It’s been a long time coming but Nigel’s “Burton” Buell-Norton Franken-Buell finally burst into life on the bench over at JWA Motorcycles at Bromborough. Proprietor John Wynne has been busy completing the myriad tasks required to get it running and ready for the MOT.
Although a little different to the pre-war and vintage fare we like this bike very much and have been following the build with interest. I have to say the bike is looking very nice indeed and I’m looking forward to a test ride before the bike is torn down for painting, plating and finishing.
Here we have the latest pictures of the Buell-Norton hybrid that is slowly becoming known as The Burton. After Paul had the new tank made and fitted the fuel pump / header tank the bike was ready for collection from the Norley workshop at Aberystwyth. There’s a lot of work yet to be done but as we wheeled the bike into the van it quickly became obvious that the look and proportions of the bike were “just right”.
The capacity of the hand-crafted aluminium tank is necessarily somewhat restricted by the air filter and fuel pump arrangements but it blends well with the seat unit and rest of the bike. And with the head-down, backside up riding position I’m guessing that regular fuel stops might well be a blessing.
With Nigel being keen to keep development moving forward at a pace, we spent the evening at the pub preparing a (s)hit-list for ace-restorer John Phizacklea to take a look at. Early the next morning we headed up to John’s well equipped workshop where my own ’28 Sunbeam is currently on the bench awaiting a few finishing touches.
John usually specialises in considerably earlier bikes from the vintage and veteran eras so this American-British conglomeration should provide an interesting diversion. And all his imperial spanners will fit too, which is very handy indeed as there’s an awful lot of work to be done before the bike is complete. From guards to wiring, exhausts to paintwork the job is really just beginning and in the next photo we can see Nigel showing John the height of the pile of cash that he thinks will be needed.
Rapid progress has been made by the guys at Norley and the rolling chassis is looking good and actually nearing completion.
One of the next challenges is the petrol tank which needs to accommodate the air filter and leave space for the electrical systems needed for the fuel injected motor. The idea is to have vents at the front of the tank that will force-feed air under pressure to the intake. Fuel tank capacity is likely to be measured in pints rather than gallons!
Quality rear-sets from a 70s Kawasaki have been “adjusted” to fit and certainly are in keeping with the bike whilst an offset rear-sprocket takes care of the chain aligment.
To paraphrase Robert M. Pirsig “it is better for a good idea to destroy a motorcycle than for an owner’s club to destroy a good idea”. Sometimes a chap has to stand upright in the face of those without clear vision and those who would seek to maintain the “status quo”. Nigel O’Connell is just such a man and, close to the Welsh seaside town of Aberystwyth, he found Paul and the guys at Norley frame kits were willing and able to turn his wet dream into cold steel.
Norley have been making Manx Norton frames for 40 years and also produce frames for other high-profile companies involved in the re-creation of iconic motorcycles. The café-racer things has always appealed and whilst everyone wants an Ogri-bike few can afford the Vincent technology to power it. After spotting this gap in the market a few evenings were spent with beer mats in the pub and the Harley/Buell engine’d Norley frame was born. Weighing in at 15.5kg including swinging arm it shares its geometry with the original Manx Norton featherbed design.
Nigel’s project began with a perfectly good Buell XB12 that was a nice, but not quite mint, example. The sort of bike you’d be happy to ride in all weathers and not have to worry about cleaning nano-seconds afterwards. Yet smart enough to impress outside the pub.
Why not drive it down to Wales in the back of the van and completely dismantle it then? I confess to being initially sceptical but after the first visit and talking with Paul I began to see a chink of light. This is the first XB frame kit that Norley have produced and so the first job was to take the bike apart and build a new jig using the original frame. The motor is suspended from the beam frame in the donor bike and this means some lateral thinking when moving the lump across to its new home.
The concept of the new bike is a not-so subtle blend of new and old that retains the essential characteristics of the classic café-racer and the Buell Lightning. To Nigel, this means keeping the original Buell wheels and especially the unique rim-mounted disc brake. A conversion to chain drive is unavoidable and to retain the fat Buell rear wheel caused a number of alignment issues. One rear wheel was sacrificed to the cause and Nigel now has all different varieties of Buell front forks coming from his ears.
The amazing thing is that it all does fit together and looks in proportion to boot! I’m looking forward to our next visit and a chance to see the completed rolling chassis. There’s a lot of work to do yet of course but this will be a massive step forward and I’ll publish some photos as the project develops.