Posts by Category: Norton

Norton October 12, 2017 posted by

Throwback Thursday: 1974 Norton Commando Fastback

In the mid-20th Century, Norton occupied rarefied standing in motorcycling, making itself legendary among racers in Britain and Europe, taking home Manx TT trophies and trading wins with other big names on the continent and in the Isles. Its big-bore engines and revolutionary vibration-isolating frame designs made the brand wildly popular, cutting edge and fast.

1974 Norton Commando Fastback for sale on eBay

By the 1970s, Britain's notorious knack for corporate mismanagement and reliability woes had hit the company hard, and as it tried to make its Commando - which had debuted in the late '60s with yet another innovative suspension setup - all things to all people, it was being outgunned by Japanese rivals.

The Norton Commando Fastback had helped debut the badge, and by 1974 was essentially just a sportier-looking seat and fender setup for the popular-but-flawed platform.

The 1974 example seen here is in excellent condition, and carries a raft of modifications to the parallel twin, including a displacement bump, big carbs and a high-compression RH7 head from an earlier Commando 750. We dig the era-appropriate copper-bronze paint, the overstuffed seat and simple, purposeful stance.

From the eBay listing:


Rarer than Japanese bikes of the same era, albeit a lot more temperamental, the big Norton is a time capsule to the end of the era of British manufacturing might, rendered in the brutal simplicity that made the breed famous.

Throwback Thursday: 1974 Norton Commando Fastback
Norton June 3, 2016 posted by

Classic Style, Modern Speed: 2015 Norton Commando 961 for Sale

2015 Norton Commando 961 R Side

While it could easily be mistaken for a vintage machine updated with modern wheels and suspension, this Norton Commando 961 is actually a brand-new motorcycle. This is a pricey, exclusive, retro-styled motorcycle for classic bike fans who want vintage charm and modern-ish performance, like a British SportClassic. With the sport v-twin configuration most closely associated with Ducati, the Norton instead uses a big parallel-twin unit for a similar character: thumping midrange and accessible, real-world performance.

2015 Norton Commando 961 L Side

Norton’s original Commando was a parallel-twin British sportbike from the late 1960s that offered up serious performance, good-looks, and charisma, and was a prime example of budget British ingenuity: as the Norton’s parallel-twin increased in size to keep pace with rivals, vibration became a real issue. A complete redesign of the engine wasn’t in the budget, so Norton isolated the engine from the frame with a set of rubber bushings they referred to as their “Isolastic” mounting system, which worked very well when properly maintained. But the package still used ancient non-unit construction, the overhead valves were still operated by pushrods, and the relative lack of reliability stood in stark contrast to the smooth, oil-tight Japanese machines that flooded the market in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unable to compete, Norton hung on for a few years, chasing American sales with bikes like the Interstate and Hi-Rider, but had faded into history by 1980.

2015 Norton Commando 961 L Tank

Kenny Dreer brought some attention back to the marque with his VR880, which was basically a vintage 850 Commando rebuilt from the ground-up using as much modern technology as possible to create a bike that combined the best of the old and new, a vintage bike that didn’t leak, started without fail, and offered up performance more in keeping with modern machines. They were well-reviewed, but proved to be a headache for a small shop to produce and production was very limited. The Norton 961 took Dreer's idea of a new/old Norton and ran with it. The gestation of the “new” Norton 961 has been difficult, but these machines have been trickling their way to the US.

2015 Norton Commando 961 Clocks

The new Norton uses big parallel-twin with pushrod-operated valves and a balance shaft as a nod to modern technology and produces 80hp with effortless acceleration at any rpm. Top-shelf Öhlins suspension components are used front and rear, and although the bike looks old-school with a twin-shock rear, the handling is reportedly excellent. I even saw one configured as a highly unlikely track bike at a recent AHRMA event!

2015 Norton Commando 961 R Engine

From the original eBay listing: 2015 Norton Commando 961 for Sale

There are few certainties in life. Death, taxes – and now a brand new absolute: if you like retro bikes you will lust after a Norton 961. The reason is simple. The Commando is quite simply the best retro bike in the world – and by a handsome margin.

At the heart of the bike is a surprisingly clever engine. The 961cc – hence the 961 name – Twin is no technical tour de force, but captures the spirit of British big Twins and improves on the feeling in a way which is as special as a cross plane Yamaha R1.

The power output belies the performance. Despite making only 80 horsepower, the Commando zips up to an indicated 110 mph – maybe a shade over 100 mph in actuality – with the merest flick of the wrist. In this respect, it is far more willing than the Ducati Sport Classic, which is its direct competitor, and the Norton simply slaughters the Triumph Bonneville.

The engine runs at 270 degree firing intervals and this, combined with a gear driven balancer shaft, makes the 961 smoother than the Ducati – and vastly better than any original British Twin.

