Dee Atkinson & Harrison have been asked to auction a piece of local history in their next Classic Car and Motorcycle auction to be held on Saturday the 4th of November at Sledmere House.
The machine in question is a 1960 Manx Norton 348 cc, that was raced by Sheffield’s Bill Beevers, then Hull’s Noel Stephenson and then by local Driffield lad Ben Noble.
The Manx Norton was made from 1947 to 1962; a Norton contested every Isle of Man TT race from the inaugural 1907 event through into the 1970s, a feat unrivalled by any other manufacturer.
Norton's first use of the name “Manx” was applied to the “Manx Grand Prix” model available from 1936-1940, a special racing version of their International roadster, with telescopic forks and a plunger rear suspension, magnesium for the crankcases and cambox, and no provision for lighting. After WW2, the Grand Prix was dropped, and Norton named their 1947 racing model the Manx. It was a lightly redesigned prewar racing Norton International, an overhead cam single-cylinder machine available as a 350cc or 500cc. Fitted with the McCandless brothers eatherbed frame for 1950, the Manx gained a new lease of racing life as a racing machine, the new frame giving the fine steering necessary for high speed navigation of some very fast racing circuits of the time.
Norton pulled out of International Grand Prix racing in 1954, but the last Bracebridge Street Manx Nortons were sold in 1963 as the Manx had become the backbone of privateer racing.
This particular example was first owned and raced by Sheffield-born Bill Beevers, who began his motorcycle racing career on solos back in the early 1930s. His first Manx Grand Prix was in 1933 and resulted in a ‘DNF’ after his Norton expired on the first lap. By the time his racing career finished, he would have ridden in no fewer than 43 TT races, amassing 29 replicas. The 1960 event was his swansong due to his age of 55 and he entered three races, which resulted in his best Isle of Man Sidecar result: 6th place, which was backed up by 35th place in the Senior and 44th in the Junior on this machine.
He then sold it to Noel Stephenson from Preston, Hull, who raced it in the following Junior MGP’s, 1961 (retired), 1962, 37th, 1963, 31st, 1964, 12th, 1965, 31st.
In late 1965/early 1966 Yorkshire electrician/privateer racer Bernard (Ben) Noble of Driffield sold his 500 cc BSA Gold Star to fund the purchase of this Norton. Ben had previously raced the Goldie in the 1964 MGP (DNF) and the 1965 event (42nd) and was an established road and track racer. He was the first member of the Driffield and District Motor Cycle Club to compete at the TT and he was given £5.00 by the club to help with his expenses!
He competed in the six lap Junior MGP between 1966 and 1968, (46, 32, 46) followed by 1970 – 1976 (two DNF and his best place being 26th in 1983 at 78.51 mph) and then in the four lap Classic Junior MGP from 1983 – 1996 (one DNF and his best place being 19th in both1985 and 1985, his top speed being 81.86 mph in 1993).
During the 1960’s the engine was refreshed at the end of each season by W. & F. Stuart of Gloucestershire and at some point (Ben cannot remember when but probably in the late 1960’s) the engine was replaced for the current hairpin spring version. Later R.J.A, Petty of Farnborough looked after the rebuilds. For a period it ran with a five speed Quaife gearbox although now it has a period four speed one.
According to Ben’s notebook in 1966 he competed at Darley Moor, Cadwell, Oulton Park, Scarborough, Croft, Mallory, Brands Hatch and then the Manx Junior where he was given the number 37. He undertook nine practise laps with a best speed of 81 mph and a 27 minute 57 second lap. On race day his best lap was his second, at 80 mph and 28 minutes 13 seconds, he finished 46th of the 55 that finished that year with 98 bikes starting.
Machines like this rarely come on the market today; known racing history from new in 1960 until its last outing in 1996, in unrestored condition. This Manx is offered as it last raced with a 8” 2LS front brake, 7” rear, both on 19” rims with Avon tyres, the carburettor is a 1 3/8th Amal GP, metal 5 gallon tank, spare fibreglass 3 gallon tank and the distinctive red fairing that Ben always used. One notable feature is the webbing wrapped around the rear frame that he used to absorb the odd oil leaks from going on the rear tyre.
It comes with the original “pudding basin” helmet that Ben wore and featured in the July 1995 The Classic Motor Cycle magazine, his race notebooks and various receipts for works undertaken over the years. It will require recommissioning before use due to the period of inactively but will hopefully be back on the track again dicing with other period race machines.
The auction estimate is £15,000/20,000 (plus 10% buyer’s premium and VAT).