Field Find Redux: 1963 Norton Electra ES400

A Norton Electra found in a field is restored to perfection by readers Ian and Craig Easton.

| January/February 2018

  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Owner Ian Easton aboard the Electra. It’s a small bike, but was clearly styled to ape its larger brother, the mighty 750cc Atlas.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    The Electra as it looked just after unloading the bike into Ian’s garage.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Black widow spiders hid throughout, and the carburetor was full of mud.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    The frame is assembled from six different parts. From top, the central spine, front with steering head, two reinforcement plates, and the left and right sides.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    The starter motor arrangement.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Power comes from two 6-volt batteries.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    Ian Easton's 1963 Norton Electra ES400.
    Photo by Craig Easton
  • Norton Electra
    The electric starter protrudes from the left of the engine, seen here in front of Ian’s left foot.
    Photo by Craig Easton

  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra
  • Norton Electra

1963 Norton Electra ES400
Engine: 383cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 66mm x 56mm bore and stroke, 7.9:1 compression ratio, 25hp @ 6,800rpm (claimed)
Top speed: 90mph (est.)
Carburetion: Single 7/8in Amal monobloc
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v (two 6v in series), coil and breaker points ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Pressed steel with tubular side frames/51.5in (1,308mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, dual shocks w/ adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 8in (203mm) SLS drum front, 7in (178mm) SLS drum rear
Tires: 3 x 19in front, 3.25 x 18in rear
Weight (wet): 350lb (159kg)
Seat height: 32in (813mm)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3.5gal (13.2ltr)/50mpg (est.)
Price then/now: $789 (1964)/$1,500-$7,000

Regular readers may recall the story of a YR2C (Field Find, September/October 2016) and how it languished in a field for decades alongside the Norton featured here.

My son, Craig, negotiated a deal with the owner and brought them home, where we set to work on them. Decades of exposure to the elements had not been kind to these bikes, and had it not been for their relative rarity they would probably have been destined for the scrap pile. Their fate, however, turned when we decided they were worth restoring, even though we knew there was an enormous task ahead of us.

After completing the Yamaha we turned to the Norton. The first thing I discovered about the Electra is that in the sphere of Norton owners and classic bike enthusiasts, when asked about it, the Electra was almost always met with much derision. Why is that?



Comments are always about the bike being unreliable, both electrically and mechanically, leaking terribly, vibrating too much, and using a built-up frame not typical of a Norton. That doesn’t leave much left to be good about the bike. Its only redeeming value it seemed was that it was fitted with Norton’s reputable Roadholder forks and the full-size drum brakes from the bigger models. I was even told at one point to keep the forks and throw the rest away. These comments didn’t typically come from riders with firsthand experience of the Electra, and it made me think that these myths were just being passed down through generations of motorcyclists. To find sympathetic and knowledgeable owners, I looked to the members of the U.K. Norton Owners Club. The Lightweight section of the club’s online forum was full of help, guidance and encouragement for the Electra.

Electra development

From 1958 to 1965 Norton produced what became known as its Lightweights, starting with the Jubilee, a 250cc 4-stroke twin. The Jubilee was released to celebrate Norton’s 60th anniversary — its diamond jubilee. The plan was to encourage new riders into the Norton fold, who would then step up to the bigger models as they gained experience. It was also meant to capture a share of the affordable get-to-work transportation sector being capitalized on by rival companies such as Triumph and BSA.

Peter
3/1/2018 11:05:34 AM

I found it very rewarding to restore a 1964 Norton Electra in Yorkshire, England. Very rare here too. I now thoroughly enjoy riding it on the lesser roads of England and Europe. Very few people have seen one before and you'd be amazed how often I'm asked "Is it an Atlas". Hope it still brings a smile when you fire it up Ian.


Dan
1/28/2018 4:06:40 PM

Glad I found this article. I just bought a 1963 Electra #703 that is in similar condition as the one you have written about and a first time Norton owner. I have just ordered the parts and service manuals to make a list of all the needed parts, on which is the missing centerstand and kickstand, so if you have any ideas on how to located those items or any other tips on how to tear-down and reassemble Electra it would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!!


Dan
1/28/2018 3:54:26 PM

Glad I found this article. I just bought a 1963 Electra #703 that is in similar condition as the one you have written about and a first time Norton owner. I have just ordered the parts and service manuals to make a list of all the needed parts, on which is the missing centerstand and kickstand, so if you have any ideas on how to located those items or any other tips on how to tear-down and reassemble Electra it would be greatly appreciated! Cheers!!




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