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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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The magneto is one sold by Joe Hunt at one time. I have the same mag that used to be on a Norton race-bike. The only difference on my mag is the finned cover actually says "Joe Hunt" on it, probably just an earlier or later run of castings. I e-mailed Hunt about it a number of years ago and they did not have much to say about it except that if I wanted replacement parts for it that they would have to see the mag or good photos of it's points etc. before they could tell me if they could supply them.

I agree that the bike should be kept as original as possible as a tribute to it's past builders/owners. I used to talk to Edward Bilton-Smith about Norton bikes and he sent me a lot of photos of his old bikes and him racing at one point a number of years ago. This bike is not his original racer from the early 60s that he won a championship on, but I think it originally belonged to a friend of his back then and he must have later ended up with it, and maybe he did work on it. Ed's original racer was one of the blue-Manxman bikes. He first raced it in almost standard trim with all it's street cycle-parts and blue paint, as time went by he ditched more and more of the original bike and in it's last version all that was left was the 650cc engine/gearbox stuck into a mid-50s Manx rolling chassis. After Ed won the championship with the blue Manxman, at the last race he let a competing rider take it for a lap and that rider blew the engine to pieces on a back part of the track were he was out of everyone's sight, Ed was sure he did it on purpose so he did not have to race against it anymore, for quite some time nobody could stay with Ed no matter what bike they rode against him with.

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. He won lots of drag-racing trophies with the bike too. He never saw the bike after he sold it, it did not get put back together and get back on the track, the shop could not duplicate Ed's engine-building skills, he was an expert machinist and a smart guy to boot.

The old photo I have of this bike shows it with street lighting and equipment still on it, so at a later point in time, maybe after Ed got it he turned it into a racer and modified the engine for racing.

This could be the last existing bike and engine that is intact that Bilton-Smith tuned back in the day, so it certainly is more important than the wishes and whims of any present and future owners of the bike, maybe Ed's son would like to have the bike? Lots of time should be taken deciding what to do to the bike to preserve it and it's history. If some butcher gets their hands on the engine and bike they may damage it or erase some details that will be lost forever, and that would be a shame. I certainly would not let Paul Zuniga get his hands anywhere near it until you call known expert Jim Comstock and ask him what he thinks about Mr. Zuniga as a Norton mechanic.
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by 1961 Norton start fitting nodular iron cranks (spherical graphite) to it sports bikes 88ss, 99ss and 650ss,
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.

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. Utilisation of inlet and exhaust pulse was were most radical work was done by factory and home tuner (if they had the money).
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.......
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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!
Pssssst. Norton did not sell a 650cc twin, the subject of this thread, until the 1961 model year, so your information on crank material for Nortons, which I don't believe anyway, would be irrelevant. Again, AJS and Matchless could not "adopt" the same material as Norton as their twin cranks were nodular iron, Norton cranks were steel except for the central flywheel. Matchless started the nodular iron in their cranks around 1960, my old man was a Matchless dealer/racer right at that time. The improvement Norton made in 88/99 cranks for 1960 was not in material, but in simply making the wall of the rod journals much thicker.
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