Bad practice

Qualifying was a disaster for us for the second year running when the carburetor needle clip broke and let the needle drop down, stopping the engine. Rodney was riding so Kevin did not get a run. This happened to us at the TT practice last year, so I assume the clips are over hardened as this one was nearly new.

This has put us 18th on the grid for the Le Mans start for both races.

There is only one 30 min. practice for both riders, so no chance to make up position. Not a very good start.

Off now for the first race.



2015 Isle of Man Classic TT Lap of Honour, led by Bruce Anstey and Peter Duke

Bruce reported the Norton ran well but soon realised the six inch megaphone and 4 speed gearbox demanded that “he got on with it” to keep the motor running in the power band. He said the bike was great fun to ride with no major handicaps.

He came in feigning deafness but did add it really was deafeningly loud with the open mega combined with the old style “pudding basin” helmet. The mesh flyscreen worked well catching Manx flies but Bruce said that he got hit in the face a few times by stones when the faster bikes came by.

Sadly Peter Duke’s Gilera 4 cylinder succumbed to magneto problems half way around the circuit.

Luckily, the Norton ran perfectly and Bruce got back on time. He went straight out in the Classic TT F1 race on the Padgetts YZR 500cc V4 Grand Prix bike. Bruce broke his own lap record and was in the lead until an exhaust bracket broke and he was black flagged on the third lap. A quick repair was undertaken in the pits and he went out again in forth and incredibly closed the gap until he was in second place, finishing behind Michael Dunlop on his 1200cc oil cooled Suzuki. 11953098_10154146792803976_1099314374996667796_n

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The First Featherbed Norton; a quick history lesson.

The only surviving 1950 “Works” Norton, is owned by Mr Peter Bloore and has been restored in New Zealand by Ken McIntosh and the team at McIntosh Racing

  • The “Featherbed” Norton and Geoff Duke were made for each other. Geoff Duke’s new style of  “always tucked in” riding became practical because of the new standard of motorcycle roadholding set by the new “Featherbed Norton”.
  • The 1950 Featherbed was described by Geoff Duke as the “best handling motorcycle he ever rode”.
  • The name “Featherbed” was coined by 1949 Senior TT winner Harold Daniel who is reported to have said “It was so comfortable it as like riding on a Featherbed”
  • The Featherbed  Norton changed motorcycle racing from a horsepower contest to a roadholding contest.
  • The entire chassis and suspension was designed and built “hands on” by Rex McCandless and his small team from Belfast.
  • Artie Bell, winner of the 1948 Senior TT on a Works Norton, was Rex McCandless’ business partner and was responsible for the testing and development of the prototype “Featherbed”.
  • The new frame and a small increase in power gave Norton a clean sweep in 1950 with the Junior/Senior “Double” and first, second and third places plus Lap and Race Records in both classes
  • Geoff Duke graduated from being a new and junior member of the Norton “Works” team to being the leading rider in a week, after second place in the Junior TT behind Artie Bell, and then dominating the Senior TT including smashing the lap record, set by Harold Daniel in 1938.
  • The Norton Featherbed became a production motorcycle using Rex McCandless’ design and patents, for which in the early years the McCandless and Bell partnership were paid a £1 royalty for each machine sold.
  • Rex McCandless and his welder, Oliver Nelson came over from Belfast and set up in a disused cart dock at Bracebridge Street. With their own jig they built the first 10 frames for the Works Team, when Norton could not get anyone else to take the job on.
  • The 1950 “Works” Norton’s used the only Featherbed frames that were made in the Norton Factory at Bracebridge St, Birmingham. All the other thousands of Featherbed Manx and road frames were made by Reynolds Tubing Ltd under contract until the final ones in 1970.
  • The Featherbed frame continued to be the standard by which all other road and racing motorcycles were judged until well into the 1970’s.
  • The rear shock absorbers were made by Rex McCandless and have a reservoir built in to stop the oil overheating and cavitating. Rex McCandless held a patent for the design but Norton used other shock absorber manufacturers the following year. Geoff  Duke later wrote the McCandless ones were the best shock absorbers he had used.
  • McCandless and Bell were responsible for establishing the front fork geometries, angles and off-sets. McCandless fabricated the fork yokes by welding and modified the fork legs from the 1948 Works “Gardengate”. This geometry was never changed.
  • Bruce Anstey’s 108.1 lap in last year’s Classic TT was achieved using a completely standard design and original spec Manx Featherbed frame (built by McIntosh Racing) which is essentially the production version of the 1950 McCandless design.
  • The only surviving 1950 “Works” Norton was rebuilt by McIntosh Racing  in New Zealand using the only surviving original 1950 “Works” frame which was found at Beaulie Autojumble in the 1980’s. The  owner, Mr Peter Bloore, then embarked on a 30 year search for the missing parts.
  • Many of the original 1950 parts had seen further service in the later “Works” bikes and were very difficult to acquire.
  • The 8 x 1950 “Works” Norton’s were all dismantled at the end of 1950, the parts were used to build the updated 1951 team bikes. The only survivor, in modified form, was Eric Oliver’s 1951 World Championship winning sidecar outfit which was based on a 1950 “Works” 500.
  • This bike took over 2000 hours labour to restore, as every part is special. Almost no “Manx” Norton parts are the same as the 1950 “Works”, although nearly every part forms the prototype for the production “Featherbed Manx Norton” which was made for the next 13 years, from 1951 until 1963.

