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

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.

1/18/2018 6:52:55 PM

Hadn't ever heard of one - all the press is about Atlases and Commandos and Manxes. More's the pity, sounds like you have a nice runner. Congrats!

1/18/2018 10:22:07 AM

Extremely kool article. Loved the last paragraph that places the two bikes together again on the open road.........where they belong. Congratulations on your success in restoring an unusual and unique motorcycle. Great writing! Doc in Orcutt

1/18/2018 10:22:06 AM

Extremely kool article..............loved the final paragraph relating to the initial design and how it felt to be exercising them both, back on the road. Great reading!

bike on highway

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