Norton Cub

Norton Cub

26 year old ER Kemp from Durban was described as a ‘newcomer’ to car racing when he entered his homemade ‘Norton Cub’ in the 1949 Fairfield Junior on 19th February at Durban’s Snell Parade street circuit. The Norton Cub was one of the very first of the South Africa half-litre specials but did not have a very long racing life, nor was it successful. The Cub was powered by a 500 ‘camshaft’ Norton engine and used a Burman gearbox. It weighed 620 lbs. The Cub made it track debut alongside three other of the new spec ‘500s’ lining up in the entry of 33 cars that included a dozen or so 747 cc Austin 7 Specials (including the ex-Abecassis ‘Einsitzer’), four Singers, a Fiat Special driven by Isabel Henderson (sister of the Cheetah creator Gordon Henderson), a brace of BSA’s and a trio of 1100 cc Rileys. The handicapper must have thought the Norton Cub a quick device because it was set to circulate 6 seconds a lap faster than the Ken Hartley’s Lawhart and the Triumph-Midget of Orlando Fregona and 8 seconds quicker than Pat Harrington-Johnson's Fidget – these being the other 500s. At number 28 it was to leave near the tail end of the field giving the Austins a start of between 10 and 12 minutes! It was set to average 60 miles per hour for the race. Kemp retired after only 5 laps but the lap score chart indicated that the Cub was much faster than the Lawhart and compared favourably with the Fidget.

1949 Fairfield Junior Handicap – Kemp races down the Snell Parade.

Over Easter in 1950 Kemp entered the  Coronation Junior Handicap event at Pietermaritzburg, lining up alongside Basil Beall’s Matchless powered BB Half Pint, but neither featured in the results. In late May 1950 the Cub was placed second in the up to 850 cc car class in a quarter mile speedburst along Durban’s Edwin Swales Drive beaten by Arthur Mackenzie’s quick Austin Special. The Cub managed a leisurely 20.6 seconds that indicates that all was not right compared to Mackenzie’s time of 17.8 seconds. Grass track racing and dirt track oval racing were popular in Natal in the early 1950s and the Cub seems to have ended its brief racing career involved in these pursuits.

Kemp raises dust at the Polo Grounds near Durban in 1950.

Words and pictures courtesy of Rob Young