The Norton Manx (or Manx Norton) is one of the most successful British racing motorcycle in history. Developed to win the Isle of Man TT, the “Manx Gran Prix” model was originally a special racing version of the Norton International single overhead cam roadster featuring telescopic forks, plunger rear suspension, magnesium cases and cambox, and no lights.
The Norton Manx would become one of the longest-running production racing motorcycles in history, gaining its name in 1936 with the Manx Grand Prix model, shortened after WWII simply to “Manx,” and produced until 1962.
In the postwar period, the Manx was available for sale directly from the Norton’s original Bracebridge Street factory — but only to select customers. In 1951, Norton factory race team manager Joe Craig and crew fitted the Manx with the McCandless brothers’ now famous Featherbed frame, which gave the bike the handling necessary to conquer the fastest circuits of the era.
“From 1951 on, the chief factor in Norton wins was its innovative Featherbed chassis, which was designed for Norton by the McCandless brothers. With this chassis Norton could outrace any motorcycle of equal power, especially on difficult tracks.” —MCS
The bike you see here is a 350cc 1951 Norton Manx that will be sold on a bill of sale at the Monterey 2021 Mecum Auction on August 12-14. The bike has an Amal GP carburetor, G9 gearbox, Featherbed frame, double-sided four-shoe Japanese front brake, and Smiths Chronometric tachometer.
“This compelling 1951 Norton 350cc Manx racer is built for racing with a terrific mix of a hot racing motor, an excellent racing frame and superior brakes, all tied together in an aesthetically pleasing package. It’s a classic featherbed-framed Norton racer with a long-stroke DOHC Manx 40M 350cc motor fed by a downdraft Amal GP racing carb and Lucas racing magneto.” —Mecum
The big four-shoe front drum gives the bike serious stopping power (for the era). The listing says it’s a Suzuki four leading-shoe drum up front, but multiple sources of our own have confirmed that it’s a Yamaha TZ 4LS (four leading shoe) brake. The bike also boasts a period-correct Norton “lay down” gearbox, all-welded Norton Wideline featherbed frame, classic Manx aluminum racing tank, and adjustable clip-on handlebars to suit the rider’s style and preferences.
These engines in these bikes were based on the redesigned 1929 OHC motor that Arthur Carroll developed as a close copy of the Velocette K series. The 350cc DOHC air-cooled single in this Manx was known to produce around 35 horsepower, good for a top speed of 115 mph.
Over a 24-year production run, the Manx established itself as one of the finest racing motorcycles in history. Fortunately, many racing series here in the States and abroad help keep these bikes on the track where they belong:
“This 1951 Norton 350cc Manx is built to go, and it’s a perfect basis for an entry into the vintage racing scene. Its 350cc overhead-cam engine (Engine No. F10M2 27280) tucked into the featherbed frame is legendary, with a Smith’s Chronometric tachometer allowing its rider to keep an eye on all that power being pushed out to the pavement via the G9 gearbox. With excellent spare parts availability and decades of tuning knowledge available, the Manx is perhaps the easiest vintage racer of them all to campaign.”
If you’re interested in owning this piece of motorcycling history — or, even better, running it on the track where it belongs — you can learn more and sign up to bid at Mecum.com.