Norton Motorcycles 1950s

Today in Motorcycle History

Norton Energette

Tales from a Somerset Shed

Oldest Norton in the world

1902 Energette.[1]

In 1898 James Lansdowne started his own business in Bromsgrove Street, Birmingham. The Norton Manufacturing Company specialised in making chains and other parts for the bicycle industry. Within his circle of friends, 'Jas. L.'; as he was initially known, and well before the 'title' of 'Pa Norton', became acquainted with a local business man, Charles Garrard in 1902. This latter gentleman was an entrepreneur who saw the new world of motoring as an opportunity to make his fortune and he befriended M. Clement, who in turn was a skilled Frenchman, producing small capacity single cylinder four stroke engines. Garrard imported the Clement engines and instructed Norton to fit them into 'beefed-up' bicycle frames and they were sold as 'Clement-Garrard' motorised bicycles. Apparently, Clement-Garrard's workshop was next door! Production was very limited and by November of that year, Norton had in fact made and sold his first 'Norton', which was basically the same as the Clement-Garrard. It was called the 'Energette'. The first advert appeared on the 19 th November 1902 in the Motor Cycling; why it was 'ideal for a Doctor' is any ones guess! But since I am a Doctor, it is in the right ownership!

The Clement engine was 55 X 60mm bore and stroke ( about 140 cc) and had an atmospherically controlled inlet valve and a mechanically operated side exhaust valve. The crank, drive side main shaft and pin were all forged as one piece out of tough steel and case hardened and ground dead true afterwards. The aluminium crankcases were clamped to the inside of the front down tube and to the right of centre. The drive side main-shaft held a 7 ¼ inch O.D. flywheel which had either a sprocket or pulley bolted to the inside and consequently balanced the motor within the frame; so the theory goes! The pulley (or sprocket) then drove another pulley or sprocket, situated below, but in front of the pedal crank, and this, in turn drove the rear wheel pulley by the period leather belt. There were variations on this theme that sometimes included a jockey wheel to maintain the rear belt tension. The rest of the machine was basically a period bicycle and consequently pedals drove the rear wheel by the usual sprocket arrangement including a free-wheeling' rear hub. A small petrol tank was suspended beneath the top frame rail, ignition was 'electric with positive "make" trembler'; and 'A coil, giving a strong spark and accumulator of 20ampere hours capacity' (ref: Supplement to Motor Cycling 7.5.1902) The whole machined weighed about 70 lb (32kg) and was probably not much faster than a good athlete on a sports bicycle! I guess that there were very few made and perhaps only a couple of survivors; the 1903 machine I rebuilt for the National Motorcycle Museum, a few years ago and the 1902 model I have recently purchased from a museum in Holland. This machine is fitted with a two speed gearbox of unknown manufacture.

With just a day fettlin' the little machine in my shed, I poured in a pint of petrol through the tiny filler and wheeled her out into the yard. Petrol tap on, tickle carb, fiddle with a few levers, engage second of the two gears by pulling back on the large lever and peddle away. Bop Bop Bop Bop. The engine fired up perfectly and I went for a spin down the lane. About as fast as Raleigh 'Runabout', with very poor braking and some LPA (light pedal assistance) required on the hills.

The grin factor was very high indeed and I am pleased that I have a machine eligible for next year's Pioneer run.

1. Larger versions of many images are missing