Norton water-cooled Classic

Diesel Motorcycles using Norton Parts

The Sidney Diesel Norton

The Sidney Diesel Norton with its prototype Diesel engine.

After much searching I can annouce that I finally managed to find the original test rider of the above machine. His Father designed the above engine and fitted it into what he refered to as his mobile test bed. The bike was put together in Sussex, England in the mid 1950’s.

Below are details taken from two letters sent to me from Tony Sidney, the machines test rider.

The Norton Motorcycle.

In the early 1950’s Arthur Alexander Sidney developed a revolutionary high speed Diesel engine of 500cc capacity which was comprised mainly or Aluminium. Firstly to help prove the engine, secondly to simulate different loads upon it and thirdly to show it to potential customers he fitted it into a Norton motorcycle frame.

His son, Arthur Anthony Sidney joined him in 1956 at the workshop in Saltdean, Brighton, and together they tested the Diesel Motorcycle driving it as far a field as West Drayton, London where another engine had been fitted to a Dumper Truck owned by a company called Road Machines.

The bike produced 10-14 BHP at around 4000 RPM. It was possible to kick-start the machine with the valves lifted but on cold mornings it really needed to be pushed or towed behind a car.

Top speed was about 55 MPH using a standard Norton Gearbox and the engine had, as you’d expect, bags of torque. Getting over the hills outside Brighton was no problem but acceleration was relatively slow.

The large exposed flywheel could be dangerous at times but the very fact that it was exposed helped enormously when setting up the engines timing.

The Engine.

The engine itself was made from Aluminium to a: help dissipate the heat and b: save weight. Any loss of strength, considering the high compression ratio, was compensated for by the use of tensile steel rods which ran from the main bearings up to the cylinder head. The piston also carried a relief for the valve.

The combustion chamber was of the ‘squirt type’ being machined into the cast iron cylinder head. Fuel injection was by CAV pump with modified nozzle (to give optimum spray profile and combustion).

The crankshaft was pressure lubricated and ran in phosphor bronze plain bearings (a massive construction) and the cylinder block was lined.

Testing took place on a Heenan Fronda water break Dynamometer. Only 4 engines were made and all parts were manufactured locally in the Brighton area. At one time Ford was interested in aquiring the patent but this was not followed up.

This next machine was modified by A Freeman Sanders of Newlyn, Cornwall at some time during the mid part of the last century. The engine produced 18.5hp at 4500rpm and was reportedly capable of speeds up to 70 mph. Fuel consumption was said to be in the region of 140mpg.

The pictures below were from the September 1992 edition of The Classic Motorcycle.

This 490cc machine was featured in the Practical Motorist and Motor cyclist magazine November 1954 and in The Motor cycle’s September edition of the same year. This motorcycles engine was unusual in that only the cylinder head and barrel were apparently modified. Given that the compression ratio was a reported 11.8:1, one assumes that the bottom end was easily able to cope with the marginally different combustion.

Norton water-cooled Classic

A nice close up shot of the barrel and pump set up.

Mr Freeman Sanders went on to design engines for Lister, a company well known for their general purpose engines.

A great shot this!


I’m told that prior to the RMCS / HDT collaboration on the KLR there was indeed another such project given to producing a diesel motorcycle for the Army. IN 1990 Norton Motors, Shenstone, were given the task of creating a water cooled Classic and Krauser Commander for the NEC bike show. These (petrol) bikes were completed but the show was a failure with heavy snow not helping attendance.

The team responsible for these bikes was then due to start work on an Army version of the (petrol) machine with a Diesel version to follow shortly there after. These engines were to be mounted in Endruo/off road style frames. Wolfgang Rauen was given the task of getting a single rotor 294cc Norton Wankel Rotary engine to run on Diesel and succeeded in doing this.

He spent many hours on the dynamometer sorting out the fueling only for the company to run out of money which lead to the whole Army project being canned.

The RD people were laid off and the company wound up Christmas 1990. The original Norton diesel project was for a portable marine fire pump. Compression was too low to ignite the fuel oil so ignition plugs were fitted into the spark plug holes.

After the first few seconds the engine was hot enough to combustion ignite and ran like a diesel should. Being that the project was at a very early stage when it finished no photos or drawings exist but David tells me the Diesel Wankel ran for many hours proving its durability.

SJS Copyright . All Rights Reserved

Norton water-cooled Classic
Norton water-cooled Classic
Norton water-cooled Classic
Norton water-cooled Classic
Norton water-cooled Classic

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