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1949 500cc DOHC Garden Gate "Moule/Vaasen" Manx
1949 30M Garden Gate Manx
This bike was built by Norton Motors and despatched on 31/5/1949 for Albert Moule's 1949 Junior TT entry. It is one of the first two DOHC models supplied to privateers. Before then all "production" Manxes were OHC. The DOHC engine gave more power but was far more complicated. Married to what is but a strong bicycle frame, and in combination with the rather too flexible long Roadholder forks, this makes for an exciting motorcycle to race on modern rubber and modern race tracks. At the time, with races often run on gravel, and with the hard rubber tires, it was probably less exciting to ride than it is today.
Moule, at the time manager at Colmore Depot in Birmingham, Norton's biggest dealer in the UK, and a racer of some repute, rode the bike in the TT, lapped at 80mph but retired on the 6th lap, reason unknown.
He then returned the bike to the Norton works in winter 1949/50 and had it converted to 500cc (confirmed in the works records). On it, he rode the "Continental Circus" in 1950 and we suspect "lost" the bike before he returned. He "lost" it to Franz Vaasen, Duesseldorf, pre-war one of Germany's best privateers, always on Nortons, and a pre-war TT competitor. It is possible Vaasen and Moule met before the war and knew each other even then, both being TT competitors in 1939.

Franz Vaasen had lost a leg in a race in 1947, on another Norton at a track race in Wuppertal, and concentrated on sidecar racing forthwith- he had raced sidecars and solos before the accident. He used this machine in sidecar racing for a while, then tried to sell it. Unfortunately, the garden gate framed bikes were practically unsaleable by then, the featherbed having arrived in 1950, so Vaasen kept the bike for many years.
It came to us though an aquaintance of Vaasen whom Vaasen had reputedly given the bike as a present. Whether this was true or not could not be verified because Vaasen was, by then, in the Duesseldorf lunatic asylum, and could not be asked. He died shortly after we bought the bike.

After a long restoration, helped by the fact the bike had not been run after the early fifties and had few contemporary modifications- the rear frame strengthening being the most significant- the bike was the first real racer Joe Seifert rode on the track and it saw his most successful era as a motorcycle racer. Riding it again, after a long pause bridged by the featherbed "Glaeser Manx", in Rijeka in 2011, it was hard to believe a chassis can be that bad, and, by the time one has gotten used to the non-handling beast, can actually be ridden fast, resulting in amazing lap times! All just a question of switching off brain and fear....
1949
Albert Moule, Isle of Man TT 1949, with our bike, still in 350cc form.
Somewhere in a French Rider's Paddock.
Albert Moule (kneeling) working on our bike. Phil Heath behind him.

Albert Moule and Phil Heath often travelled together in the "Continental Circus".
1952 German Grand Prix
Franz Vaasen at the 1952 German Grand Prix.
Rear frame bracing can just be made out, as well as the recesses he had hammered into the petrol tank for his knees and which were still there when we got the bike.
1995 Hungaroring
Joe Seifert, Hungaroring, 1995. Still young, fearless, and winning races....

Not any more, though- I got slower, most others are now faster!
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