c.1933 Cotton-Norton 490cc Racing Motorcycle
Engine no. 42509
The machine offered here combines a Cotton frame - generally acknowledged as one of the best available in the 1930s - with a Norton Model 18 engine. Gloucester-based Cotton had established its reputation with a string of racing successes in the 1920s thanks to the innovative frame patented by its founder, Frank Willoughby Cotton. Cotton's design featured four straight tubes running from the steering head to the rear wheel spindle, augmented by further straight stays supporting the gearbox and engine. The result was a stiff, lightweight chassis far in advance of the bicycle-derived diamond-type frame used by the majority of manufacturers.
This fascinating post-Vintage 'special' previously belonged to Mr Jack Squirrel, who purchased the machine in 1960 from its creator, Wally Howes. At that time Mr Howes was manager of the experimental design office at the de Havilland Engine Company in Edgware, West London where Jack Squirrel had just completed his engineering apprenticeship. In pre-war days Wally Howes had raced motorcycles at Brooklands and Brands Hatch (then a grass track) and it was his desire to improve the competitiveness of his 1929 Model 18 Norton that prompted him to purchase the Cotton frame and forks from West London motor dealer, Claude Rye. The Model 18's engine, Sturmey-Archer gearbox and Enfield rear hub went into the Cotton together with a Velocette KTT front wheel. In this form, the Cotton-Norton was raced at Brooklands, Brands Hatch and other circuits in the South of England until the outbreak of war.
Mothballed until peace returned in 1945, the Cotton-Norton was put back into service and continued to be raced until 1951 when it was registered for road use. By the time Jack Squirrel bought the bike in 1960 (for £15) it had been off the road for a few years and was in a sorry state of repair. Jack had been racing a 1927 Model 18 in Vintage events and reckoned that the Cotton-Norton, with its superior handling, would represent a significant step forward. Stripped and refurbished in time for the following season, it was enthusiastically campaigned for the next six years at Brands Hatch, Crystal Palace, Snetterton and Cadwell Park, with grass hill climbs and sprints thrown in for added excitement. Several good finishes were achieved against stiff opposition, the Cotton-Norton's best result being a 2nd place at Snetterton behind Roger Cramp, while at Crystal Palace in 1962 it was awarded the Vintage Trophy for oldest finishing motorcycle.
Mervyn Stratford gave the Cotton-Norton a few airings at the end of the 1970s and into the early '80s, with some good results, until its final retirement in 1982. The Cotton was then semi stripped to donate a few components to 'Black Beauty', a replica of the famous 'Village Fire Engine' Cotton-Blackburne built and developed by Frances Williams during the 1930s as a Brooklands racer and World Record breaking sprinter.
Around seven years ago the current owner, a friend of Jack's, suggested that he return the Cotton-Norton to its former glory as he would be interested in purchasing it to display in Sammy Miller's museum. Fully refurbished in 2009/2010, the formerly donated parts being retrieved in the process, the Cotton-Norton was purchased by the current vendor soon after completion and since then has been on display at the Sammy Miller Museum in New Milton, Hampshire.