1950 Manx Norton
August 16, 2014
Today a piece of Maritime motorcycling history has departed. A 1950 Manx Norton belonging to John Johnson of Moncton was sold to Gary Gates of San Antonio, TX for a price that was far beyond my means to purchase. This bike held a prominent place in my memories. A little background is in order.
This bike was a spare sent by the Norton factory to race in Daytona in 1950. After the Daytona race this bike ended up in the stable of Mac McConney in Boston and in 1959 was brought to Moncton to compete in and help promote the Maritime races.
Mr. Johnson was the Maritime distributor for Norton and was a strong promoter of the races and the Manx was used to fill out as many classes as could be and was raced by whichever Norton guy was available. I became one of those guys in 1964 and raced the bike as often as I could. I road raced mostly but also did dirt track races to help promote a new track for Joe MacEwan who was another racer of that time.
In the early seventies the bike was no longer competitive and was mothballed until the early nineties when I started racing vintage classes with my own bikes. Mr. Johnson approached me to see if I would race the Manx again. He maintained it and I raced it, several races every year both at Shubenacadie mainly in the Atlantic TT and in New Hampshire in the Vintage Festival Races and in the Reunion races at Gunstock.
Several significant Vintage races were won including the first of the reunion races in the original track for the Laconia Nationals held at Gunstock. In 2006 the Manx raced for the last time and was put on loan in the Maritime Motorsports Hall of Fame in Petticodiac after Mr. Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010.
A couple of interesting facts; being a factory prepared racer, this bike had no serial numbers stamped on it; also, the bike was prepared originally by well known factory tuner Francis Beart and was so well done that in all those years, never had the bottom end rebuilt, it never needed it. Its too bad it had to be sold but Mr. Johnson is, I think, 89 this year and can use the money. On my part, I am not racing any more...... but of all the bikes I raced this one was the most fun.
The first picture shows the old and new owners, John Johnson on the left, Gary Gates on the right, the second shows yours truly accepting the winners flag for the victory lap at the Gunstock Reunion Races.
- Thane Gillies