Posts Tagged ‘Norton Manx’

(P Coleby)

Ray Porteous’ JMW leads the John Fleming Austin 7 Spl at Darley, Queens Birthday weekend June 11 to 13 1960…

Darley Army Base, 8km from Bacchus Marsh is a reasonably obscure motor racing venue so Hugh Coleby’s upload of some photographs from his late  father, Peter Coleby’s collection on social media is hugely welcome. Gordon Dobies’s contribution in identifying the cars and drivers is gold too ‘one of the advantages of being old enough to have raced at those meetings and never throwing anything away’ he quipped.

The Preston Motorcycle Club conducted the meeting, whilst I have vaguely heard of the place I thought it was a ‘bikes only venue- clearly that is not so, members of the 250cc and 500cc car clubs were also invited along.

Bacchus Marsh was a tiny rural hamlet when I played in some tennis tournaments there as a kid, I still remember the wonderful lawn courts and Avenue of Honour as you drive into the town which is 60km from Melbourne on the Western Highway- the main road from Melbourne to Adelaide for you internationals.

These days its a big commuter town to Melbourne but when the 4000 members of 4th Infantry Training Brigade, the U.S Marines and others occupied the place they must have wondered what they had struck, Bacchus Marsh let alone Darley would have been microscopic!

Australian, American and Dutch (from the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia) soldiers trained at the camp located on a plateau with rolling hills in the background, before being shipped overseas many of them marryied local gals, the area was used for Citizen Military Force (remember the CMF?) training until the 1970’s.

(AIF)

 

Rifle training at Darley, trusty Lee Enfield 303’s by the look (AIF)

 

(AIF)

Robert Thompson wrote that his late grandfather, Lou Thompson built the camp in 1939- Thompson and Chalmers Pty Ltd took on Simmie & Co as an associate on the large project, Darley Military Camp had over 360 buildings including recreation huts, a Post Office and a 68 bed hospital on 160 hectares of land located at Camerons Road.

When the military moved out post-war most of the infrastructure went as well inclusive of buildings, but, critically, the roads remained, the site soon came to the attention of the Preston Motorcycle Club who were eagerly looking for a venue on which to race.

Ray Porteous, Austin 7 Spl (P Coleby)

 

Extreme narrowness of Darley evident in many of these shots, this one the start of the 1959 Junior A Grade- L>R Eric Hinton AJS 7R, #64 Owen Archibald Norton, #82 Ron Miles Norton, #1 Tom Phillis Norton, #2 Jack Ahearn Velocette. On row 2 are #25 Ray Blackett and Geoff Curley #14 (E Miller)

Working bees of club members soon filled trenches left by the removal of cabling, re-coated the road surface, cleared scrub and removed junk left behind by retreating military forces. By late 1947 the place was ship-shape with the first meeting held on 29 February 1948- the Hartwell and Kew clubs were invited along to join in the fun.

Open meetings soon followed, ‘the main straight, which had a left-hand kink in the middle, was only as wide as a two lane road, while the rest of the rack was even narrower. It made for shoulder to shoulder racing on solos and even closer encounters on outfits’ recorded Old Bike Australia.

Peeling off the Main Straight (Camerons Road) is #8 Alan Osborne, Honda and Tom Phillis Ducati in 1959 (MCN)

 

John Hartnett, Cooper Jap 497cc 1960 (P Coleby)

The Preston club guys were happy to hold a couple of well run meetings a year, fitting many races onto the card without chasing the major titles such as the Australian Tourist Trophy with all of the stars of the day racing there- Frank Mussett, Maurie Quincey, Bert Flood, Jack Ahearn, Keith Brien, Max Stephens, Rex Tilbrook, Alan Wallis, Ken Rumble, Kel Carruthers and others with Quincey the ‘local ace’ in the mid-fifties- he switched to cars later in life remember folks, an ANF2 Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam springs to mind. Max Stephens was another who tried four wheels, he owned and raced the ex-Brabham Cooper T40 Bristol, with some success out of Tasmania.

Easter Monday meetings were common early, the club then settled into a mid-year date on the Kings/Queens Birthday weekend which was usually a frosty, wet experience for both the riders and the punters. The Preston guys were also innovative in running the first one hour race for production machines during the June 1959 program.

Over the years various high profile car racers had a crack at the lap record,  Reg Hunt’s Maserati 250F did a 1:14.1 in 1955 which was bested by multiple Australian Hillclimb Champion Bruce Walton aboard a Cooper Mk9 JAP 1 litre twin in 1960 with a 1:10.8. At that stage the quickest of the bikes was the 1:13.5 achieved by both Eric Hinton and Tom Phillis.

Maurie Quincey and Matchless G80 (C or CS?) on the Darley grid, rider of #1 more interested in the babe behind than the race start!

And below is Quincey aboard an Elfin 600B Ford twin-cam during the 1971 Sandown Tasman meeting, it was after some involuntary aerobatics in this car at Sandown at about this time that he called it quits on his competition career.

