The ex-Ernie Washer
c.1955 Norton 500cc Manx Racing Motorcycle
Engine no. 11M 63540
Dubbed 'Manx Grand Prix' in 1939, what would become the best-known racing motorcycle of all time had become simply 'Manx' when production resumed in 1946. Norton's over-the-counter Manx racers were much the same as their pre-war counterparts, with single-overhead-camshaft engine, 'square' cylinder head finning, upright gearbox and plunger-suspended 'garden gate' frames. Only the presence of the Roadholder telescopic front fork readily distinguished them from the '39 machines. 1949 brought the first significant change in engine specification, the Manx gaining a double-overhead-camshaft 'head like that enjoyed by the works bikes for many years, but the major development was the arrival of the Featherbed frame for 1951. The works' adoption of the McCandless-designed duplex-loop swinging-arm chassis the previous year had given the Nortons a new lease of life in Grand Prix racing, and Geoff Duke duly took both the 350 and 500cc world titles in 1951. The cycle parts remained essentially unchanged from then on apart from the adoption of a double-sided, twin-leading-shoe front brake for 1962. Manx engine development though, continued steadily, latterly under Doug Hele's direction, until production ceased at the end of '62, among the most significant design changes being the adoption of 'square' bore and stroke dimensions for 1954 and coarser-pitch bevel teeth in 1957.
This particular Manx Norton was previously raced by Ernie Washer, a regular Manx Grand Prix competitor who won the Senior race at record speed in 1958. Washer's sponsor was Mr E H Sadler, proprietor of the Forge Garage at Smallfield, near Horley, Surrey, who had bought two new Manxes a 350 and a 500 for the 1958 season, the engines of which were prepared by legendary Norton Manx tuner, Francis Beart. Beart's association with Messrs Washer and Sadler appears to have commenced a few years previously and this particular Manx had already passed into other hands when Francis told Lex du Pont of its whereabouts circa 1961. Bought by Lex from its then owner, the Manx was raced by Jack du Pont at Daytona Beach in 1962. In 1963 the engine was installed in Lex's Formula 3 Cooper, powering him to a 3rd-in-class finish at Brands Hatch in the August Bank Holiday meeting and a win at the Brighton Speed Trials. Noteworthy features of this particular engine are its special main bearings and flywheels (stamped 'Beart'). Offered on a bill of sale.
- Please note, the actual engine number for this bike is K11M63640