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Norton 16H

1938 Norton 16H1940 Norton 16H1946 Norton 16H16H

Tracing its lineage back to 1911, the Norton 16H was by turns a TT racer, wartime despatch bike and family sidecar slogger, in a remarkable career that spanned 33 years. In all that time the engine's basic layout remained unchanged - it was simply that the world moved on around it.

In 1911, the Isle of Man TT included a 500cc Senior class for the first time and Norton had a new design ready to contest it. A side-valve of 490cc with dimensions of 79 x 100mm bore and stroke, it was listed as the 3 1/2. Founder James Norton rode one of the firm's entries himself but failed to place. Yet, the very next year, a similar bike won the Brooklands TT and three world records in one event. In 1913, versions on sale included the Brooklands Special (BS) and Brooklands Road Special (BRS), which with their single-speed belt-driven transmission were guaranteed to have lapped Brooklands at more than 70mph (65mph for the BRS), while many were capable of exceeding 80mph.

A chain-driven version was developed but with World War 1 intervening it was 1919 before the 490cc Norton was back in civilian production. The catalogued Model 16 now featured chain-drive with a three-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox and was directly related to the competition bikes that were holders of some 21 world records. In 1920, at the first post-war TT, half the finishers were riding Nortons.

The next year, Norton launched a new model, called the Norton Colonial. Aimed at the expanding market in less developed areas of the Empire, it had a higher ground clearance that the standard bike, which gained an even lower riding position and a new designation - the Norton 16H ('H' for Home) model.

In 1922, Norton's race development effort switched to the newly designed overhead-valve Model 18. Out of the spotlight, the Norton 16H found a new role as a popular sporting tourer. The engine was reworked in 1931 but the next major change came in 1936, when after earlier successful trials, the army began to place regular orders for 16Hs (modified for off-road use). Continued right through the war, more than 80,000 were delivered, spanning a decade in all. Some bikes stayed in service until the late 1930s.

Norton 16H

  • Years in production - 1921-54
  • Engine - single-cylinder side-valve four-stroke
  • Bore and Stroke - 79 x 100mm
  • Capacity - 490cc
  • Compression ratio - 4.9:1
  • Power - 12bhp
  • Tyres (front/rear) - 3.25 x 26in
  • Top speed - 78mph