The ex-Francis Beart, Joe Dunphy, Keith Heckles
c.1966 Norton 350cc Model 40 Manx Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. 1 66
Engine no. FB 66 JUNE TT
This machine is one of the last pair of Manx Nortons owned and campaigned by the legendary tuner/entrant Francis Beart. In 1966 this bike, together with a 500cc Manx, had been ridden by Joe Dunphy in the Isle of Man TT shortly before the Manx Grand Prix (earlier than normal that year due to the seamen's strike). Dunphy recorded DNFs on both machines, which were ridden in the Manx Grand Prix that year by Keith Heckles. Heckles finished 2nd in the Junior race on this 350 behind George Buchan, averaging 92.03mph.
The following year Heckles was again entered by Beart in both the Senior and Junior Manx Grand Prix events. After both bikes went well in practice, the 500, after breaking the lap record twice, retired on the 4th lap. In the Junior event, Heckles, on this bike, was leading the race on the 2nd lap. After a stop for fuel at the end of the 2nd lap, Heckles dropped down the order but retook the lead on the 5th lap, only to stop on the final lap after running out of fuel. He scrounged some petrol from another competitor and managed to finish the race, albeit in 42nd place.
Following the race, Beart sold both machines (350 and 500) for the princely sum of £1,000 to Hector Dugdale, the well-known Cheshire dealer/entrant, who in turn sold on the 350 to a Liverpudlian named Alan Prange. Prange raced it at only a few local meetings before passing the bike on to Heckles' sponsor at the time, Bob Vincent from Wigan, enabling Heckles to race the machine again. He entered a few races at Aintree and Oulton Park, and competed in the 1969 Junior TT, finishing 11th at an average speed of 90mph.
When Bob Vincent died, Keith Heckles bought the bike from his widow around 1972. He did not race the Manx very often after that, but did loan it to his good friend Frank Steele to race in the Manx Grand Prix in 1976, possibly its final race. Keith subsequently sold the 350 to the well-known North-of-England Norton collector Eric Biddle. A few years later, Biddle sold the Norton to Mike Steele of Leeds. Mike Steele carried out some restoration work, calling on Keith Heckles to overhaul the motor for him (see 1994 Classic Motorcycling Legends article on file) and paraded the bike occasionally.
During 1996 Steele was approached by Patrick Godet, who was restoring the 1967 Beart 500 Manx for Jean-Christophe Ollieric, a Parisian enthusiast. Godet needed an original Jakeman fairing to copy for the 500, and asked Mike Steele if he could borrow the 350's fairing in order to make a pattern. During the course of discussions it transpired that Steele was prepared to part with the bike, and it was duly purchased by Ollieric in 1996.
Godet carried out some race preparation while the Norton was in Ollieric's ownership, but Ollieric eventually decided that the Beart machines were too precious to race in anger and put them up for sale. In 1997 a deal was brokered by Godet to sell the 350 to the lady vendor's late husband (purchase receipt on file). The machine was delivered to the late owner and stored inside the house until it was removed for transportation to Bonhams for the catalogue photographs to be taken. The engine has never been started during the present ownership and the Manx will require basic safety checks and light re-commissioning prior to use by its fortunate new owner. Accompanying documentation consists of photocopies of Francis Beart's racing logbook, sundry motorcycling press articles, assorted correspondence and CRMC Machine Registration Certificate (Group 1, Period 1).