‘Joe Craig: Making Norton Well-known’

If any single individual deserves credit score for Norton’s extraordinary many years of racing dominance from the 1930 via the mid-Fifties, it have to be Joe Craig.  The de facto racing workforce supervisor for Norton beneath a number of house owners, Craig at first efficiently raced the manufacturing facility product within the Twenties, then switched to the function of growth engineer in 1930.  He held that place (regardless of a break from the corporate throughout WW2) via 1955, when postwar firm house owners Related Motor Cycles (AMC) determined unique manufacturing facility specials may not be supported financially, and focussed on promoting manufacturing facility catalogued racers just like the Norton Manx, AJS 7R, and Matchless G50 fashions, all of which had been produced concurrently beneath their company possession.

Norton manufacturing facility racer Jimmie Guthrie in 1936, after taking a number of world speed-distance information on the Montlhéry pace bowl: 117.161mph for 50 miles with the 500cc machine, and 107.669mph for 100km with a 350cc Norton. [Craig family archive]

Mick Duckworth has simply printed a paean to Norton’s heyday: ‘Joe Craig – Making Norton Well-known’, constructed from the collected photographic archive of the person himself, offered by surviving  members of the Craig household.   The archive has handed via many fingers since Joe’s 1957 dying in a automotive accident, first along with his son Des, then family and Norton fans who understood the worth of the gathering. Lastly, Mick was tapped by Barry Stickland to do one thing with the images, and has self-published a novel doc: 218 pages of pictures from Joe Craig’s profession, with solely six of them sourced outdoors the household archive – one thing of a dream for an creator.

Joe Craig in 1929, aged 31, with an early OHC Norton ‘Moore’ racer with the ‘cricket bat’ engine. [W&G Baird]

Duckworth has informed the story of Joe Craig’s profession in photos, with a couple of separate essays, however many of the info is hooked up as context for the multitude of images, which ought to delight any fan of Norton racing bikes from their earliest OHC CS1 racers of 1928, designed by Walter Moore, via their final experimental Kind F outside-flywheel Manx of 1955, developed 25 years after Arthur Carroll and Joe Craig sat right down to rectify the constraints of Moore’s engine.

Joe Craig filling Jimmy Simpson’s 350cc manufacturing facility Norton on the 1934 Swiss Grand Prix. [Carl Jost / Berne State Archive]

We’re a very long time previous Norton’s ‘golden age of racing’, as Mick places it, between 1930-38, when the Worldwide and Manx Grand Prix fashions really dominated street racing, profitable greater than 70 Grands Prix and 10 European Championships.  Joe Craig earned a status for being as ‘Unapproachable’ because the manufacturing facility slogan, for he ran a decent ship, and wasn’t recognized for the exuberance, for instance, of his longtime racing star Stanley Woods.  However Mick suggests a softer facet to the person, particularly in the direction of his household and shut buddies.

Mick Duckworth’s newest, made nearly completely of Joe Craig’s private images between the Twenties via Fifties. [Mick Duckworth]

There are undoubtedly gems on this assortment, together with Craig’s barbs on the nascent Classic Motor Cycle Membership in a March 1944 article in The Motorbike: “I ought to wish to make some try at breaking away from the current modern follow, which is turning into nearly a vice, of rhapsodizing over historical, so-called masterpieces.  This latter tendency might maybe be partly attributable to Capt. JJ Corridor’s actions [Hall was co-founder of the VMCC with ‘Titch’ Allen] – or ought to I say ‘mania’ – for gathering classic machines.  If we’re to think about the long run critically as regards improved motor cycles, then we should break new floor.”  Take into account, after all, that Craig was a growth engineer in a particularly aggressive trade, and in 1944 worldwide ‘competitors’ was fairly actually deadly.

Each image tells a narrative, don’t it? At race conferences, Joe Craig invariably wore go well with and tie, however on the 1935 German GP, he wore an informal workingman’s outfit, and refused to lift his arm within the Nazi salute for 250cc race winner (DKW) Walfried Winkler, who seems sternly at Joe and 350cc race winner Walter Rusk (Norton after all), who likewise ignores hails to the Führer. It is a full 4 years earlier than the UK went to conflict with Germany, and demonstrates precisely how Joe Craig felt about Fascism. [Schneider]

As a workforce boss and single-minded growth engineer, Joe Craig had few friends.  Whereas each different manufacturing facility workforce explored multi-cylinder, supercharged racers within the Thirties, Norton remained steadfast of their evolution of the Manx, specializing in reliability and very good dealing with traits, which served them effectively in long-distance and street racing occasions.  At different venues, equivalent to Monza, prime pace was the whole lot, and the Nortons had been 20mph down on prime pace in comparison with a Gilera 4 or BMW blown twin.  His decades-long growth work on the Carroll engine design was rivaled within the trade solely by, imagine it or not, the race store at Harley-Davidson, who stored their 750cc sidevalve racers aggressive (domestically) from 1930 via 1969, with final iterations of the KRTT clocking in at 150mph on Daytona’s banking.

Harold Daniell at Donington Park in 1936, with Norton’s first telescopic fork, about to take the lap document on an empty observe as an exhibition between races: he lopped 7 seconds off absolutely the observe document. Observe the heavy bracing for the big megaphone exhaust. Joe Craig seems nervous, with packing containers of spark plugs on the prepared. High pace of this final SOHC manufacturing facility racer was round 120mph, which was hoisted to 125+mph when the manufacturing facility racers went to DOHC in 1938. [Dunlop archive]

Do you rhapsodize over historical, so-called masterpieces?  Then certainly you want this e book!  You may order the e book right here.


Paul d’Orléans is the founding father of TheVintagent.com. He’s an creator, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, occasion organizer, and public speaker. Try his Creator Web page, Instagram, and Fb.