres it was Joe Craigs works Norton's causing the problem. Joe wasn't an easy man to get along with at the best of times (being dour Scotsman) said "stuff" your tyres and he went and spoke with Avon who developed their classic GP tyre for the Manx Norton. Joe later refused to use anything else Dunlop. Norton works used their remaining stock of Dunlop rims, enter Borrani! Fact.

Note Joe Craig's Works Dept was like a completely separate organisation to the production bike business. The production bikes continued with Dunlops but the race dept used Borrani.

Goldstar used Dunlop.
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Yep that’s the way I see it!
The twin spark 2MTT see photo has the extra lead exiting front or on the drive end which faced the r/h side of the bike.
Machine Engine Technology Electronics Auto part

The Twin magneto for Dominator has both leads exiting at the back in the points area, I believe the Lucas ID was a 3MTT. Most of the bits I am missing are points end.

If I had a better photo I could determine what exactly what magneto it is, might be either PAL or BTH. Its possible that the mag is being used as a generator or perhaps just the point are being used for coil ignition - all done in the day.
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Just read that the carbs are monobloc, these will be chopped type i.e. no float chamber. Float chamber that I can see looks like a type 14.

I see the eBay description states 2MTT well the jury is out on that detail.
Not debating the value of a 2MTT versus the Manx bits and you would know better than I, but a functioning twin 2MTT must be worth a bucketload. The mag in the OP's fuzzy photo could also pass for a Scintilla. I think the one used on the Picador was along the same style.
£1200 will buy a good usable 2MTT.

You can buy replica 2MTT's with PVL guts for the same price. Externally they look identical but you have the normal problem associated with electronically switched ignitions namely short spark duration which isn't ideal for older combustion chamber designs.

Scintilla Magnetos - Never worked with one, I know some fitted them to Vincents. I wouldn't know one if I tripped over it.
I guess you now realise what you've got.

9000 and 130mph I don't think so - The 650ss was good or 115 in standard trim with a good motor at about 7200, Pushrod twins, especially Norton twin don't like massive revs and 9000 is way beyond engine busting territory. You should easily get 125-130mph at mid 7's with a tuned engine and a stripped out chassis. We've had the best part of 140mph on Manx gearing from a 500 domi engine. If you rev it to 9000 you'll blow it up. In standard form peak power output was around 6800ish, once the revs are past peak torque your killing the engine.

Next warning - I bet that bike has been run on Castor or "R", if it has the engine will need stripping and cleaning out. Modern castor based oils like Morris MLR40 are a blend of castor and synthetics, they don't gum up like old Castrol. Spotted a note regarding the gearbox oil in the docs published it says "30 or 40" that's R comes in two straight grades 30 and 40. So the gearbox will need stripping too. R is a one race oil, drain after and chuck it. DO NOT just fill the tank with oil and expect all to be fine, even after several flushes, the R will still be in the engine and tank. IT WILL NOT MIX WITH MINERAL AND MOST FLUSHING OILS, IT CAN EMULSIFY AND GUM and can take an epoch to dissolve even in a synthentic high detergent oil.

FINAL WARNING - Hopefully you will have owned and ridden a British bike which are nothing like a Jap, understood the vibration, the less than civil exhaust note and the even less civilised reluctance to behave themselves. They are robust things but you need to look after them. As a race bike in period it will have been stripped and checked every few meetings so I would recommend calming the engine down a bit or face regular bills. Looking at some of the chassis parts (and the ££££££'s spent) I would guess that the motor is far from standard so like for like parts will not be available. For example, if the cam is high lift you'll have heavy valve springs, you'll probably have nimonic valves in there too, all intended to support a race engine between 5000 and 8000rpm, at road speeds and lower RPM you'll be knocking the life out of cams, followers, valves and seat. The engine will be high compression somewhere between 9.5 and 11 :1 so the engine will not breath properly at low speed and the largish carbs will reduce lower rpm pick up and power delivery. Or rather you've got a ride that'll want to go 100mph everywhere with pistons and rods try to escape via the crank cases.

