Monday, December 27, 2010


Reader Mick King, owner of Superformance Motorcycles in Vancouver (one of the first performance/custom bike shops in Western Canada) built an interesting special in the late 1960s, using a Norton Featherbed frame and a salvaged NSU car engine. This was around the same time Friedl Münch was building his first specials along the same lines; the Norton/NSU makes an interesting comparison to the Mammüt (see my road test here) and another contemporary special using an NSU engine; the Bison.  Mick's Norton/NSU special now lives in the Trev Deeley Museum in Vancouver, Canada.

'In the 1960s, there were no NSU dealers in Vancouver, and the car owners couldn't get them repaired... I had a motorcycle shop, and would fix a few NSU cars because I had managed an NSU dealership in the UK.  They were so simple to work on, it was a good revenue source and sideline to my motorcycle business, which was one of the first on BCs west coast.  I took in a trade an NSU 1200 TT car for two hundred bucks; due to rat infestation and rust the car was gutted and the wheels and sundry items sold off. I kept looking at the engine thinking it might look good in one of my Norton Featherbed frames, which owed me nothing... I had a couple gathering dust in the attic!

As winter started in, the bike work stopped; I had just brought over an apprentice from the UK, and a new 9-1/2" South Bend lathe for our custom bike division, and decided to see if we could fit the NSU motor into the Norton frame. This gave the new arrival some valuable turning experience.  We wanted the engine to fit the existing Norton engine mounts, as I did not want to mess up the frame for the sake of the NSU engine; I had no input or feedback as to how it may perform.  When the Münch showed up in Cycle Canada magazine I thought, "Great timing! Maybe I can find some encouragement from the article!"  But there was no data -no speed or bhp- as I recollect, the mag people were not allowed to ride it?  So we plodded on, and after a few weeks the engine was roughed-in, and we took it for a ride.  I could see why there was no data available - it was a gutless wonder, despite major engine work! I considered buying a twin-cam Japanese car engine but they were all snapped up for mini flat track race cars, as they are today!
Note: four Amal Concentric carbs, and reversed Norton gearbox.  Top photo shows four Norton Commando 'Peashooter' exhausts!

So I worked on the camshaft, flowed the cylinder head, calibrated the exhausts, put one large-bore carb onto each each inlet port, used premium fuel, etc, and finally managed to get 125mph out of it, which in the late sixties was not too shabby.  We painted it up black white + chrome, it looked kinda menacing! It was entered in bike shows from Vancouver to Seattle, and it won a lot of 1st place trophies. The whole project cost around fifteen hundred bucks.

Trying to draw a comparison with the Münch would be a waste of time in my opinion, considering the amount of money he invested, plus his engineering facilities and so on.  Nevertheless I think from the get-go the Münch Mammut was doomed, mainly because D.O.H.C. motorcycle engines [such as Kawasaki Z-1] were already making their debut, and strapping an antiquated and gutless S.O.H.C NSU car engine into such an enormous and costly project baffled me and my mechanics from the get go.  Then there was the price... ridiculous!'

Mick notes, "All of the information above is alleged! and relegated to my memory at the time."