24 June 2013

John Player Norton TT winner recreated

Peter Williams to build 25 authentic copies of his monocoque Norton racebike that won the 1973 Isle of Man Formula 750 race, and is planning a carbon-fibre racer


As more records fall each year at the Isle of Man TT and John McGuiness inches closer to Joey Dunlop’s outright record of 26 wins, one record set 40 years ago remains untouched. In  the 1973 F750 race, Peter Williams took a Norton that he had designed to the top step of the podium, surely a unique achievement.

Just as remarkable was the bike itself, which featured a twin-spar monocoque frame and gave Norton their first TT victory in 12 years. Williams lapped at 107.27 mph, which was just under the outright lap set by TT legend Mike Hailwood six years earlier in 1967 on a Honda. When you consider that Hailwood was on a multi-cylinder machine and Williams on a bike powered by a push-rod Norton Commando engine, it gives some idea of his riding ability.

Peter Williams was born into the motorcycle world, his father being the renowned Jack Williams, a designer most closely linked with Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) race department. Peter followed in his father’s footsteps and trained in mechanical engineering. He was responsible for many innovations, such as alloy wheels and disc brakes, when not  riding the race bikes he was helping to design.

Despite his studious appearance, Williams knew how to get the best out of a bike on the track, finishing fourth in the 1967 world championship, on a Matchless. He had many wins and podium finishes, including the 500cc British Championship in 1970, and probably would have had a lot more, but his career was cut short by a devastating crash at Oulton Park in 1974 which left him unable to ride.

Despite this, Williams continued to be involved with motorcycles and was involved in the development of a carbon-fibre monocoque superbike, when working for Lotus cars. He also designed an electric powered racing bike, aimed at the TTXGP Zero Emissions race at the Isle of Man TT, and has a number of motorcycle frame and engine design patents.

After working for the new Norton concern at Donington, Williams set up Peter Williams Motorcycles Ltd. in conjunction with Greg Taylor of motorcycle engineering firm GTME and Mark Wells & Ian Wride of design consultancy Xenophya Design.

Their first project is a replica of his 1973 F750 TT-winning John Player Norton. Just 25 of the monocoque Commandos will be built and will cost purchasers £65,000, which may sound expensive until you consider that an original would likely cost more than  £250,000.

Only four original JPNs were built and you wouldn’t want to run one in anger now, even if you could. However the new bike can be used without the risk of damaging a piece of history. PWM hope that the first of the monocoque replicas will be ready for production in 2013, the 40th anniversary of Williams' epic Isle of Man win.

The original monocoques incorporated the fuel tank into the stainless steel chassis, and took 12 man-weeks to build. But thanks to modern CAD design and CNC laser cutters, this time will be dramatically cut and improve the accuracy of the process. Norton specialist Mick Hemmings will build the engines with all new parts, including a new cam design from Peter.
The new bikes will use unique cast magnesium wheels and forks, created from the original ‘70s drawings and where these have been lost, original bikes have been used as a reference point for the rest of the components.

The JPN project isn’t just a nostalgic celebration of the 40th anniversary of Williams’   historic win, but  also to raise working capital for his pet project – a modern motorcycle with a carbon-fibre monocoque chassis. As mentioned earlier, he produced the first prototype in conjunction with Lotus some years ago. Development is now well underway of a new model for low-volume production.

Speaking at the launch of the project Williams said: "Working with the team brought fresh ideas and a different perspective on how to make the monocoque chassis motorcycle project a reality. Starting with the replicas of my 1973 TT-winning bike, we will show investors what we are capable of, and present collectors and enthusiasts with a unique opportunity. We already have a number of interested purchasers. The 'designed for manufacture' version will be of equal elegance and efficient function as the original JPN monocoque. As soon as we receive firm orders, we can press the button and create the new bikes.”

Purists are bound to be interested in this project. British bike fans will no doubt celebrate the fact that Ian Mackman and Daniel Hegarty finished the prestigious Senior TT last week (with Mackman netting a bronze replica for his 24th place), many consider the Aprilia-engined Nortons to be imposters. One should never forget that Norton’s first win at the TT was Peugeot-powered, but the new Williams’ machine will be totally British.

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