Will be interested to know what you do with it?
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This bike will be hungry for spanners, your time and your money. I kid you not.

With all the history I would preserve it, don't restore it. However the engine and box must be stripped and cleaned out and thoroughly checked over, lower the compression to around 9.5:1 and fit standard valve springs. Make sure the clutch cush works as it should and self imposed 6800rpm rev limit and not a single RPM more. A here's why, cylinder barrels and heads are getting rare, very rare in good usable condition and bloody expensive too. The 650ss was marketed as the Manxman 1961/2 in the US and 650ss after until 67 they were most expensive 650 road burner of the day = not too common. Parts therefore can be difficult and much that comes onto the market is on the edge of scrap needing a fortune spending on it to make usable. For example a good useable cylinder say 400-600 in the UK and a down draft head 700 -1000 complete with rockers but you'll still need to gas flow and modify say another 300 - 400.

If is legal to ride a bike on the road (I guess it will be a roadster) without lights where you are located I would remove them, return the appearance of the bike to period race spec. Replace only the knackered fasteners as maintenance is a nightmare if you don't. It is possible clean up and part restore a bike without loosing character - its a simple case of picking points to lift and leaving other bits take back the over all condition, you end up with a bike that looks "looked after". I wouldn't paint anything but cut and polish and touch in. Perhaps source another exhaust system and hang the old one on the wall, many of the period race bikes used painted exhausts, in the UK I can ask a supplier to supplier without chrome and ill paint after. True the exhaust will look new but for only a few weeks.

Over the years I have had all manner of Brits from standard roadsters to factory prepared Thruxton type racers and short circuit racers. So I must say that if you've never done the British bike thing a British race bike isn't a good place to start, they can be bloody frustrating and temperamental. I think you should send the bike to me as I have the perfect spot in my garage for it!

Happy to help by typing a few words, it's as cheap as chips to do and it's a good diversion from watching moralising UK and American made crap on TV. But advice is only advice if its taken.
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Never met the man...... Actually I knew that, age I think playing with grey matter.
actually i have heard that a low comp harley piston out of a ww11 postal fetcher is all a brit bike can handle,and thats a flathead
so keep sharp
I regularly run over 12:1 on racing brit engines. Photo is a modified 2 ring Manx piston for use in a pre 56 manx head compression is well over 12:1. See the squish platform on the piston? If you draw a line about half way between the top ring groove and the squish platform the section above the line is how much fits into the cylinder head at TDC. Compression isn't subtle on brit racer.

Metal Brass Tin

My comment with regards to the 650ss engine isn't suggesting they can't take it but rather the maintenance schedule can get rather busy and that with the higher revs required to take advantage of a big cam ad high comp pistons the valves have job to keep out of harms way.

Using a race engine on the road is a waist of money, you might take advantage of the extra horses once in a while but generally the engine is spinning at low-ish RPM and the engine works against itself. As I suggested earlier, stock springs and lower comp pistons around 9 to 9.5:1 is all you need to change and lower red line to around the peak torque point. With some confidence I can say the original race pistons will not be replaceable anyway, just put them in the heritage box.
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Your cams should be marked, if not you'll need to measure lift and duration but figures can vary due to wear and tear or just buy a new set to be sure. Vernier cams work well for perfect timing you can also alter timing to suit riding style or conditions. Goldies are notorious for not starting hot or cold. I have found that induction is lazy and the plug is often a dry as a bone despite carb/float flooding and kick priming. Remember cam form is a combination of cam, follower and rocker ratio.

Most British gearboxes are car like.
"A local bike-shop bought that 650cc racer with the blown engine from Ed and they were pissed because there were no racing parts in the engine, Ed had just blueprinted the engine and modified the stock parts so they worked much better, he also did lots of testing at the drag-strip to get the exhaust and intake-tract length optimized which he said made a big difference in power."

This isn't a surprise at all. Back in period there wasn't much available unlike today.

