Norton 250cc Manx Racing Motorcycle
Engine no. 85393
With motorcycle racing beginning to get back on its feet after WW2, one of the problems faced by privateers was the dearth of machinery suitable for the '250' class. Forced to choose between expensive Continental offerings or obsolescent pre-war machinery, many chose to build their own, there being nothing available from British manufacturers at that time. Norton's 350/500 Manx was the most advanced over-the-counter racer readily available to privateers, and many of these home-brewed 250s used modified versions of its overhead-camshaft motor.
One of the earliest in the field with his own 250cc Manx special was Ian Telfer, an engineering draughtsman from Harrow Weald, Middlesex who had already built quarter-litre Velocette specials based on the MOV and KTT. Telfer's first 250 Manx started out as a long-stroke 350, ex-Arthur Fenn, which was reconfigured with 'square' bore/stroke dimensions of 68mm for a capacity of 247cc. The downsized motor went into a standard Manx frame bought from tuner Francis Beart, who had removed its engine for use in a Formula 3 racing car. In August 1954 the IFT (Ian F Telfer) Norton was raced for the first time, by John Surtees no less, who finished 2nd at the Ibsley airfield circuit in Hampshire. Later that same year Surtees took two wins on the IFT: at Aberdare Park and Brands Hatch.
Telfer then rebuilt this original engine as a short-stroke unit, reusing its internals in another twin-cam Manx engine he was building for 'Buzz' Harris, proprietor of Aitchanbee Motorcycle of Wealdstone, Middlesex. Intended for use in Harris' Formula 4 racing car, the new 250 motor was first tested in Telfer's Manx at Silverstone where it impressed BSA development engineer Roland Pike. Pike invited Telfer to put his engine on the dynamometer at Small Heath, where it produced an impressive 26bhp at 8,000rpm, not at all bad for a 250 in 1957.
In 1960 Harris sold the engine to motorcycle racer Alan Day, who was racing a Norton Inter special fitted with an Ariel engine, a transplant that had necessitated removing the Featherbed frame's lower rails. Day fitted the Telfer engine and went racing, but shortly thereafter decided to retire, and in 1961 the Norton was sold. It then disappeared for some 15-or-so years before being rediscovered and restored by Peter Tucker's old mechanic 'Nobby' Clarke (not to be confused with the Honda Grand Prix race engineer of the same name). Telfer's bore-reducing inner sleeve had split and both it and the Norton original were pressed out and replaced by a single 68mm diameter component made by Serco. The gearbox is the same one in the machine when it was purchased by Alan Day. The original wheels had gone missing and were replaced by new ones built around BSA/Triumph conical hubs, the front's ribs being machined off. Numbered '85393', the engine's crankcases date from 1960 and may have replaced the originals in the course of the rebuild. Clarke's rebuilt 250 Manx subsequently featured in Classic Bike magazine (August 1995 edition, copy available).
The current vendor purchased the Norton around 18 years ago and since then has replaced the shortened frame with an uncut Manx example, correct for 1953. The result is a machine that more closely resembles the original 250 Manx built by Ian Telfer back in the mid-1950s, the engine internals of which this one incorporates. Last ridden at the VMCC's 'Festival of 1000 Bikes' in 2012, the Norton has not been ridden since then, though it has been started occasionally. It should be noted that there is no frame number visible.