Richard Molnar is a familiar figure in the vintage racing scene, and his name has become synonymous with the Norton Manx since he acquired manufacturing rights in the early ’90s, along with the original jigs, fixtures, and drawings. Molnar Precision Limited, which Richard operates with son Andy, has developed the Manx further than its mid-century designers could have ever properly conceived. The team’s four-valve Manx produces 70 hp at 9,500 rpm at the rear wheel and weighs a scant 275 pounds wet, proving the past is most respected when it isn’t left to gather dust.
The Lancashire, England-based outfit built the first four-valve Manx for the Classic TT after the event was reimagined in 2013. Molnar knew it was the right time to return to the island after an 11-year absence, following the team’s 500cc victory with roads ace Richard “Milky” Quayle.
“With the twin-cylinder Paton machine reigning supreme for the past few years,” Richard Molnar relates, “we had to develop the Manx to compete. The obvious way to do that was to build a four-valve engine. We called it the Manx Evolution. Evo for short. We believe that this is the exact route Norton would have taken had it been able to continue to develop the engine.”
It’s not just the engine that’s been improved. Using the 1961-spec drawings and modern manufacturing techniques, Molnar can build featherbed frames with a faithful purity unknown since their inchoate form materialized in their designers’ minds.
“No Featherbed frame has been exactly to the original drawing,” Molnar says. “Originally, the technology didn’t exist to bend tubes that accurately—nor the machinery to manufacture jigs to assemble them accurately. And since then, frames have been produced to ‘best-fit.’ We’ve used high-tech 3-D CAD, tube bending, and lasering to ensure our featherbed chassis are exactly as the designers intended. They are noticeably better than anything manufactured before.”
Molnar says a properly fettled Manx can lap a race circuit as quickly as a modern race bike of similar capacity and output. Andy Molnar adds: “Both Dan Cooper and Michael Dunlop have done 108 mph laps [around the Snaefell Mountain course] on the Evo.”
Vintage racing is about winning. That means the quest for speed is contingent on a dedication to innovate—just as it is with modern machines. It’s gloriously paradoxical and unquestionably romantic. It’s an admirable fixation. But for the Molnar’s, it’s about more than just chasing lap times.
It’s about preserving history and respecting racing origins—not by enshrining the bikes in hands-off museums or private collections—by keeping them in their natural habitat: the racetrack.
“We believe it would be a crime for these fantastic machines to not be out there racing anymore,” Richard insists. “If we provide the parts, people can race them to their full potential without the worry of crashing or blowing up. We ensure this racing machine can stay racing as it was intended until the end of days. That means a lot to the people who watched them back in the day and grew up with these bikes. And it allows the younger generation to see these amazing machines in action.”
One thing’s for sure: The only dust the four-valve Molnar Manx will gather is from getting down and dirty at the track.