Thu | Nov 15, 2018

Norton restored to wartime glory

Published:Sunday | February 28, 2016 | 12:09 AMKareem Latouche
The Norton 16N, designed primarily for use in World War Two.
The Norton 16N disassembled for paint restoration.
The front of the Norton 16N, which has no fork suspension, only a friction disc which can be adjusted based on the terrain
The spring seat system which, though archaic, still helps give the person on a Norton 16N a very comfortable ride.

The British army relied heavily on the Norton 16N motorcycle during World War Two, the 493-litre single-valve engine moving soldiers in various wartime situations. It was also distributed to many Commonwealth countries and were often ridden by policemen, including in Jamaica.

Capable of going 68 mph (109 km/h), the 388lb motorcycle has a four-speed transmission.

It was this rich history that led Albert Rickman to purchase a Norton 16N. Rickman's love for the motorcycle started with the influence of his brother-in-law, a motorbike enthusiast always eager to share his passion. "He brought me into the bike scene, especially in the '80s. We would ride older Nortons than these," Rickman said.

In 1989, Rickman's brother- in- law led him even further into the field. "He told me about a vintage Norton that was for sale and once I saw the bike I fell in love with it," said Rickman.

Luckily for him, not much mechanical restoration was needed as the previous owner kept the Norton in fair condition. "When I bought the bike it was rideable and my brother-in-law rode it home for me," Rickman said.

Rickman quickly started the tedious task of restoration by pulling the motorcycle down completely. However, the project was put on pause within a couple of months for a different kind of love. The 1990s dawned with him courting Amoe and marrying her in 1997. Within that time the couple also expanded their family with a son and a daughter.

After adjusting to family life, Rickman decided to restart the Norton restoration process in 2009. His first task was to take the bike apart and scrape off all the old paint before starting the new paint job. "I made a special effort to spray all the parts and I was able to do it in about two months," stated Rickman.




Surprisingly, the engine was still able to start once it was cleaned and reassembled. "When I pulled down the engine I was able to save a lot of parts, which meant I didn't have to source anything. All that was required was me refurbishing the parts," said Rickman.

Once the Norton 16N was properly put together, Rickman was eager to show his friends at the Classic Car Club the result of his hard work. He also had the motorbike on display in 2013 as part of the Independence Parade motorcade, riding from Hope Road, St Andrew, to the National Stadium.

Rickman does not think his work is fully finished and plans to tweak the bike to get it in thorough running condition. "The generator for it is not working, therefore, the headlights don't work. I am also going to get a magneto for the ignition system," Rickman said,

Rickman's Norton has some striking characteristics:

- The gear lever and brakes are positioned in the reverse of where they are on modern bikes.

- The ignition timing uses a manual advance and retard mechanism which is operated with a lever on the handlebar, so there is a steep learning curve if you're going to start this bike on your own.

- With a bike this old don't expect a refined muffler system. You're going to hear a lot of the 'pop' coming from the combustion engine.

- The bike was initially intended to ride over dirt, therefore, there aren't any elaborate shocks. The only concession to comfort is the springs in the seats.

Check the video online at our website www.jamaica-gleaner .com or our JamaicaGleaner page on YouTube.