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Help! Bent Navigator Frame

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Hi all, 5 weeks ago after 40 years safely avoiding car drivers pulling out in front of me I finally fell victim to a real expert and in avoiding him / her I came off my beloved Navigator breaking my wrist.   Very luckily the bike and I only hit the ground (at circa 30mph) with the bike landing on it's left side, bending the left handlebar, forcing the forks hard on to full left lock, denting and scuffing the headlight rim, bending the left hand foot rest back and scuffing the end of the brand new left silencer!    You won't be surprised that the car driver didn't even stop to see if I was alive!

Cutting to the chase, a closer look revealed that although the fork stanchions are not bent the forks are twisted laterally out of line with the frame with the bottom of the forks off set to the right as you sit on the bike.    I hope this account of how I am trying to straighten the frame will be helpful to others and invite anyone who has repaired a bent frame to chip in with helpful advice!   

Our wonderful technical expert Andy Sochanik, has already given me some sage advice about weak areas and how to identify what is bent starting with the forks and working backwards.   I have levelled the bike with a spirit level across the frame top tubes and found they are level from front to back which gave me a datum.    I then used a steal rule along the sides of both top tubes which show no obvious signs of bending although I appreciate it is only a rough guide.   

I then checked the Front Frame Tube using a clever little adjustable spirit level which is calibrated to vertical using an adjusting screw and then attached to the flat surface you want to check using a built in magnet (photos 1 & 2).   I attached it to the flat plate sides at the top of the Front Frame Tube below the Head Stock and above where the frame top tubes bolt on.    I measured both sides and they show the top of the Front Frame Tube is bent 1 degree from the vertical (photo 3) which agrees with my visual assessment. 

I then used the same spirit level to check both sides of the Front Frame Tube below where the frame top tubes bolt on - unfortunately there is a flat area just big enough for the magnet to attach to because the tube then tappers down to the bottom of the engine.    Happily both sides show that they are vertical (photo 4) so it would appear that the bend is limited to the long unsupported part of the Front Frame Tube above the top tubes.    I will be making further checks Andy has suggested but I am pretty confident with this diagnosis.   With the Navigator having a bolt up frame I am now trying to source a replacement as the quickest and most cost effective repair.

A trawl through ebay and the NOC shop hasn't identified a replacement so does anyone have a spare Late Navigator (or Electra) Front Frame Tube part number 25022 in straight and serviceable condition in their stock of spares that they would be willing to sell to me? 

The only other solution is to strip the bike down and transport it the 150 miles or so to the nearest frame straightener - very expensive, time consuming and I'm not convinced they would be successful given the design of the frame and where it is bent!

Looking forward to hearing any similar stories, advice, top tips, offers of to sell me a Front Frame Tube!

Cheers.  Nick    

 

                          

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hello now our club as frames for lightweights  in the parts shop  witch would be much more easier the straightening a frame  witch will be a bit weaker then it was   sad to hear you story  but did you get the car number as they have broken the law  on not stopping after a incident   hope you get on the mend soon   yours  anna j

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Thanks for your kind words Anna, the hospital did a great job screwing my wrist back together again and it is healing fast.  I am hoping they will give me the green light to start driving again when I have my review next week! 

Sadly it happened so fast I didn't get the car's number and the front frame tube in the NOC shop is for the Jubilee and is different from the Navigator so wont fit.   Like you I am not keen on having frames straightened unless there is no other option.   To be honest I'm not sure they could straighten a Lightweight frame and particularly the front frame tube given its design and the way it is bent. 

Perhaps one of our members has had a frame straightened and can advise accordingly.  I hope your rebuild is going well!

Nick

     

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I would check the yokes and legs are straight ,and ride it to see how it feels ,1 degree may not be enough to make a difference . I am sure my featherbed has  lost some of its wheelbase from shunts but it handles so well I would not change anything.  My brothers 88 was seriously bent to my eye ,but he loved it," best bike he ever had, he said" !!. Alternatively  a big vice to hold the frame and an old roadholder staunchion and a scaffold pudlock would likely do the job.What have you got to lose?.

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Thanks for the sage advice Robert, I've loosened the stanchions in both yokes and wheel spindle and re-centred them and they are properly aligned and the sliders are running smooth and free on their bushes so I am confident the forks aren't bent and it is the Frame Front member.    I know 1 deg doesn't sound much but using the 1 in 60 rule that equates to about 0.72" over 42" - the approximate length of the forks and wheel to the ground (I will measure it tomorrow to be sure).   Just looking at how much that is on my bike it is too much to be safe unfortunately.   If I cant find a replacement I might have to resort to brute force as you suggest!!!

Nick     

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The small Triumphs had a similarly weak swan neck on their frames. I think I’m right in saying the only difference between the jub and Nav down tube is the head steady mounting which would be easy to have altered or to use a spacer. Although I’m not sure if the steering stop mountings are different, I have some spare frames and will have a look.  I don’t have a spare Nav downtube sorry!

