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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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So what are your specific concerns? everything sounds on the up and up and there is even some racing history you can research on your own. I'm not norton expert but it looks like a solid bike.

The tank looks like a manx tank that someone modified to take an oil tank in the back of. I've seen others like it before but I don't know if it was pro made or just something someone made. There is at least on repop of that style out of india:
I guess what most of my issue is first not being able to see the bike before buying it and second having no knowledge about English bikes. It does seem like a solid bike and in the end as long as I like it, that's all that matters.
Well, you bought a non-runner so....I'm not sure what you are expecting. Even if the bike shows up and there are no engine internals and all the bearing surfaces are gouged, it isn't hard to find parts to make an entire engine out of it and refinish it. It also isn't expensive and these bikes are stone simple. It's not like a cb750 rebuild where it is cheaper to just find another running engine, these things were dodgy quality when new and 50+ years of people racing and fixing them have created a huge knowledge base and aftermarket.
It's a brit bike - there is nothing that money can't fix.
That's good to know. It was not my intention to restore the bike or even ride it. I like original bikes, I know this is not original as it left the factory but I hope it is period correct as in the parts it was setup to race with. I think the bike is a survivor and should be kept that way. I also like that it has some battle scars, it would be nice to know the story behind them. At some point I may make an attempt to start the bike, if and when I do I'll reach out for help. I'm sure it's not like getting a jap bike going again.

Does it have cork floats in the carburetor :D I bet those would look just peachy after a few decades of neglect.

does it have a kick starter! lol oh ya you're fu*k'd

... holy look at the front wheel weights! -> a new tyre and a litre of liquid balancer might slightly reduce that problem ;)
You know it's funny you mentioned the weights, there are two pics of the bike, one I downloaded from the second owner and one 46 years later. They show the same weights in the same exact position maybe the same tires. If they weren't changed maybe nothing else was changed in 46 years, it was one of the things I like about the bike.
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Thanks for all the info. I just received some of the documentation, tons of info very detailed. There is also mention in a letter of crossing the start finish at 130 mph 9000 rpm. It's a lot to go through, everything is there from 1963 to 1974, all the measurements, work done to the crank, valves carbs and so on also mention of 57 H.P. Floor Paper
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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.
I will get you some pics when I receive the bike. Thanks
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 etween 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?
Well now I really don't know what I'm going to do with it, if it was in boxes like the one you did I would restore it but I think it deserves to be left like it is, and the people on this forum are right it should run. I really don't want to neuter it, so maybe there is a happy medium. Your right about the cams and springs and mention of 11:1cr

I knew I read 9000rpm/ 130 mph while breezing through the paperwork, did not see the date or read the whole thing. Those numbers were from a different bike, he does mention the 650 revs to 8000 and the inlets hit the pistons around 7205 then new springs and then the exhaust floating at 7800. And thank you for taking the time to write all this info. BTW I have never owned a British bike, this should be a good one to start with. Text Handwriting Document Paper Dust
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Ok, I've been gone and busy the last three weeks with my first daughter getting married in N.J. Just got back home. I see I have some catching up and reading to do. I talked to the shipper on my way through Louisiana this morning, the Seeley gets dropped off in a fortnight then he's off to get the 650. I know it taking a long time but Chad has been moving bikes for me a long time and I dont have to worry about anything.
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