Most of the period race engines that are road / production based used modified internals. The Norton twins' weak point was conrods and crank but by 1961 Norton start fitting nodular iron cranks (spherical graphite) to it sports bikes 88ss, 99ss and 650ss, also other AMC twins like Matchless and AJS CSR twins too. This pretty much sorted the crank braking issues. Rods were still suspect however so were regularly changed but always balanced and polished.

Nimonic steel valves were a usual mod (factory race kit and available to buy) much stronger than standard and perfect fitted valve spring length by shimming under the lower cup. There wasn't a huge amount you could do regarding camming either, as wide-ish valve angles made radical timing almost impossible without pocketing valves / pistons and loosing compression. As for race pistons? There was virtually nothing available so standard high compression SS pistons with a head skim either 20, 40, 60 thou to raise the ration a little more was also normal. But even standard high comp 650ss pistons are a difficult find today. Its fair to say that most internal engine mods were about reliability and not purely seeking peak horsepower. Utilisation of inlet and exhaust pulse was were most radical work was done by factory and home tuner (if they had the money).

Interestingly Triumphs Thruxton T120 bikes from 65 (factory specials) were quite standard except for cams and followers, 40 or 60 thou head skim, a good port shape and 1 3/16 monoblocs, with stepped down small bore header pipes (with balance) all good for 135mph with a fairing. Likewise AJS and matchless factory prepared racers were similarly prepared. Or rather nothing special. I have owned a genuine Triumph Thruxton Bonneville from 65 and AJS Model 31 CSR Thruxton from 61.

I guess when thinking about some of these older bikes you have to set aside modern ideas and think "period".

If the bike is looking for a new home, it can come over this side of the pond and live in my workshop and in the company of Manx's, race Domi's and even the odd XRTT after a little sympathetic and gentle preservation.
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Wrong. Norton cranks were always forged steel with a cast-iron central flywheel. Being an SS made no difference at all, the same cranks were used in all the bikes across the board. For 1961 the 88/99 cranks were made stronger by making the internal sludge-trap smaller diameter, thus increasing the thickness of the rod-journal wall. Triumph bikes also had steel cranks with iron flywheels. It was Matchless that had the all-iron one-piece crank which switched to nodular iron about 1961.

Anyone should know the Norton twin had a narrow valve angle compared to the BSA or Triumph pre-unit twins, so would have less problems with cam timing and high compression, and anyone should know the 650ss got 9:1 compression with a flat-top piston while the Trumph and BSA 650s needed domes for the same ratio. The 650ss did not have any higher compression pistons than any other 650cc Norton twin, but there was a domed piston for the 99 that was sold by Norton starting in the late 1950s that was an option, and people put those into 650cc bikes sometimes after shaping the skirt for the larger 650 flywheel. Ed Bilton-Smith had the backside of his standard 650 camshaft ground to a smaller radius and he did not have to "pocket the valves". Any competent mechanic checks valve-piston clearance, so that point is moot. Taking advantage of intake and exhaust pulse cost the least of any engine modification as all it entails is making the exhaust pipes or intake manifolds longer or shorter, very easily and cheaply done.

The lesson is that the person who does the most talking might not know the most, but just enjoys hearing themselves talk the most.......
I usually can't be arsed with shit like this.

A few facts here - Yes Norton twin cranks are forged but there was indeed a material change in Norton cranks around 1960, Norton published a bulletin in one off the weekly mags either Motorcycling or The Motorcycle. Norton cranks broke when pushed hard so did Triumph, AJS and Matchless just broke!!! But the same material was adopted by AJS and Matchless to cure their crank failure issues in from 1961 (works and TT marshals bikes got the stronger crank in earlier). I don't think Triumph ever changed they seemed to snap in the same place on unit T120 and T140!

