The ex-Pip Harris 1951 Norton 596cc Manx/Watsonian Racing Motorcycle Combination Frame no. E11M 35893 Engine no. D11M 22055
Lot 360
The ex-Pip Harris 1951 Norton 596cc Manx/Watsonian Racing Motorcycle Combination
Frame no. E11M 35893 Engine no. D11M 22055
£ 40,000 - 50,000
US$ 52,000 - 65,000

Lot Details
The ex-Pip Harris 1951 Norton 596cc Manx/Watsonian Racing Motorcycle Combination Frame no. E11M 35893 Engine no. D11M 22055 The ex-Pip Harris 1951 Norton 596cc Manx/Watsonian Racing Motorcycle Combination Frame no. E11M 35893 Engine no. D11M 22055
The ex-Pip Harris 1951 Norton 596cc Manx/Watsonian Racing Motorcycle Combination
Frame no. E11M 35893
Engine no. D11M 22055
In the post-war years, the sporting heroes of the three-wheeled persuasion enjoyed a profile matching that of their solo-riding contemporaries, the discipline’s first pre-eminent star - in international road racing - being Eric Oliver. Previously believed to have been raced in-period by Oliver, this Norton combination has been identified by Bonhams’ consultant and marque authority, George Cohen as having been supplied new to Pip Harris in 1951. One of this country’s foremost sidecar racers, Peter Valentine ‘Pip’ Harris - ‘The King of Drift’ - enjoyed a 25-year career that included a single World Championship victory and countless wins on British short circuits. Pip began racing in the late 1940s on home-brewed specials before graduating to a 596cc single-overhead-camshaft Norton outfit bought from Jack Surtees. Passengered by Charlie Billingham, he successfully took on and beat the established stars of the day but never got the offer of a works motor from Norton, whose ‘No. 1’ rider was the astute Eric Oliver. After a brief period in 1952 racing the works Vincent Black Lightning, ‘Gunga Din’, Pip went back to Nortons, taking delivery of one of the new Featherbed-framed Manxes.

The World Championship was never Pip’s top priority, yet in 1956 he still managed to finish 3rd in the standings at the season’s end, the last occasion that a Norton featured in the top three. By this time the BMWs were firmly in control and Pip, now passengered by Ray Campbell, had no option but switch to one of the German twins. In 1958 he bought a BMW Rennsport outfit with fellow racer, Jackie Beeton, eventually buying out Jackie’s share to go it alone. Pip built his own sidecar chassis out of Reynolds 531 tubing, and using the long-stroke Rennsport scored his only Grand Prix victory in the 1960 Dutch TT at Assen. The BMW remained competitive on British short circuits for several more years but by the end of the decade the trend towards big-engined outfits had left the Grand Prix ‘500’ at a disadvantage. After 25 years at the top of his chosen sport, Pip Harris retired from racing in 1972.

This machine was despatched to Pip Harris on 3rd March 1951 and according to the Norton factory records was supplied with a 500cc engine (‘E11M 35893’), rigid frame and girder forks. Prior to the Featherbed’s introduction, the standard post-war Manx had a plunger-suspended frame (the ‘Garden Gate’) so machines such as this one would have been built to special order for favoured customers. Top sidecar racers such as Oliver, Harris and Cyril Smith believed that the rigid frame made ‘drifting’ easier, while the girder fork’s resistance to sideways deflection was reckoned superior to that of the new-fangled telescopics.

Now displacing 596cc although originally a 500cc unit, the engine currently installed was supplied new to Cable Motors, Halifax in March 1949. From the start of the 1951 season a capacity limit of 500cc was stipulated for the World Championships, there being no such restriction for UK domestic racing, so Harris, like his Norton contemporaries, would have one chassis and two engines. In 1951 his best World Championship results were a brace of 3rd places, gained at the Belgian and Italian rounds.

The ex-Harris Manx was purchased from the estate of the late Reg Dearden, one of the most famous of all Norton tuner/entrants who had purchased the contents of the factory race shop when it closed, by the late Eric Biddle, of Horwich near Bolton. The ex-Dearden Nortons were assembled for Eric Biddle by Kerry Kearton. Kearton was paid in surplus bikes and parts for his efforts, one of the machines he received being the ex-Harris combination, which passed to the current owner in the early 1970s. Rebuilt in the 1990s, engine included, this historic machine has been on display at The National Motor Museum, Beaulieu for many years, albeit mistakenly attributed to Eric Oliver.

After careful re-commissioning this rare racing outfit will provide its fortunate new owner with the opportunity to participate in historic events such as Les Coupes Moto Légende at Dijon, Bikers’ Classics at Spa Francorchamps and our own Festival of 1,000 Bikes at Mallory Park.
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