1948 Norton 490cc 500T Trials
Registration no. ZJ 129 (ROI)
Frame no. 19878
Engine no. D3T 19878
Norton's post-WW2 trials campaign got off to a false start in 1947, the heavyweight, iron-engined Model 18 roadster, fitted with the new hydraulically damped Roadholder front fork, a high-level exhaust and 21" front wheel, proving to be too long, too heavy and possessed of insufficient ground clearance to be competitive. Norton dropped the trials model from its 1948 range but had not given up entirely. A season of extensive modification and experimentation, begun during the winter of 1947/48 by the legendary McCandless brothers - designers of Norton's peerless 'Featherbed' racing frame - resulted in the first appearance late in 1948 of an entirely different machine: the 500T. The shorter and lighter WD 16H frame was used for the newcomer, which featured an ingeniously modified lower fork yoke that reduced the wheelbase to a more manageable 53". In its original, 'all-iron' engined form the 500T tipped the scales at 320lbs, while the subsequent adoption of an alloy cylinder head and (later) a Wellworthy alloy barrel brought that down to 300lbs. The 500T was announced as a 1949 model at the 1948 Motor Cycle Show, by which time a young Geoff Duke had already won that year's Allan Jefferies Trial riding a 350cc-engined prototype. Numerous other works and privateer competition successes throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s confirmed that Norton had produced a machine as good as, if not better than, any other rigid-framed trials iron. Sadly, there would be no sprung-frame development to carry on the line, and the 500T disappeared from the Norton line-up in 1954.
Norton had begun taking orders for the new 500T at the 1948 Earls Court Show and this example, delivered to Dublin on 23rd November 1948, must be one of the first completed. The Norton was delivered to Chick Gibson with a standard cast-iron barrel and head and upgraded later with the all-alloy engine top-end. Chick enjoyed an outstanding season in 1949, only losing the prestigious Patland Cup Trial to 500T-mounted team-mate Kevin Keegan by a solitary mark. There are various period photographs of Chick and the Norton included in the sale. The machine was restored by Harry circa ten years ago, the engine being rebuilt and frame tubes replaced where needed while retaining the original lugs. We understand that a replacement registration document has been applied for.
- Please note this machine is not a pre-production model (as previously advertised) but actually a very early production example, trialled extensively by Chick Gibson.
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