#43 Duke 1950 Blamford Camp Meeting.The first “Featherbed” appeared at the Blandford Camp meeting in Dorset before the 1950 T T. New recruit Geoff Duke was drafted in to ride after Harold Daniell was injured earlier.

#57 Duke 500, Practice 1950 IoM TT New boy Geoff Duke during the practice period, 1950 Senior TT. Incredibly he won the first Senior TT he rode in, breaking both lap and race records.

#43 Joe Craig and Rex McCandless. It marks the first ever appearance of a Featherbed Norton by Geoff Duke at Blamford Camp Circuit, 1950Joe Craig and Rex McCandless, the key men behind the 1950 Works Norton with the first “Featherbed” which Duke used to win on debuted at Blandford Camp before the IoM TT.

Works Nortons 1950 The Isle of Man bikes complete with tax discs attached to the front engine plates. This was so they could ride them on the public roads up to the pits for the practice periods.

Works Norton garage IoM 1950Nothing high-tech about the Norton garage on the Isle of Man. Some of the Norton mechanics had been with the team since pre-war days including Ivor Davies in the centre. On the right is Charlie Edwards who became Geoff Dukes personal mechanic. The baffles stuffed up the “mega” are to give the residents a bit more sleep when the bikes were being ridden through the streets at 5:00 AM on the way to the pits.

Swiss GP 1950 Team bikes The Norton team at the Swiss GP complete with the Norton team transporter. The gas bottle is for the tyres.

1950 Senior winning team Lockett 3rd, Duke !st, Bell 2nd.1950 Senior TT winners enclosure. L to R, Johnny Lockett, (49), 3rd, Gilbert Smith, Norton MD, Geoff Duke, (57), 1st, Joe Craig, race team boss, Artie Bell, (41), 2nd, and Rex McCandless, the “Featherbed” designer. The former lap record holder and 1949 winner Harold Daniell is 2nd left. He finished in 5th place in the Senior and 3rd in the Junior.#41, Bell. From Jensen Collection 3Artie Bell displays the style that won him the 1950 Junior TT, despite his being over 6 feet tall. He was the in-house tester in Belfast for all the prototype chassis work using Rex McCandless’ original ideas. He had won the 1948 Senior TT on a Works ‘Gardengate” Norton.

Photos from the Isle of Man 2015

1Bruce tries the 1950 Works for size in the pits. The TT Organisers provided us with a pit tent in a prime spot behind the grand stand. Bike owner Peter Bloore looks on along with one of Bruce’s younger fans.

3Peter Duke tries his dad’s Norton for size. The two fantastic wall prints were done by Dave Jupe in NZ and were a great success.

