When Frenchman Sebastien Beaupere wanted pay hommage to Norton’s legendary Manx he was always going to have his work cut out for him. Norton’s Manx is recognised as one of the most influential British racing bikes ever made and as most would agree, could never be recreated using anything but original Norton components. But custom building isn’t about rules it’s about self expression and purpose so while Sebastien’s ‘Neoretro’ Buell Manx will have purists shaking their heads while others will be grinning from ear to ear.
For his project Sebastien selected a 103bhp Buell XB12s as a base. Unlike Norton’s single cylinder Manx the Buell was powered by a 1200cc v-twin producing around 103bhp, leaving no question about it’s straight line performance compared to the Norton. His original plan was to transplant the v-twin into a Norton featherbed style tubular frame but after some hard riding and closer inspection decided he couldn’t better the Buells original frame with such a change so handling upgrades would have to come in another form.
Just like the original Manx the Buell featured a short wheel base and low center of gravity offering excellent handling characteristics. To further improve the Buell’s handling Sebastien spared no expense with a set of fully adjustable 43mm TiN-coated Ohlins inverted forks and a matching adjustable Ohlins mono shock in the rear. The cast aluminium wheels were then replaced with retro styled spoked rims fit with a mix of Brembo and Beringer brake components.
Retro styling was a top priority of the build so much of the bikes bodywork was hand made by Sebastien who is a sculptor by trade. Plastic was stripped away and replaced with alloy and leather. A hand-formed fuel tank and air intakes were painstakingly beaten into shape and left raw just like Norton’s Manx. The seat and top yoke are both original Manx parts, modified to match the Buells dimensions and brass mesh covers the windshield and side covers to compliment the gold of the Ohlins forks. The Manx style bikini fairing is also Sebastien’s own design, wrapped in leather and inlaid with 60 ultra bright, white LEDs in an arrangement that resembles the number 1 found on Norton’s Isle of Mann race bike. Finally a selection of decals and custom Manx graphics complete Sebastien’s build, not to pose as an impostor but to celebrate the bike that influenced it’s creation.
In 1947 Norton Motorcycles released the Manx, a purpose built racing motorcycle powered by a 500cc air cooled thumper capable of speeds of up to 140mph. In 1950 the Manx was significantly upgraded with the addition of Norton’s game changing ‘Featherbed’ frame. That same year the Norton Manx scored a Double hat-trick of podium positions at the Isle of Mann TT etching it a place in the history books and earning it the legendary status it still holds today.