c.1925 Norton 490cc 'Model 18' Motorcycle Combination
Frame no. 18764
Engine no. 5166
Like the majority of their contemporaries, Norton relied on the sidevalve engine until the 1920s, when the existing and well-tried 490cc unit was used as the basis for the firm's first overhead-valve design. Penned by James Lansdowne Norton himself and first seen in prototype form in 1922, the overhead-valve Norton made little impact in that year's Senior TT, though at Brooklands D R O'Donovan raised the world 500cc kilometre record to over 89mph using the new motor. A road-going version - the Model 18 - was catalogued for 1923, quickly establishing a reputation for both speed and reliability when a standard engine assembled from parts was used to set a host of records, including a new 12 hours mark. Alec Bennett won the Senior TT for Norton in 1924 and, demonstrating that racing really did improve the breed, the Model 18 gaining Webb forks and better brakes for 1925 as a direct result of the works team's experiences.
The Model 18 retained its essentially vintage characteristics until 1931 when the range was extensively redesigned, the most obvious external alteration in its appearance before then being the adoption of a 'saddle' tank on the 1929 range. Today the Vintage Model 18 enjoys landmark status as Norton's first overhead-valve roadster and is highly prized by discerning enthusiasts.
The machine offered here consists of a circa 1925 frame and a 1923 engine. Numbered '5166', the latter started life as a 490cc sidevalve unit fitted to a Model 17C (Colonial) that left the factory on 17th February 1923. It is not known when the Model 18 overhead-valve top-end was fitted. This motorcycle previously formed part of the collection belonging to the late Bill Fruin and was purchased by the previous owner when the Fruin Collection was auctioned by Phillips in 1984 (Lot 236). It should be noted that the sale catalogue incorrectly recorded the engine capacity as 588cc and that the machine was offered with the wrong logbook. There is no mention of a sidecar in the catalogue description.
The current vendor purchased the outfit, which had already been restored, in 2004 and advises us that the sidecar body was rebuilt in 2008 (original panels available). Presented in generally excellent condition, this lovely OHV Norton flat-tanker is offered without documents.