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The Moped Detective—Who killed Norman Nippy?

by Mark Daniels

Following a tip-off in the regional Free-Ads paper, the remains of Norman Nippy were discovered: disassembled and stored in an empty house. It was a hideous sight with the larger components scattered through three rooms and smaller assorted dismantled parts mixed in boxes.  Not only was the Moped Detective about to take on the gruesome task of reconstruction of this lost soul, but also seeking to establish the cause of Norman’s final demise.  Like so many wrecks before, Norman commenced his trip to distant salvation by transport to the forensic garage in the back of Burt, the faithful green Morris Minor van.  The registration document led back to Andy Tiernan’s Classic Emporium.  At that time the Norman was still complete and donated its original number for trade while the bike passed to its last owner for an over-optimistic restoration that stalled when the sad reality struck that the required spare parts were simply unobtainable.  The Villiers 3K engine components revealed seized main bearings and showed internal condensation effects.  Even gear teeth remaining above the oil level demonstrated such terminal corrosion that they just crumbled away under light thumb pressure, and the cylinder bore was so deeply rust rotted that no re-bore was ever going to clean it out!  Big problems here, but all this had developed over many years of storage under adverse conditions.  This motor had been a runner when the bike was laid up—so it’s on to the cycle parts! The suspension leading link parts, plunger rods and bushes showed massive play, so it was becoming painfully obvious we were looking at a victim of lack of maintenance by someone who didn’t know what a grease nipple was for!  Despite the heavy wear in these components, the solid nature of their assemblies tended to reveal little to concern the old world MoT testers on a moped, and would have been unlikely to initiate a fail.  Then I seem to suffer a strange feeling of deja-vu as the hooded figure of Fate beckons with his crooked finger: “Look inside my rear wheel hub, see the delights I have to offer!” Surely not again?  But nothing could prepare me for the coming horrors!  The brake plate had been completely worn through by the hub for over half the circumference of its face!  The deep drive side bearing cup was worn into two bits of a short cup and a wholly separate ring at the bearing track, from which the bearings had continued their course of destruction to actually break through the hub centre boss!  The agony had only finally ended when the rear wheel spindle finally snapped in two!  The final horrific realisation struck me that poor Norman’s cries from his loose wheel bearings had gone long unheeded as he was slowly been tortured to death, and in 30 years of motor cycling I cannot think of any comparable case of wanton mechanical murder.  For want of timely service of the rear wheel bearings, the whole bike was lost!  It has now become something of a mission to recover Norman whatever it takes and restore the useful service life of an excellent little machine, cut short by neglect.

Few people seem to realise that that the Nippy is actually not of Norman extraction, but came originally from Dutch manufacturers “Germaan” as the “Capri”, being built from 1955 under licence from the German Achilles company.  When Achilles stopped production in 1957, Norman acquired the tooling and manufacturing rights, which were used to produce what later became the “Lido” moped.

Germaan Capri brochure illustration

First published - April 2000

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