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Posted by john_hall1 at October 09. 2017

My Dash Board has been strange and I have now no access to Off Topic and News and Views e.t.c, nor have I been notified of any Official censor!

Just digging round in my small library of books and interestingly managed to connect together some interesting excerpts  from two authors re the  very early development of the famous McCandless and friends, Feather-bed frame!

Charlie Edwards the Norton Factory mechanic stated in 2001..." Without a shadow of a doubt the 1950 was the best. Rex wrecked the 1951 frame by trying to save weight, the frame tube was of lighter gauge and it was formed with a larger radius bend, (under the saddle), to save a few ounces.  The gusset plates were so thin that the washer and nut of the swinging arm went through the metal when you tightened them up. Also the 500cc engine would punch a piece out of the gusset plate for the swing arm.  In 1951 the shocker lay backwards and the shocker spindle would break. he made a cock-up and wouldn't admit it. At Monza they found they couldn't go through the "Lesmo" curves on full-bore. We finished up welding additional gusset plates and extra metal on gusset plates

1952 wasn't much better, he put the smaller front wheel with the big wide back tyre; kept the 300 front , the head angle was wrong and there was less clearance for the mega, ( things were grounding),. Ray Amm didn't usually complain.......the wide tyre on the back and the narrower tyre on the front couldn't cope with the "S" bends!  But Rex wouldn't listen."

Edwards, was involved throughout the period that Rex McCandless  was sub-contracted to Norton; as well as the first 1949/1950 proto-type racing frame, an additional thing Rex got right was his later  patented shock absorber with a special oil de-aeration chamber, designed some years before, but patented in 1952.

According to Geoff Duke a Lancashire Lad, he backs Charlie Edwards by  saying, " For me the original McCandless design as raced in 1950 was the best handling Norton, although all Feather-beds with their 50/50 weight distribution, required a touch of steering damper to prevent the occasional head-shake or wobble."

"The development that happened after 1950, including throwing away, the McCandless designed rear shock absorber was, in my opinion a retrograde step!"

Through inter-company politics, Norton adopted Girling's units, because they weren't bad and they paid money into the company's coffers for them to use them, which with McCandless units, this recompence, wouldn't have been available

When Norton first started to have frames built at Reynolds in Birmingham, Reynolds were apparently sworn to secrecy to protect Norton's reputation, "Reynolds needed the business and Norton wanted the glory," (Derek McGraith's book).

I have seen somewhere some pictures of Norton Factory Race bikes with Feather-bed frames having a much more acute angle, under the saddle  than the "Manx" frame with it's more gentle radius curve. They could have been the early proto-type frames maybe.  Funnily enough, the "Spam & Chips" Roadsters ended up with frames more like the original 1949/50 race bike with acute frame angles, than the "Manx" variety.

In Ken Sprayson's excellent book there are pictures of both the 1949/1950 prototype and the Norton 1951 machine, plus some detailed information about the problems Reynolds had trying to produce the road-going frames in mild steel, through Norton's bid to save money on production costs.

When Norton eventually moved out of Bracebridge Street, in 1962 I believe; Reg Dearden bought the entire contents of the race shop for £1,000, so all the exotic stuff that was left, ended up in Manchester!

I first saw a Norton Featherbed-Imp in Manchester as a teenager, whilst riding my D10 Bantam on one of the hottest days on record in mid 70s, I think it was outside it  Reg Dearden's shop, anyhow it had been built there, it has taken me almost forty years to get round to thinking of building  one, just hope my Grandma's persistence in the benefits of Cod-liver oil, pays off in my dotage!

When I visited an old school teacher of my Junior school in Chorley Lancashire, in the 2000s, she asked me whether I had ever heard of Geoff Duke, to which I replied, rather surprised , of course yes!  Well, she said my father was a TT nut, (as of course many people in Lancashire were, to get away from the football)! She was there with her family in the IOM every year and her father became very friendly with Geoff Duke.  Who asked Marjorie, (who was tall and blonde in her youth), one day, if she would like a trip round the TT circuit on the back of a motorbike with him, which she duly did, I guess there really is something special about being in the right place at the right time!

The only other thing a Feather-bed conjures up is Candice Night in a real Feather-bed, bed so to speak, now that's something I might be tempted to do a part-exchange trade-off on, but I wouldn't want to upset Richie Blackmore, without having a fast get-a-way machine on hand.


John H

Magically my Dashboard has just been restored   6:52am?

Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by Dan Field at October 09. 2017

Interesting, thanks for sharing, it would take me ages to type a post like that!


Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by john_holmes at October 10. 2017

Isn't Richie Blackmore permanently upset 😎.

Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by john_hall1 at October 10. 2017

Previously john_holmes wrote:

Isn't Richie Blackmore permanently upset 😎.

He shouldn't be, but he has a reputation for being mean & moody!

Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by alex_arthur at October 10. 2017

Interesting stuff!  As an aside, as a student I was living in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy (south Manchester) at the very end of the '70s/start of the '80s.  Reg Dearden had a shop in the main street which, whilst I was there, was permanently closed and looked to have been shut for a while judging by the state of the place.  Peering through the partially opaque windows I could see that there was still the remnants of what looked like stock (or at least the empty boxes) strewn around and the display counters appeared to have stuff in them.  Of great interest to me was what looked like an early Manx, just discernible in the gloom, sat on top of an office at the back of the shop.  I was constantly surprised that the shop was never broken into and that Manx stolen, though getting it down from the top of the office roof would have been no mean feat!

Can anyone shed any light?

Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by anthony_curzon at October 10. 2017

It was said the Richie Blackmore and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple could not even live in the same country.

Re: Featherbed-Tales

Posted by les croston at October 10. 2017

hi alex,i used to visit reg deardens shop in the late 60,s,on display in the shop window was an ex-ray amm norton,i cant see it being the same one as you saw but how long would it last in the window todays times?

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