The Norton Motorcycle Company is an old establishment. It has a rich and storied history. The Norton brand began in 1898, as a parts and fittings company. Their target audience was the two-wheel market. They didn't start manufacturing motorcycles until 1902 with purchased engines. Norton began making in-house engines in single and twin cylinder versions for the racing industry. The small company had produced nearly 100,000 military motorcycles for the Second World War. One of its most notable models was the Model 7 Dominator. It didn't have a long production run, but it marked a significant period in the brand's history.
Remembering the 1949 Norton Dominator Model 7
Norton threw its hat into the ring in the racing market of the late 1940s. The sport was catching on in Europe and was drawing big crowds. Wikipedia explains that the Dominator Model 7 was the first in the Dominator motorcycle range. The bike was made expressly for the European racing circuit. It signaled an evolution within the Norton Motorcycle company as the brand had previously stuck to the production of single-cylinder machines. Bert Hopwood designed the Model 7 with its impressive vertical twin engine. The first model rolled off production lines in 1949 and continued through 1955. It followed the lead of other motorcycle manufacturers in entering the parallel-twin race with its 500 cc displacement twin-engine called the Model 7 Dominator.
Coming in hot to plow the road
The 1949 Norton Dominator Model 7 was a hot commodity in its first year. Upon its introduction, the Model 7 was impressive and performed well on the track, but its glory was short-lived. Automotive technology made advances during the late 1940s and early '50s, and it wasn't long before Norton's advanced machines eclipsed the performance of the Dominator Model 7 with higher-performing bikes. The Model 7 paved the way as the first significant racer for the brand. It's the bike that officially put the Dominator line on the map and in the minds of European racers. As other members of the Dominator line took center stage, the Model 7 eventually took the backseat as Norton's entry-level twin bike. The Dominator Model 7 eventually became the choice for sidecar duties and was phased out after the 1955 model year was completed, according to Web Bike World. The 1949 Norton Dominator Model 7 opened the door for Norton with an impressive entry that established the brand's credibility for the innovative production of racing bikes. It was a forerunner of sorts that enjoyed a season on center stage, even imported into Japan for use as a police motorcycle.
Specs for the 1949 Norton Dominator Model 7
We remember the 1949 Norton Dominator Model 7 for its impressive entry that faded into the background as the need for speed increased. It remained a solid entry-level machine for those just getting their feet wet in motorcycle racing. Norton wasn't having any trouble selling the model, but the small company's focus turned to the design of faster bikes with increased horsepower and higher engine displacements. Norton was up against some stiff competition with Triumph and other British manufacturers pulling out all the stops to dominate the racing industry. The Model 7 set the stage for Norton and other manufacturers with its unique design. Bikez breaks it down for us explaining that the first edition of the Dominator Model 7 was a naked bike, stripped down for racing.
It was powered by a four-stroke twin engine with a displacement of 497 ccs with a 6:7:1 compression and 66 x 72.6 bore x stroke. It set the standard for the time with its 2- main bearing crankshaft and 360-degrees rod journals making the pistons rise and fall together. The cylinder block for all Model 7s was cast iron with integrally cast rocker boxes into the head, a single camshaft with a forward setting ahead of the cylinders that were chain driven to the right of the crank, with its pushrods extending through the tunnel designed into the cylinder block. The left side drove the 4-speed gearbox, multi-plate wet clutch, and primary chain. The front suspension featured hydraulic telescopic forks with plunger-type coil springs in the rear. Both front and rear tires were 3-21 with expanding drum brakes on front and back.
The bike was equipped with a solo seat with springs. The dry weight of the bike was 440.9 pounds with a seat height of 31 inches at its lowest setting. The fuel tank held just under 4.5 gallons. Norton was no slouch when it came to designing the twin-cylinder engine. The 1949 Dominator Model 7 was its first breakthrough in the production of fast bikes. They built on its foundation and soon took the Dominator series to new heights, increasing the horsepower with larger displacements from 500 cc to 600, then 650, a 750, then reaching its peak with an 850 cc displacement. The evolution of the engine in various other Dominator models tells the story of what happened to the original Dominator Model 7 from 1949. It has its place in Norton's history, and it was essential as a forerunner. It gracefully took a bow to make room for the new generations to come.
The 1949 Dominator Model 7 is a vintage bike that is getting harder to find. You can pick one up at an estate sale or auction for around $6,000 in good condition. It's not a particularly expensive collectible, but those who understand its importance in the history of motorcycle production will find it the most desirable. It was a fast bike when first introduced, but the Dominator Model 7 was soon eclipsed by the larger and more capable racers. It remained a suitable entry bike for newcomers getting a feel for racing, but as faster models evolved from its platform, the Model 7 Dominator gracefully receded into the background, with production ending in 1955. It's a bike that we can look back on to understand more about the competitive industry of the late 1940s through the 1950s era in European bike racing history.
Written by Benjamin Smith
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