Vintage Norton 99 Deluxe Motorcycle from the 1950’s

24 Apr 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Vintage Norton 99 Deluxe Motorcycle from the 1950’s
Aermacchi 175 Chimera

Norton 99 Deluxe

Story and photos by Graham Clayton

More isn’t always better. The weather protection provided by a touring motorcycle is commonplace today, but the introduction of enclosed bodywork in the ’50s was a short-lived experiment that might have been ahead of its time.


Much of what attracts us to one make or model of motorcycle, and not to others, is often the visual appeal of a bike’s general layout and bodywork design. In their day, many bike manufacturers, including Ducati and Bimota, have introduced a few clunkers that didn’t appeal to the buying public. This sometimes happened when a motorcycle builder gave the task of designing the bodywork of a new bike to a car designer.

What works with a car, design-wise, doesn’t always appeal to motorcycle riders.

In the 1950s, much of the design work got swept up in a futuristic outlook that affected the appearance of everything from cars to furniture and kitchen appliances. I’m talking about an approach to design that often obsessed on the new jet aircraft, space travel, aerodynamics and a futuristic, new-world look.

During much of this period, North American cars often featured side mirrors, front grills, air intakes, headlights, rear wings, taillights and other surplus chromed decorative features that had a definite jet or rocket design aspect to them.

Aermacchi 175 Chimera

During this period, a growing number of motorcycle manufacturers began producing new models that featured either semi- or fully enclosed bodywork made out of fibreglass, plastic, thin-gauge steel or aluminum. In some instances, these new sanitized designs obscured virtually all view of the engine and most of the key components of the chassis. The Vincent Black Prince and Black Knight were two examples of this, as were the 250 Ariel Sports Arrow, the 350 Ariel Leader and the 175 Aermacchi Chimera (Dream).

Other motorcycle manufacturers, including British firms Triumph, DMW and Norton, built partially enclosed bodywork designs that left the engine visible, but covered up many other parts of the motorcycle. It was claimed that such designs gave motorcycles a cleaner and more streamlined appearance. Enclosed bodywork was also credited with insulating electrics, carburetion and other key elements from the hazards caused by exposure to rain, dirt and dust.

Norton offered its first semi-enclosed bodywork model in 1958 with the introduction of the 250 Jubilee Deluxe, a 4-stroke pushrod twin that had a fully enclosed rear body section. Within a couple of years, Norton was also offering its semi-enclosed bodywork for the 350 Navigator, the 400 Electra, and the 500 and 600 cc Dominator twins (Model 88 and Model 99 respectively).

The original Dominator twin had been designed by the legendary Bert Hopwood in 1947 to meet the company’s need to offer a modern pushrod twin in order to keep pace with fellow British manufacturers. Hopwood subsequently left Norton, but returned to the firm in 1955 and immediately began upgrading his dated 500 twin with an alloy cylinder head, better electrics and other improvements. (read more)

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Aermacchi 175 Chimera
Aermacchi 175 Chimera
Aermacchi 175 Chimera
Aermacchi 175 Chimera

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