Chapter

The Start

As any of you with a project bike knows… they can get out of hand.  That is how our vintage Seeley MKII Norton motorcycle came about.

My friends have always been involved with racing at an amateur level, as well as other series like the USGPRU.  They like to get on track as much as possible with their vintage Nortons and Ducatis in the WERA and AHRMA leagues.  There is an appreciation of period racing machines with there graceful design and dedicated focus.  This is what motivated my personal interest in vintage racing and the desire for this bike.  As with all vintage racing, the project is about the bike as much as it is about being on the track.

This brings us to Kenny Cummings.  He has been a long-standing member of our small community of vintage motorcycle enthusiasts in New York City and we have watched his vintage racing and bike-building career grow over the years.  His shop, NYC Norton, resides in Spannerland which is home to a small eclectic group motorcyclists and features its own machine shop, paint room, and dyno.  I originally approached Kenny to help bring an original Seeley MKIII Norton 750cc up to date and to get on the track with a bike that would comply with the WERA and AHRMA rules.  While the bike seemed complete, and would make a fine museum exhibit, it became clear that we would have to replace almost everything to stay within the rules.  The wheels were the wrong size. Once the motor was torn down it revealed a 920cc!!!  This would mean that most of the motor would need to be replaced from the cylinder to the crank.  The list became to long to make a bike that would be only marginally competitive.  Nowhere near as competitive as Kenny’s own race bike: a Seeley MKII Norton.

The path became clear! Kenny has an amazing vintage race bike as a result of a long evolutionary effort.  He has sourced all the best parts, worked out all the bugs, and made it fast.  It looks as a vintage race bike should.  This is why you commission Kenny Cummings to build a race bike.  The big problem is where to get the frame.  Many of the parts are made in very limited runs by other enthusiasts trying to support their own obsession.  Kenny’s frame maker, John Woods, was out of the business.  While he still creates fine vintage race motorcycle paraphernalia that we will be using… a frame is not one of them.  The toxic fumes from the brazing process is a real concern, and manufacturing frames in quantity puts any welder at risk.  So our plans went on to the back burner.

Minnovation Racing in the UK has been one of Kenny’s suppliers for some time.  Building vintage race bikes was a sideline business to their mining equipment manufacturing, but has since taken on a life of its own.  It was on a call to Martin Page at Minnovation that Kenny found out that they just happened to have a frame on the shelf, ready to go and hand fabricated by none other than Roger Titchmarsh.  To get a frame from Titchmarsh is something special.  He is the only one to make Seeley frames blessed by Colin Seeley himself!  They are truly a piece of art, and very rare as he might take months or even years before he is inspired to craft another one.  It only took a day to think about it and close the deal. We were back on track to building a race bike.  If you are looking for parts from Minnovation, Kenny is now the distributor in America.

The chassis was secured so we could move on.  Next on the list of who’s who of Norton racing is Steve Maney.  If you want the fastest motor you use his custom machined cases, cranks, barrels, belt drive, exhaust system, etc… all of which come from his own obsession with vintage racing.  His racing career stretches back to the mid seventies when a Norton could still be considered a modern motorcycle.  His machining business started in 1982, but it soon became dedicated to manufacturing of up rated Norton parts using the designs that resulted from years of racing.

This is how the plan came together.  Kenny Cummings working with Martin Page, Roger Titchmarsh, John Woods, and Steve Maney to produce the blueprint for our REV’IT Seeley MKII Norton.  All of whom have developed enthusiast driven businesses with the combined effect of manufacturing a long defunct Norton motorcycle.  That is why I think of this bike as a Cottage Factory Racer!

Although the foundation of the bike is from the UK, there are others involved and the Americans will show up later on in the process.  Time is short if we want to be ready for the season and we will be calling in all the favors we can.

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