5John McGuinness knows his TT history and was very interested in the ’50 Works. The extra hair was for the 1950’s themed party in the pits. John is very approachable and like Bruce takes a lot of time out to talk to the fans. They really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere of the Classic TT which is the opposite to the June TT races.7 9 Henry Cole was filming for his TV Bikers show. George Cohen was on hand for a few “sound bites”11 Dave Roper rode the original Rod Coleman 1954 AJS Porcupine in the parade lap. He was based in the tent beside us. Owner Rob Iannucci  was on hand and suffered a broken arm after falling down the stairs in the evening and with other health problems was not having a very good time. Seeing the “Porc” running seemed to cheer him up as it is the first time it has run on the IoM since 1954, and is running well.

20 Peter Duke rode the ’50 Works at Jurby and said he would “just do a couple of laps”. This turned into about 12 laps and he was the last to come in. He had the biggest smile ever! Davida supplied the period helmet and Peter certainly looked the part and was very stylish. It certainly made our effort worthwhile and helped put smiles on a lot of peoples faces.

22 24 26 28 These trophies are “The Real Thing”. There are quite a few Kiwi’s names on them. We had the bike on display right beside the trophy table and they kindly let us “borrow” the Senior TT Trophy for the photo. They really do look after us over here and nothing was too much trouble.

29 30 1970’s star Mick Grant was very interested in the ’50 Works. He works for the modern Norton race team.069 The Norton Rotaries were out in force with about 17 of the race bikes coming over from the National Museum to be demonstrated. The original race team main man Brian Crighton (in the red shirt) was on hand working on the bikes but was frustrated by the lack of spares for the bikes which had in some cases not run for 25 years.070 074 The Geoff Duke Memorial Service was held at St Ninians Church at the top of Bray Hill and was very well attended. Sammy Miller and Bill Smith both spoke and gave fine tributes about Geoff. Murray Walker also spoke via video link. Our 1950 Works Norton and a Gilera 4 were displayed in front and drew much favorable comment from many people. The Gilera was started, which might be a first inside a church!

Immediately after the service the bike was further needed as a centerpiece at the “TT Legends” dinner at the VIP Centre behind the Grandstand, to which Debbie and I plus Peter Bloore had been invited.

Running a bit late, I bump started the bike in my best clothes and rode through the back streets of Douglas, (just like Duke would have done going out to practice) through Nobel’s Park, and straight into the venue with over 200 people seated for dinner.

The doors were flung open and the timing was perfect as the Master of Ceremonies, Charlie Williams had just got up on stage. After a deafening roar from the 6″ mega, he introduced the bike and rider to a huge round of applause.

075 076 077John McCandless, who lives on the Isle of Man, was most interested to see the work of his uncle Rex.

John’s dad, Cromie McCandless was a very successful rider on mainly Norton’s but also Gilera.

Kiwi’s share an honour at the Isle of Man Classic TT

Bruce Anstey , New Zealand’s most successful TT rider has the honour of leading the “2015 Lap of Honour” at the Isle of Man “Classic TT” riding the only surviving Geoff Duke 1950 “Works” Norton owned by New Zealander Peter Bloore and restored in New Zealand by our small team at McIntosh Racing in Auckland.
Geoff Duke lived most of his later life on the Isle of Man and with his recent passing the Lap of Honour will be a tribute to the many successes he had in the TT races and the World Championships.
Motorcycle “Superstar” Geoff Duke started the 1950 Senior TT as a junior member of the Works Norton squad, and by the end of TT Week he was a new sensation.
With a runners up position in the Junior TT behind team mate Artie Bell, Duke totally dominated the Senior TT with lap and race records and became the first man to beat Harold Daniell’s 1938 lap record.
Duke was the right man on the right bike, with the new Rex McCandless designed Featherbed frame setting a standard for road holding that was the benchmark for all racing motorcycles for the next 20 years.
Duke’s smooth style was totally suited to the new bike and became the standard by which all other riders were judged for many years to come.