1952 Manx Norton | Motorcycle Review

Norton’s domination at the Isle of Man during the 1930s earned their race bikes the “Manx” appellation, and by 1950, an innovative tubular steel “Featherbed” chassis further advanced the breed. Norton’s two World Championship titles in 1951 reaffirmed the company’s “Unapproachable Norton” slogan, though more powerful MV Agustas and Gileras would eventually depose the British brand.

This matching-numbered 1952 Manx Norton is a methanol-fueled variation of the iconic 500cc race bike. With a stunning 14:1 compression ratio, it boasts the unique distinction of having beaten a gasoline-powered Manx Norton that was ridden by Barry Sheene at the 2003 Goodwood Festival of Speed. As legend has it, four-time world champion Hugh Anderson was riding the winning Manx at the vintage event, and it wasn’t until after the race that the defeated Sheene realized his competitor’s bike used the more volatile combustible.

As well as being historically significant, this bike, which was rebuilt by world-class restorer Ken McIntosh of New Zealand, holds special interest for Michael Taggart. His grandparents ran a bakery on the Isle of Man before they emigrated to the United States, later to found Wonder Bread. While Taggart’s stable of Jaguars and Lotuses brands him an Anglophile of the highest order, his meticulously restored 1952 Manx Norton’s connection to his roots makes it an emotional focal point of his collection.