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.
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.