By then Maurie was in his late thirties, well after his international bike racing career, inclusive  Isle of Man appearances and running a successful Honda dealership in Moonee Ponds, Melbourne. He died on July 19, 2019 six months ago- see a very interesting article about Maurie here; https://www.oldbikemag.com.au/maurie-quincey-victorian-dominator/

(L Hemer)

 

Maurie Quincey on Bray Hill during the 1955 IOM Junior TT- a splendid fifth aboard a spare works Norton Manx 350. He was offered the bike after going so well on his ‘customer’ 350 and 500 during practice (unattributed)

Back to Darley.

Kel Carruthers appearance on the Honda 250/4 in 1961 would have been really something to see and hear- i bet he frightened the kookaburras flying above the citrus trees in the valley below the track bigtime!  Kel won the Harvey Wiltshire Trophy Lightweight race slicing four seconds off the lap record in the process.

The final meeting took place in 1962, in a thriller of a race Trevor Pound and Ken Rumble passed and re-passed for the whole 15 laps with Pound winning by a bike length, both being credited with a new outright lap record of 1:12.8. Trevor Pound raced in the Manx classic too and never lost his passion for competition, he raced Formula Vees in his dotage.

Whilst plans were being made to race in 1963, on 10 June the farm owner withdrew his permission saying the continued rain in the region had flooded the pit and spectator areas and damaged sections of the track- at late notice the meeting was held at Calder, 30km away.

‘Racing never returned to Darley. A combination of primitive facilities, the narrow and uneven road surface and the remorseless march of civilisation spelled the end of the happy little track. Despite its shortcomings, the circuit had an enviable record for safety and a reputation for slick organisation. With nary a backward glance, the infield area was soon subdivided into building lots and small farms.’

To see the place, drive up Camerons Road, at the top of the hill you are on the plateau, about 100 metres on the right are the remnants of the final corner named ‘St Kilda Junction’ poking at you from a vineyard. At this point you are on the Main Straight with the former pit area- still dotted with concrete slabs from the place’s military past on your left. The straight is about 600 metres long- halfway along is a kink, and opposite that is a monument to Darley Military Camp.

Old Bike Australia concluded a great article with this ‘It takes a little imagination if you weren’t there…but if you stand on the kink and close your eyes, you can still hear the sound of a hundred motorcycles and a dozen or so cars from the 250cc and 500cc Racing Clubs, most with open exhausts warming up.’

‘Wafting through the air is the fragrant  mix of Castrol R and methanol, mingled with the aroma of Hines “Kerosene” pies. The pointed tents of the Hines Catering Company…appear in many of the period photos of Darley, and those who sampled the wares will tell you the kerosene stove that heated the pies produced a pastry of unique taste. A section of canvas behind the servery contained a special nook where the course announcer Frank “Farmac” McDonald and selected others could lubricate their tonsils with a cold ale between races.’

‘Fortunately, on the run back to Melbourne, you won’t have to cope with “Cunningham The Camera Cop”- the notorious plod who used to hide his Thunderbird beside the old stone bridge out of Bacchus Marsh and photograph any who transgressed by crossing the double centre-lines.’

Hasn’t the Old Bike Australia writer painted a wonderful, evocative picture of times long gone?

‘Moe’s Nose’ approach June 1960. South Aussies Ian Hogg and Peter Morgan

 

(C Rice)

Roger Barker leading Ron Miles, note the hay bales and beautiful Darley bush setting.

Barker is on a bike with a ‘Rimond’ fibreglass fairing, a product he helped develop in tests at Ballarat and Darley- these were made in Melbourne by former top clubman racer, Charlie Rice and Bob Edmonds, ‘Rimond’ a combination of their names, about 30 fairings were built. Barker was quoted in the English press as saying they were good for about 12mph or 200rpm using tall gearing. The bike could be a Norton.

The Mudgee born rider, having scored points at the Isle of Man and Assen on Nortons in June, died at Schleiz, Thuringia, East Germany in July 1957 having blacked out in the intense heat of the 500cc race whilst leading aboard a Matchless G45, the conditions were made worse by the engine heat the Rimond fairing trapped. He slid off the bike, hit a tree and died instantly from the impact.

Etcetera…

What to look for on your visit, Camerons Road, Darley 3340.

Credits…

Hugh Coleby, the late Peter Coleby, Gordon Dobie, ‘Old Bike Australasia’ 5 February 2018, Eric Miller, Lynton Hemer, Motor Cycle News, Jim Scaysbrook article on Roger Barker in ‘Old Bike Australasia’, John Wynne Collection

Tailpiece…

(P Coleby)

John Fleming, Austin 7 Spl leading followed by Mel Mason with a couple of unidentified JMW’s in the mix, June 1960. There was a big field of at least eleven cars on this narrow track- intrigued to know the full grid if any of you have a record of the race.

JMW’s were built by John Wynne and his father to fuel John’s passion for racing, click here for an interesting site about the cars; http://members.optusnet.com.au/~pwstone/jmw/jwstory/jmwstory.htm

John Wynne below at Tarrawingee in 1960, the other final shot is of the car at Phillip Island circa 1962.

 

Finito…

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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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