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BIR Bike of the Month: Michael Latham's Norton
This “Bike of the Month” started out as a low cost option to a Norton P 11 on EBay. I have always wanted a P 11 but the current bids of $6,000 were, I thought, a bit over the top. I just couldn’t see spending that kind of money on a bike I couldn’t see and when I added the estimated shipping cost I was soon out of budget. I mentioned this to my buddy Don, who was a fully certifiable Norton Nut. and he said he had all the stuff needed to build whatever I wanted and would sell me a Featherbed Frame, Atlas Motor, Tranny, a Cerriani GP front end and tons of odds and ends for $1500.00.
Well it seemed like a no brainer and a chance to build a one off bike for less than, or so I thought, than the P 11 was going for. Two years and between $12 and $15 K later the bike was done. I stopped keeping track of the money going into this thing as the drain on my funds was keeping me up wondering what I had got myself into. It became an obsession and I was in to deep to just stop so I just stopped counting.
The basics of the bike are a 1963 Featherbed frame and a 1968 Atlas 750 cc motor. Front end was a brand new never used Cerriani GP front end that Don had purchased back in the day to use on a bike he always wanted to build but never had the funds for. Little did I know that he was gently maneuvering me to help him build his dream bike. And what a dream, a go fast Café Bike that would showcase the Norton Marquee with the power and handling that made them the bike to beat both on and off the track.
Built from the ground up out of bits and pieces he collected over the years when people were literally throwing parts out the machine took shape and Don’s dream became a reality that unfortunately he never got to see finished. Don Ford the driving force behind this bike was killed in 2006 as the victim of a double hit and run accident. The bike was 90% done at the time of his death leaving me to finish it as a tribute to his skills and vision. As a tribute to Don I had the part no plate on the mag engraved with his birth date and the day of his death and the sobriquet GBNF…in some small while he didn’t get to ride it before his demise he is with the bike every time she is out for a romp.
Enough of this here are the facts that make up the essence of this machine.
Atlas motor completely rebuilt including crankshaft hardware, bearings etc. Rods and crank polished, Titanium valves and performance springs with titanium hardware, three angle valve seats, Hepolite pistons, Combat Cam and Head. A Lucas F2 magneto provides the fire and eliminates the need for a battery. In final assembly the base gasket was eliminated raising the compression of this motor to something close to 10:1, and yes it is a real beast to kick over.
One of the most notable features of the motor was the adapting of a Commando primary to the Atlas motor. This exercise in engineering provided a more oil tight engine and included the benefit of a triple row primary. The factory Atlas primaries were of stamped steel and tended to warp and leak like a proper Brit. The Commando, on the other hand, is a cast aluminum unit with O-ring sealing and is for all intents and purposes leak free.
The Cerriani forks were disassembled and new seals installed everything else was perfect as they had never been used before. The front fender is a Dunstall fiberglass model while the front hub is from an early 70’s Honda with the dual discs from a similar era Honda bike. The headlight is a reproduction of a type early Brit bikes used extensively. Gauges were rebuilt with gray faces that were used on the original Atlas. Bars are Clubman style providing both street riding comfort and clip on low rider position for track days…not that I will ever ride her on a track but you never know.
Bodywork consists of a fiberglass 5-gallon Manx replica tank and seat. The rear fender is a steel model that is a duplicate of those used on the Manx racers that has been extended to allow for a license plate and light. The tail light is off a P 11 to remind me of the way this all got started.
The tank is gel-coated silver with the accent stripes and logo painted on and all covered with clear coat. Fenders, frame and misc. bits are all painted black.
Rims are Excel shouldered units with stainless steel spokes. The rear hub is off a Commando providing both the cush drive of the Commando along with the quick tire change feature of the design.
Other custom bits include a lightweight aluminum chain guard, and a 4-quart custom oil tank. A Lockhart thermostatically controlled oil cooler keeps the motor running smoothly even in our hot Florida summers.
While the bike was built as a rider it has been in several
shows that included a second place finish in the Boca Raton Concours in
2008. A tribute to Don and his skills and knowledge.
Member #228 - Norton63
Brit Iron Rebel