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

12330 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 a 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.

That being said, somethings are going to need attending to beyond cosmetics. As mentioned earlier the manx mag hubs are a safety issue if they are real. mag parts might be hard to source, but you might just be better finding a newer mag for a norton (I think joe hunt still makes them). Amals tend to wear their slides to the point where they need replacement because they will constantly bleed air, so you might have to go through it, but you can buy new ones anyway, or convert to mukuni's since carbs have improved since the 1960's.

It's a brit bike - there is nothing that money can't fix.
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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.
First off....your intention should ALWAYS be to ride it. A lot.

You bought a proper pukka cafe racer. Don't be precious about it, if you wanted a collectible there are plenty of numbers correct Nortons you could have purchased, parked in a corner with no fluids, and stare at from a lawn chair while you drink beer. This bike really shines not on a show room but on a road. I understand about keeping the patina or history, but part of your responsibility of being a curator of something that has an interesting history is to add to it's history. Take it racing, ride it to a show, do something with it more than use it as furniture. Keep the old scars but add new ones.

Something, just occurred to me though....have you ever seen a featherbed special or racer in person? they aren't "big" like Japanese bikes. It's going to feel small and fragile when you are standing next to it. Don't be fooled - they aren't fragile, but it ain't a 1981 DOHC cb750F either.
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