Speaking of valve angles - everything is relative and I said "ish" referring to Norton, I wasn't comparing to Triumph or BSA you did that. Its a simple fact that engines from this period had little scope for generating big rear wheel HP increases over standard, stepping from mid 40's to mid 50's or perhaps a little more was about as much as you could get from a 650 unless grenades are your thing. Reducing cam base circles or altering follower radius are minor mods on standard kit which was normal stuff to do but that's hardly radical is it. Neither are raised dome Domi pistons. To reiterate my point there was little available so you worked with what you had or could get. If you would take the time to read what I wrote you might feel less inclined to shoot from the hip. I have built more "proper" race engines than I care to remember from 4 stroke GP singles and twins to 2 stroke multis and have a good knowledge of the fitting process. Stepping from a engine like a Manx in which much can be altered to a road pepped parallel twin is bit like getting off a thoroughbred and jumping an a cart horse so I can be a little dismissive or understate the work required to make a pushrod engine go well. And for God sakes don't mention the Norton domiracer....

Surprisingly I have never had a well sorted 99 / 650 make more power than a sorted unit T120 with its wide valve angles and high domed pistons - I have built quite a few of both. In fact the 31CSR I had with a head skim, sports cams and single carb would leave a 650ss for dead and pulled a healthy 126mph at Snetterton.

What are you building at the moment?

View attachment 91354

Look we are both knowledgeable guys and with prostate permitting we can have a pissing competition but you can stuff the "but just enjoys hearing themselves talk the most" last word freak thing straight back up your arse.
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on a side note do you use any slick coatings on parts that can benefit from it ?ie piston skirt thrust faces,cam lobes,non rolling element lifter faces etc ?i started using
it in 1980 orv so when a friend of mine multi-time national champion sidecar racer larry coleman, who was sponsored by kal-gard, introduced it to us...
my experience esp on 2 stroke pistons is that it is/was quite beneficial
on my own race bikes ,air-cooled jobs, kawasaki and rotax

coleman piloting the number one
View attachment 91442

Yes I use oil!

On new builds I use the oil intended for running in or if the engine is just stripped for a check I use the oil the engine has been running on. For general or race use shell bearing engines I use a full 3 ester synthetic, Miller in either 10-60 or 10-40. For running in I use a mineral on steel liners or manufactures recommendation for plated.

I use an assembly lube on plain bearing bottom ends for new assemblies.

For roller bearing race engines either Morris MLR40 or MLR30, I don't use Castrol R although a great oil it too expensive. For road engines a straight 30 or 40 mineral, although I have been using a semi 10-40 specialist classic oil recently again from Millar oils and its excellent (seals great on older engines). I have also used Amsoil monograde full synthetic on some Harley race engines which works well always with a big pump though.

Some guys still mix "R" with fuel as a 2 stroke premix or a little in fuel as an upper cylinder lube - use Castrol R for this DON'T use Morris MLR as its a synthetic blend of castor, detergents and anti corrosives and doesn't mix well with fuel. If using pump fuel in a 2 stroke I will use XR77 (full synthetic) or similar quality BUT if using Avgas / pump fuel mix I use a different oil Castrol a474. But we all our own preferences.

I don't use additives.
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Well it only took you 5 years to reply.

The noddy cranks on AJS and Matchless CSR’s became standard fitment around 1962 however some 61 bikes got them. How do I know? Well I owned a 1961 factory prepared Thruxton, one of only a handful. Only marketed as an AJS and complete with Nodular crank and just one old Racer owner before me who raced it in the Thruxton and 1000km that year. It was absolutely original complete with battle scares and more paperwork from the AJS comp shop and Fred Neill regarding engine build spec and factory rebuilds that if bound up it would make an A4 book 3” thick. Not hearsay but fact.

It’s also a recorded fact that Matchless and AJS, also owned by AMC, adopted the same material as Norton cranks. I think i mentioned this in above posts. Interestingly Matchless / AJS crank breakages have been long discussed as to why so many failures, not just on the 650 twins but 600 and 500 twins too. One theory is bottom end flex, another is material and another is a lack of rigidity from the crank mouth up. I know of several racers in period who suffered crank failures on early machines but under advice fitted a 3/8" plate above the engine to brace top end and never had another failure - ugly but effective. Again recorded in period.

I didn’t mention anything about 650ss prior to 1961 however the 1st 650ss Manxman where built from 7 November 1960, the 1st bikes landed in the US before 1961.

Anyway have a good’un.

I only visit this forum every once in a helps me sleep.
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