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The 1950 Isle of Man meeting on June 10 was a mix of the new and old…

New was Geoff Duke, signed by Norton to compete in the Junior and Senior events after winning both the Clubman’s TT and Manx Grand Prix the year before.

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Number being painted on W Hall’s Triumph 500, Bottom left the 3 Norton teammates , # 57 Geoff Duke

Norton also introduced the new ‘Featherbed’ frame, developed by the McCandless brothers, the combination of Duke and the Featherbed were instantly competitive. The light, trim, all welded (rather than lug and tube) frame lowered the bikes centre of gravity and had a shorter wheelbase which suited the challenging TT course.

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The TT said goodbye to pool petrol, and its was immediately celebrated by record laps in all three classes.

Duke’s debut in the seven-lap Senior was amazing. Riding the new Norton, he led from start to finish, smashing both race and lap records, winning in 2 hours 51 minutes 45.8 seconds.

Artie Bell’s Norton took the Junior honours with Duke runner-up as Harold Daniell filled the last podium place in his final TT. It was at the Junior prize-giving ceremony that Daniell commented ‘the new Norton was so comfortable that you could sleep on it-rather like being on a feather bed’, so creating the frames name.

Whilst Norton’s success in both Junior and Senior TT’s was clear, the Lightweight produced one of the closest finishes of all time. Just 0.2 of a second separated Italian Dario Ambrosini’s Benelli and Maurice Cann’s Moto Guzzi after 264 nail-biting miles!

Race Build Up…

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Spectators check out H Daniell’s works Norton 500 prior to the Senior TT

The development of the Norton frame is an interesting story about advancing technology. In 1949 racer and self taught Belfast motorcycle engineer Rex McCandless began working on a new type of frame which used a welding process developed during the war. ‘Sif bronze welding’ used an alloy that melted at lower temperatures but had high tensile strength and can be built into fillets.

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Mechanics fettle Duke’s Norton pre-race

A works 500 engine was mounted into the frame which was lighter and stronger than Nortons ‘garden gate’ frame. Tested at the IOM by Bell against a standard frame bike ridden by Duke, it was much quicker, further tests at Montlery near Paris, proved its speed.

In January 1950 McCandless and Norton’s Edgar Franks took the frame and the McCandless jigs to the Reynolds Tube Company who built the frames from their famed 16 gauge ‘531’ high tensile steel tube on their own jig adapted from the Norton approved McCandless one.

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Reynolds were to keep quiet the fact that they built the frames, rather than Norton themselves, but of course their origin soon became widely known. In a great example of ‘racing improves the breed’ the ‘Featherbed’ found its way into Norton’s production bikes in concept if not street frames actually made from ‘531’ tube.

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Nice side on shot of Duke’s new ‘Featherbed’ Manx. Reynolds 531 alloy steel frame either made by the McCandless Bros or by Reynolds on the McCandless jig depending on the reference. Either way a great step forward, Nortons frame design until the mid-sixties ‘Isostatic’

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Duke and his Norton teammates before the off

Whilst the IOM Official website is quite useful i haven’t been able to find a competitor list with numbers to identify the bikes, other than those which had captions which i have reproduced. If you can help with any of the captions please get in touch. Once again, the photography of  ‘Picture Post’s’ Bert Hardy inspired this article. So, whilst it may lack a little of the detail hopefully Bert’s fantastic, evocative shots make up for it!

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Senior TT Race…

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Senior TT competitors commence the race

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C Horn, Norton

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R St J Lockett, Norton 500

Finish…

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Geoff Duke #57 and Artie Bell both on wworks Manx Norton ‘Featherbed’ 500’s race for the finishing line

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Norton teammates Harold Daniell, Geoff Duke and Artie Bell, Isle of Man Senior TT 1950

Photo Credits…

All photos by Bert Hardy

References…

iomtt.com, nortonownersclub.org

Tailpiece…

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Comments
  1. Brilliant record & photo graphs of a golden period of motor cycle racing

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