Norton Knucklehead…

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Just Me
Tags: , , , , , ,

I found these pictures on the internet the other day, whilst looking for information on Manx Nortons, the bike is apparently a 1951 Manx garden gate, with a fitted Harley Knucklehead motor, that is all I know. I could not find any other info on this bike. Who built it, where it was built, where it is now? all just a mystery at the moment.

But it sure does have that cool factor.

I wonder if anyone reading this will be able to fill in some of the spaces with regards this bike… Well, someone did and has replied, please read Fred’s reply below, it is great to have some of the back story. Thanks Fred.

Norton Harley Special

Norton Harley Special

Knucklehead

Knucklehead

A Tight Fit

A Tight Fit

 

Doug Kephart says:

As mentioned, the bike was built by a friend of my father, Bill Selby. However it was built 1964-65, probably using resources of Piasecki Aircraft (not to be confused with Piasecki Helicopter, that became Boeing-Vertol) where he was working in the toolroom at the time. Locally it was known as the “Norley”. He then sold it to Caleb Cressman of Ward, PA., though I think it was in the mid- or late seventies. One of the first things Caleb did was ‘blow up’ the engine, which probably was just a used engine Selby scrounged up for the project. Caleb got another engine, had it rebuilt, but no one cleaned out the oil tank from the first blowup. That trashed the second engine. I think it may be on its 4th knucklehead motor or rebuild! Caleb had no involvement with building or design, though certainly knew Selby.

The ‘story’ was it was one of the bikes brought over for the 1950 or ’51 Daytona. Recent checking shows it does have features of the machines built for Dayton to look like Norton International models (Internationals were eligible, Manxes were not), but using Manx hardware. Unfortunately the frame number had been ground away, so it is not possible to prove that. Caleb took the Norley with him to Nantucket where he moved to in the eighties. It was there that he had an accident with it. On encountering a bend in the road covered with gravel, he aimed for a gap in the hedge leading to a field straight on beyond. Unfortunately the gap was for a guy wire to a telephone pole. This caught the bike on the kickstarter and threw Caleb, knocking him unconscious. Fortunately the accident was witnessed and he got prompt help. The only damage to the Norley was to treat off the kickstarter and fracture to the end cover of the Sturmey-Archer dollshead gearbox. It got laid up for a awhile, moved back to Pennsylvania, then came to our place to have the gearbox repaired and the motor checked over as it had sat for a while. The gearbox end cover got replaced, and the peculiar tall 1st gear Dayton ratio replaced with a standard road going 1st gear set.

By the way, the wheel hubs are magnesium and the petrol and oil tank aluminum. I took some photos of it at that time, 1989, while it was apart and then assembled. Also some 8mm camcorder video of my brother and I riding it about. At that time, it looked just as you see it in the pictures above. After Selby sold the Norley, he started on another project, sticking a 1953 Panhead engine in a 1956 Norton wideline feather bead frame. No special race parts there, other than Grimica and Fotana hubs and a big Lyta alloy gas tank. That never got finished and Selby also sold that to Caleb, and then through another mutual friend I ended up with it. Naturally it was called the Norley Mk2, and the original became the Norley Mk1. Selby in quick succession also started installation of a late Indian Chief motor in a Norton slimline featherbed frame, and then the last a Sportster engine (not sure of year), the frames being 1965 and 1967. Caleb probably helped Selby find the parts, which may the source of the idea that he had a hand in designing/building the Norley. These would have been the Norley Mk3 and Mk4, but got even less further along than the Mk2. Just before Selby died, I bought those projects too for the Norton parts, as Selby had already sold the Indian and Sportster engines to raise money.

Fantastic, thanks Doug.

Comments
  1. Jeff Craig says:

    That Norley was built by Bill Selby in Philadelphia in the late 50’s he built 2 Plunger bikes, one featherbed and his last project was a featherbed with an Indian Scout motor.

  2. fred sinton says:

    Recently back from Vietnam I was aimlessly wandering around town , saw this mechanical beauty in 1973 in Chadds Ford ,Pa. Caleb Cressman was owner and he collaborated with Bill Selby during project’s stages of creation . 1947 engine source was Mr. Geissler of Lenni ,Pa. Given this time frame (and Caleb’s story of driving Phila. Draft Board crazy during his physical in 1967 , 401 N. Broad St. Phila.) I believe Bill Selby constructed this bike with Caleb in early 70’s . Caleb passed in 2011 , gotta write this down , memory is failing . – Fred

  3. Doug Kephart says:

    As mentioned, the bike was built by a friend of my father, Bill Selby. However it was built 1964-65, probably using resources of Piasecki Aircraft (not to be confused with Piasecki Helicopter, that became Boeing-Vertol) where he was working in the toolroom at the time. Locally it was known as the “Norley”. He then sold it to Caleb Cressman of Ward, PA., though I think it was in the mid- or late seventies. One of the first things Caleb did was ‘blow up’ the engine, which probably was just a used engine Selby scrounged up for the project. Caleb got another engine, had it rebuilt, but no one cleaned out the oil tank from the first blowup. That trashed the second engine. I think it may be on its 4th knucklehead motor or rebuild! Caleb had no involvement with building or design, though certainly knew Selby. The ‘story’ was it was one of the bikes brought over for the 1950 or ’51 Daytona. Recent checking shows it does have features of the machines built for Dayton to look like Norton International models (Internationals were eligible, Manxes were not), but using Manx hardware. Unfortunately the frame number had been ground away, so it is not possible to prove that. Caleb took the Norley with him to Nantucket where he moved to in the eighties. It was there that he had an accident with it. On encountering a bend in the road covered with gravel, he aimed for a gap in the hedge leading to a field straight on beyond. Unfortunately the gap was for a guy wire to a telephone pole. This caught the bike on the kickstarter and threw Caleb, knocking him unconscious. Fortunately the accident was witnessed and he got prompt help. The only damage to the Norley was to treat off the kickstarter and fracture to the end cover of the Sturmey-Archer dollshead gearbox. It got laid up for a awhile, moved back to Pennsylvania, then came to our place to have the gearbox repaired and the motor checked over as it had sat for a while. The gearbox end cover got replaced, and the peculiar tall 1st gear Dayton ratio replaced with a standard road going 1st gear set. By the way, the wheel hubs are magnesium and the petrol and oil tank aluminum. I took some photos of it at that time, 1989, while it was apart and then assembled. Also some 8mm camcorder video of my brother and I riding it about. At that time, it looked just as you see it in the pictures above. After Selby sold the Norley, he started on another project, sticking a 1953 Panhead engine in a 1956 Norton wideline feather bead frame. No special race parts there, other than Grimica and Fotana hubs and a big Lyta alloy gas tank. That never got finished and Selby also sold that to Caleb, and then through another mutual friend I ended up with it. Naturally it was called the Norley Mk2, and the original became the Norley Mk1. Selby in quick succession also started installation of a late Indian Chief motor in a Norton slimline featherbed frame, and then the last a Sportster engine (not sure of year), the frames being 1965 and 1967. Caleb probably helped Selby find the parts, which may the source of the idea that he had a hand in designing/building the Norley. These would have been the Norley Mk3 and Mk4, but got even less further along than the Mk2. Just before Selby died, I bought those projects too for the Norton parts, as Selby had already sold the Indian and Sportster engines to raise money.

  4. englandkev says:

    Wow Doug, thanks for the info, that is great.

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