Patrick Click road tests a 1949 Norton E52 and a 1951 Vincent Comet.

Photography by Martyn Barnwell.

CONTEMPORARY advertising stated that the "unapproachable Norton, the world's best road holder," had been "built in the light of experience." Indeed it had - race-bred on the track and in the TT races.

Conversely, the unsurpassable but unconformist Vincent, "the worlds safest motor cycle" (claimed to be a fact not a slogan), had been developed during clandestine, early morning, high speed dashes up and down the Great North Road, not far from where it had been conceived at Stevenage in Hertfordshire.

For, unlike the unapproachable Norton, visits to the Island by Vincent were rare. And, on those occasions that it did compete in the TT and MGP races, it was unpredictable, by no means unbreakable, and invariably unsuccessful. In fact apart from the 1,000cc Clubman's TT of 1948, 1949 and 1950, in which standard Rapides finished first each year, of the Stevenage firm's 46 individual 77 and MGP entries between 1934 and 1956, no less than 29 machines retired. Norton's Island successes would, of course, be too long to list.