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Designed in the mid 70's from ideas worked out with a bent coat hanger nailed to a piece of wood, the first parts were made just to test the function. Later Norman found wheels in a scrap yard and made it movable so it could be pushed down a hill to see what it would feel like. Much later a friend bought the project an engine, a Honda XL500. It took some cunning but Norman managed to squeeze it into the frame and made it a runner. It ran first up and down the roads of the Slough trading estate late 1979. It worked!!
At that time the only other innovation on bike front ends was the Defrazio system which deserved much more credit than it got, and later came the ELF fiasco which Norman blames for the demise of the 'alternative suspension movement'.
Why? the question was asked could ELF with all their budget and influence not match the Honda they were up against in weight or stability. Answer "crap design", Norman doesn't have much better to say about the Bimota effort.
Next came some proper wheels from Tony Dawson : Astralites.
Eventually it became a racer, which it had to be if it was going to go any further. It took time because Norman had no way to fund it properly and what funds there were, were stretched to cover 3 patents at the same time. It showed in Motor Cycle News in 1980 after it had been round Brands Hatch a few times.
It made an appearance on the BBC's Tomorrow's World in 1981. Norman raced it in 1981 but it didn't attract much interest. Later a friend introduced Norman to Vernon Glashier who became its owner and then thanks to his skills, things began to happen.
VG won the Bemsee single championship in 1983 and in the same year the next HOSSACK, a 250cc Rotax engined machine, won the Bemsee 250cc championship. Two out of two! VG went on to win the British Single Cylinder Championship in 1986, 87 and 88 and set lap records everywhere. It won its last championship when it was almost 10 years old! Vernon retired it when the class changed to 600cc- a bigger engine would just not fit.
After HOSSACK 1 Norman built several other racing machines, though the closest he ever got to a true racing engine was in the 3rd bike which had an RD350 Yamaha engine, this was his favorite bike. This machine performed well in the hands of Ray Knight, Mat Oxley and Alan Cathcart, and though they all complimented it and were competitive straight away nothing came of it.
Note: it's making a fine show for itself these days, 20 years later, with its new owner Steve Burge.
Norman did not initiate the change to road bikes, it just happened. Departing from motorcycle racing may not have been a wise move but at that time there was no interest in racing machines, the market had dryed up. The BMW conversions started before VG won all his championships and during a sour experience with the MOD. A friend had crashed his K100RS, one of the first K100's in the UK, and eventually Norman began converting beemers. These were more appreciated in Germany where most of them went. The conversion work was considered of good enough quality by TUV to be given their TUV approval. Though the BMWs worked fine they were the wrong bike to work on - Ducati would have been a better choice but Norman never had the luxury of choice.
Norman's dealings with the MOD were unpleasant and here lies the seeds of his financial collapse. The army bike showed another side to the HOSSACK system - the wheel can be one sided. The MOD bike had a quick change wheel which potentially could also have been interchangeable front to rear. For enduro work it was possible to change the front inner tube without removing the wheel from the bike. Further, the front leg was a pressurized reservoir for inflating the tyre. It was even possible for the bike to carry a spare wheel!
The bike was also featured on the BBC Tomorrow's World programme.
The last bike Norman converted was a Triumph Trident 900 in 1994. Its engine provided an ideal mount for the lower wishbone and it is a conversion he is proud of. It was not liked in important places because its handling was too light and quick, when they wanted it to handle like an old British bike. As it did not have a fairing it did get kicked about a little in turbulence but there was no money to run different tyres or do any geometry changes or put a fairing on it. For his part Norman thought it had excellent potential felt very secure and was very light and easy to ride. However back in 1994 Norman was broke and development ended. That Triumph was the last HOSSACK.
© 2001 - 2007 Norman Hossack. All rights reserved. The BMW logo is a registered trademark of BMW AG.
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