In his teenage years, Tony Gutteridge owned an unusual Ambassador and coveted a Norman B4. After 55 years he eventually located one of each – and now owns both of his dream bikes…
Istarted work aged 15 as an electrical fitter apprentice on Monday 19th December 1960, having left secondary school the Friday before. No ‘gap year’ in those days! Most of the 120 apprentices at HMS Collingwood were motorbike mad and the car park had a wonderful collection of British bikes. My provisional licence was ready for my 16th birthday, and a Norman Lido moped had already been purchased from Westree Motors in Maidstone. With L-plates affixed, I was on my way. My riding gear was just an overcoat and flat cap, no helmet being required in those days.
The 250cc learner law had just come in at that time and many of the lads lusted after one of the many sports 250s that were on the market. These included the Royal Enfield Crusader Sports, BSA C15 SS80, Ariel Arrow Super Sports, Matchless G2 CSR, etc. Being a ‘Man of Kent’, I fell in love with the Norman B4 Sports, built fairly locally in Ashford. The beautiful, red and ivory Italian-style petrol tank had me lusting after one.
In December 1961 I called into my local Norman dealers, Brook Motor Cycles in Chatham, with the brochure in hand, ready to place my order. I was so disappointed to be told that Norman models were made in batches and no B4s were being produced at that time. I later discovered that Tube Investments (aka Raleigh) had taken over Norman for the bicycle side of the company. They closed the Ashford factory and all the remaining parts moved to Smethwick. The existing stock was then built into complete bikes and when these were sold during the latter part of 1962 the Norman name was no more, apart from badge-engineered Raleigh mopeds sold under the Norman Nippy name.
I considered alternatives like the Ariel Golden Arrow -- didn’t like the look of the front forks / mudguard – and BSA C15 SS80, but for some reason unknown to me now
I was smitten by Villiers two-stroke twins. I decided on an Ambassador Super Sport on the basis of the road test in MotorCycling, where the Ambassador came out a couple of mph faster than most other Villiers twins.
The Ambassador was ordered and duly delivered by Brook Motorcycles of Chatham in January 1962. This I kept for a couple of years then succumbed to parental pressure to sell the bike and get a car. I didn’t get back into bikes until the late 1970s. During my time of Ambassador ownership, I only ever saw one other Sports Super S (in the car park at Brands Hatch), so they must have been quite rare.
I’ve kept an eye on the old bike press and autojumbles ever since, looking out for one, even submitting a wanted advert a number of years ago without much luck. Then through the grapevine I heard that one had surfaced in Portsmouth and I was able to contact the owner, Brian. He was restoring it, and agreed to keep me updated with his progress.
After a year or so, Brian decided move onto his next project so, following some bartering, he kindly delivered the Ambassador to me in January 2017. Many thanks, Brian! When Brian
purchased the bike it was fitted with the standard front mudguard which was a bit ‘fairground’ looking, and totally different to the alloy item fitted to Sports Super S when new. 17” alloy mudguards are very difficult to find off the shelf, but I was very lucky to find that Autocycle Engineering in the Midlands would make me one to my own dimensions. I had to wait a long time for delivery but it was certainly worth the delay as the quality is very good. Mudguard stays were made from stainless steel strip purchased from good old eBay.
The bike was also missing a flyscreen, so I guessed the dimensions and had one made by a plastics company based in Weymouth. Fittings were made from stainless steel rod, again purchased from eBay. That’s the finishing touch which returns the Ambassador to its intended specification. Over the years, I sought and secured my first dream bike, the Norman B4 Sports. Now it sits in my garage beside my second choice (and the one I actually owned in my youth), an Ambassador Sports Super S. And they make a fine pair!
Tony and his original Ambassador, back in the early 1960s
The Ambassador Super Sport undergoing restoration by its previous owner When Tony took possession of the Ambassador, it still wore its heavyweight front mudguard, which really belonged on the more sedate ‘Super S’ model Above: Tony had a flyscreen and suitable sporty mudguard fabricated to return his Ambassador to Super Sports specBelow: And here’s the Ambassador’s stablemate: Tony’s other dream bike, a Norman B4 Sports
Ambassador offered two versions of this Villiers twin. Tony’s dream bike was the Super Sports: ‘Another thoroughbred that meets the demands of the sports enthusiast,’ with ‘dropped handlebars, lightalloy front mudguard and cutaway rear enclosure.’ The inverted, adjustable tele forks and swinging arm suspension offered ‘perfect roadholding under all conditions’, while the ‘specially tuned, highcompression Villiers 250cc twin two-stroke engine with large-bore carburettor provides that extra speed’. On top of all that, the model also boasted a four-speed close-ratio positive-stop gearbox, 7-inch brakes and an extremely sturdy, brazed and welded steel frame