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Well that was interesting I think I have 3 Down tubes but can only find 2, although one might be a Navigator one!  does yours look like the one not attached to the frame?   

Frame

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Hi again Dan, I think yours is a Navigator Front Frame member, its got the higher and slightly different Head Steady compared to the Jubilee one.   It looks is the same mine as the attached photos show.    The only difference is I suspect it is the earlier one than mine which had the 7" Road Holders because it lacks the later / stronger steering lock stop at the bottom and probably the steering lock lug at the top - although can I see that just on the edge of your photo?   The NOC shop still has the earlier bolt on steering lock stop plate in stock which is encouraging - do you know if that will work with my wider 7.375" forks?   Bless, nothing is ever simple with a Lightweight Norton!   If you are interested in selling it please PM me!

Cheers   Nick

  

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Dan, further to my last and for your info the later front frame member has a simple sheet metal plate welded on the top, right hand side of the steering head for the steering lock (Later frame 1) and a thick, wide plate welded to the back of the bottom of the steering head (Later frame 2).   I'm guessing that second hand late Navigator front frame members may be rather thin on the ground so I might have to adapt a later one!    

I hope this information is helpful to others who might have a twisted or bent frame!

Nick

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Hi Nicholas, 

I would have thought that the bolt on stop would work, but Andy would be better to advise. I might be able to sell the down tube but need to check what I’ve got, I’ve got to build a navigator (that’s the frame in the pic) and I’ve want a complete frame to sell all my left over bits as a project, maybe a swap for Jub one in the club shop?

Dan

 

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Hi Dan,

Thanks for getting back to me so quickly and spending time trawling through your spares.  Good suggestion to check with Andy about the earlier bolt on steering lock stop, he's already helped tremendously and he is always spot on with his advice.     Fully understand and thanks for even considering it - a swap for the club Jub one would be incredibly kind, I will get back to you once I have spoken to Andy and done some more research.    I might even try Russell's, you never know your luck with their Alladdin' s cave of a store room!

I've just finished stripping the whole front end off the bike - I am surprised it only took three hours, including stripping the forks and for once I didn't encounter any problems!   I bet it doesn't go back together that easily!   A real positive is with the front down tube off I have been able to prove that my diagnosis was correct.  The 'goose neck' above where the top tube bolt on is bent 1 deg laterally in the direction I thought.   I will look in to whether it can be straightened as a last resort - not ideal but useful to have in my back pocket as an option.

Enjoy the weekend.

Nick

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Hi Nicholas,

Sorry to hear you had an collision with a car. Or the car had a collision with you. And that you are healing OK.

You ask if anyone has experience of straightening a Navigator frame. Yes I have.

A Navigator that had a very heavy front end in 1964 that wiped out everything forward of the engine, and tore the head steady lugs off the cylinder heads. White downtube in photo.

Check the straightness of the top frame rails, left, right, up, down. I believe you already have.

Put a piece of straight timber about 1 1/2 ins thick, 18ins long, between the front frame mounts and long enough to project back near the tank mount. Drill two 10 mm holes through so that you can use your frame studs to secure the timber in place. Check that the left and right front frame mounts are parallel, and the timber is near the tank mount and central to the frame rails and tank mount. A side collision can bent both frame mounts left or right.

I was offered a Jubilee frame section as replacement. It looked fine but as you may see from the photos, it has been bent sidewards like yours. They seem to bend where the casting in the headstock ends.

I made a bolt-on fork lock stop for my Electra, with 7 3/8 ins forks, because the original brazed item had been knocked off. I can let you have some details if you contact me. My steering lock bracket was still in place on the top bearing cup. Do I see a steering lock on the top bearing of Dan's navigator downtube?

I hope you find the later, straight, unbroken, Navigator downtube that you want.

I believe you live near Dan but contact me if you are getting stuck.

Peter

I

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Thanks for your kind words Peter, luckily I managed to miss the car but in doing so I had to lay it down and I parted company - uncomfortable but much better for me and the bike than hitting it head on!   As for the broken wrist it's mending nicely so hopefully back to driving soon.

Thanks also for all the advice and back ground information above, I will add those checks to the ones that Andy has given me to check the rest of the frame - I'm keeping my fingers crossed because the top tubes seem correctly aligned in all planes so far!

As for where my Front Frame member / Downtube a check with a steel rule confirms it is bent from where the top tubes bolt on.  Thinking it through logically below that joint the Downtube is pretty rigidly attached and supported by the thick bottom tubes, two quite closely spaced engine mounting bolts clamping it to the crank cases and the cylinder head steadys.    Above the top tubes there is no bracing and a long 'Goose Neck' up to the steering head where all the front forks forces apply.

