Colin Seeley was a highly successful British sidecar racer back in the 60's who subsequently gained international fame for building frames for race bikes which were light but produced better handling than virtually anything else available at the time. He was also associated with Brabham race cars in the 1980's because of his reputation.
He built an ultra lightweight and physically tiny 500cc Matchless G50-engined race bike for well-known UK racer Dave Croxford to campaign for the 1971 season. As an aside, I was living in the UK at that time and regularly went to the various races so must have seen it, although I have no specific memory of the bike. Although the competitiveness of British singles was on strictly borrowed time against Japanese and Italian bikes, Dave Croxford and the Seeley had some epic battles and wins against them on the short circuits. A good example of power to weight ratio and sublime handling.
Jumping forward to late 2020 to continue the story, UK auctioneers Bonhams; were auctioning a parcel of rare and classic bikes. My mate and fellow Coromandel resident Paul successfully races a Norton 850 and he saw a Laverda Jota among the auction offerings as well as the Seeley. The auction was in the middle of the night NZ time but Paul sat up and joined the on-line bidding. The Jota went for far more than Paul was prepared to pay but for some unknown reason, he was the only bidder for the Seeley and got it at an excellent price.
Unfortunately and no thanks to Covid, there was a substantial delay in getting it shipped to NZ. When it eventually arrived, Paul had it sent to the company which prepares his Norton racebike for a ground-up rebuild. The engine was pretty tired and needed TLC. By way of example, those big singles used to vibrate and the frequencies caused cooling fins to fail. The photo below shows broken fins and evidence of past repairs.
No mucking about, a new cylinder head was fitted and plastic wedges between the fins to dampen the vibrations. Note the gold painted camchain cover. It protects the lightweight magnesium alloy from corrosion. The gearbox is also painted for the same reason.
After the extensive rebuild and a repaint, Paul has only just received it - well worth waiting for as the photos below show - it's now flawless! Yesterday, Jennie and I dropped in to see it and what a beauty it is. It's absolutely tiny, presumably to reduce frontal area as well as to improve power to weight ratio. The bottom half of the fairing has been removed in these photos, just for access to the engine.
Here's a short clip of Paul starting it on the rollers. It's a sight noisier than the video shows!
It's almost a case of serendipity as Paul met Colin Seeley when he came to a NZ classic race meeting in 2012 as a guest of honour. He will keep racing his Norton and just demo the Seeley at classic meetings. Isn't it just great that there are people like Paul who keep history alive and kicking? For the nerdy amongst us, the info below was taken from the Bonham's auction site.
THE EX-WORKS, DAVE CROXFORD