Therefore, any lateral force applied to the steering head, via the bike landing on the end of the handle bars and dragging them along the road at circa 30 mph in my case, slamming the forks to full deflection will apply considerable lateral leverage on that unsupported top section.   No wonder it bent sideways - I'm just surprised it wasn't more than 1 degree!   

Thanks for the really useful photos.  I used a steel rule alone that upper section and it shows a similar but much smaller bend.   I am going to explore straightening options with our local engineering companies just in case I can't find a decent replacement and if Dan finds he can't sell his spare.   I have posted an add in the club Classified Wanted section and I am trawling Ebay but no joy yet.

Can I ask all on this forum to pass the word word I am looking for a straight and serviceable Navigator or Electra Front Frame Member / Downtube ?   Preferably a late one with the Steering Lock Stop on the top of the steering head and the later, solid Steering Lock Limiter on the bottom of the steering head for the 7.375" Roadholders, shown on the Photos attached below.

Thanks again - in hope!   Nick       

  

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To Motorliner in Maidstone, or one of the other frame straightening companies to see if what you already have is salvagable.

Regards, George. 

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Thanks George,

I spotted Motorliner in Maidstone on the internet, sadly 150 miles from me which is an issue!  Have you had dealings with them and if so do you think they could straighten just the front frame member rather than having to ship the whole frame up there?

 Sadly a comprehensive search of the internet doesn't show any frame specialists in the South West.   I have started putting my feelers out amongst local engineering companies I know to see if anyone can help but would appreciate any advice from someone who has used a specific frame straightening company - particularly if they have successfully straightened a Lightweight frame!

Regards

Nick    

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But know people who have who have been delighted with what they did.  They have been in business a long time too.They want the whole frame and engine cases to ensure it is all straight. 

Another possibility is parallel engineering in Wolverhampton- I,'m sure they featured in Roadholder a while ago about getting a Commando 'right'. 

I'm  sure that emails with pictures to ask/enquire about repairability would solicit an honest answer from either of them.

To me, seeing that you have a damaged front member and a 'bent' top tube, even if you find a replacement front member it would be a smart move to get the bike to someone who can at least check it, and if required, do what is necessary to get it straight so you can rebuild and get it back in use knowing it will handle as well, and possibly better than it did before. One day van rentals aren't too expensive these days?

Hope the healing continues well for you.

Regards, George 

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Thanks for the helpful feedback about Motorliner & Parralel Engineering George, I will give them a call and get their advice - it will be interesting to hear what they say about the challenges of straightening a bolt up frame like the Navigator's.   I will also send them an email with photos of the frame front member and ask if they can straighten it off the bike - if they can then it will be a huge saving in transport, time and labour!

I spent a lot of time measuring the frame over the weekend and I am almost certain that it is only the front frame member (down tube) that is bent.   Both top tubes and the rest of the frame seem straight in all four planes.    

My plan now is to dual track sourcing a serviceable front member and straightening my bent one.  Once I have a serviceable part I can mount it in the frame - the proof of the pudding will then be carefully measuring to prove if it is true before I put the forks back on!    .........and resisting the temptation to do a total restoration!!!  

Onwards and upwards!

Nick   

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We are told that the Lightweights are based on the Francis Barnett frame, would such fit the bill here? I rode a bent Feather bed for many miles, the wheels were out of line (crossed over by several inches) yet it handled superbly on the road, I could be a 'smart arse' hand hoff at most speeds most reliably. 

I believe its the last version of the FB Cruiser? Attempting an Electra build up from boxes of bits and the only exploded L/W frame diagram I can find is of the first Jubbly with "central" oil tank, so not a huge amount of help as its a very crowded drawing. So a couple of days ago I thought, well there must be a Fanny B club out there, perhaps they have better drawings.Yes there is a club, but its nowhere near the standard of our wonderful NOC and its website is clearly one mans labour of love. No spares setup, and no tech advice, so very much a dead end insofar as helping L/W owners.

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Al, George & Michael,

Thanks for the feedback & suggestions, all very helpful as always!   I have taken all that into account and the fact that the FB and early Navigator and Jubilee front frame members are different from the late Navigator (circa 64 onwards) and difficult to modify for the wider Roadholder forks and the late Navigator frame members are few and far between.    On balance I have decided to go with Andy's sage advice and have stripped the Navigator down to bare frame, engine, swinging arm, rear shocks and rear wheel and will be taking it to either Motorliner in Maidstone or Abba Motorcycle engineering in South Woodham Ferrers - both highly recomended frame straightening specialists.  I have spoken at length with Abba and they  have straightened Jubilee's before and spoke knowledgeably about Norton Lightweights which gives me confidence - I will speak to Motorliner tomorrow and report back which seems the better bet.    Both are quoting between £200 and £300 depending on the work required.   Onwards and upwards!   Nick      

 

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