The chassis is a typical British design, but modernized. Because the engine is dry sump, the oil lives in the top spine of the frame. This is simple, effective engineering and has worked perfectly on many British designs.

The suspension is one of the few things not made in Britain. Both the front fork and rear shocks come from Ohlin and they are quality items. I just loved the twin shock swinging swingarm, and the 961 handling is a treat.

In summary, this is a bike which you need to sell one, or maybe both, of your kidneys to own. It looks stunning, handles impeccably and has a motor which is so much better than the retro opposition that it deserves to be in a separate class.

To be honest, I think the look of the Norton 961 is a little too vintage, and the shape of the tail section seems gratuitously curvy to my eye. But having seen a couple in the flesh recently, the level of detailing is impressive: check out the shift rod that curves under a bulge in the transmission case. And those side panels are set inboard of the frame rails, a very nice touch that's easily missed at first glance.

2015 Norton Commando 961 R Tail

The seller has set the Buy It Now price at $19,995.00 and there are just ten miles on the odometer, so the bike is virtually new. It's obviously not a very good dollar-per-horsepower proposition, but if you're a British bike fan looking for the ultimate Norton, that might seem like a bargain...


2015 Norton Commando 961 L Side 2

Classic Style, Modern Speed: 2015 Norton Commando 961 for Sale
Norton February 9, 2016 posted by

Round & Round: 1990 Norton F1 rotary in the UK

Rotary powered motorcycles may have been consigned to the dustbin of history but for a while they really were thought of as the future.  Most rotary engined bikes were built as standards or sport touring machines but Norton decided to take their rotary racing and actually achieved a fair amount of success with its F1 series, sponsored by cigarette brand John Player Special.


1990 Norton Rotary F1 (on ebay uk)

Before digging it this particular bike, lets take a moment and review rotary engines.  In a rotary engine all the parts rotate in one direction while standard piston engine designs have the pistons violently changing direction.   A  rotary combustion engine has numerous advantages, including simplicity, smoothness, compactness, high revolutions per minute, and a high power-to-weight ratio.

A YouTube video explained the rotary engine is embedded below. An excellent history of the development of rotary motorcycle engines can also be found here.

Suzuki, Yamaha and numerous smaller manufacturers (including BSA and Norton) all developed rotary powered engines, but Norton was the only one who went the sportbike/racing route.   Norton's racing rotary had a 588cc, air-cooled engine mounted in an aluminium beam frame which resulted in a race-ready weight of 320lbs and an estimated 135hp.  This setup achieved a high level of success for Norton in the TT series on the late 1980's and early 1990's..

NOTE:  The norton engine design resurfuced 10 years later in the truly epic NVR588.

norton 3

Given the success and the high level of interest in the Norton, its no surprise that the company decided to offer a street version known as the F1.  The 1990 Norton F1 was actually based on the Commander model and while it looked like a full on race bike, it was really set up for the street with things like water cooler and street oriented suspension.

Even with the success of its racing rotary, Norton was struggling financially at the time and only about 128 F1 editions were built during the production run.


This particular F1 has only had 1473 miles put on it since new but the seller indicates it will a need full recommissioning so interested buyers should expect costs for fresh rubber and fork oil and possibly a fuel pump and/or brake lines, depending on how it was stored.  Also the seller has only included two photos in the auction which is a bit of a concern.

Is this bike worth the 27,000 GBP asking price (thats about 40k USD)?   Well we have had these on RSBFS a few times before but that was back in 2010 so current value of an Norton F1 is a bit of an unknown.  A search of Bonhams auction history seems to indicate that the asking price for this one is a bit above historical averages but the Bonhams auction bikes had more mileage or were pre-production models.

Overall I think this one is priced a bit high but it certainly meets all the criteria of a true rare sport bike ((numbers produced, technology, condition and location). I think it will definitely appeal to collectors of late 1980's/early 1990's sportbikes, both for its technology and its namesake.


Round & Round:  1990 Norton F1 rotary in the UK
Norton November 3, 2015 posted by

Spectre: 2014 Norton Domiracer in the UK

This is only the second "new" Norton motorcycle to be posted here on RSBFS and it seems somewhat overpriced but it is one of the rare Domiracer units of which only 50 were built so I figured it was worth a post.


Note:  Photo above is of Domiracer #1, the unit for sale is actually #35

Norton is one of the oldest motorcycle brands, having built its first motorcycle in 1902 but suffering through lean times and more than a few shutdowns and subsequent revival attempts, including a rotary racer effort.  Fortunately the most recent relaunch seems to be fairly stable, having begun in 2009 with a 961cc parallel twin powered standard known as the Commando model, followed by a 961 SE.  Overall Norton seems to have found a bit of a niche, currently producing about 1000 hand assembled motorcycles a year out of its castle-like Donington Hall facility in the UK (ext to the famous Donington Park racetrack and park).

Norton seems to be following a production plan similar to fellow UK relaunch success Triumph Motorcycles.  This strategy involves initially focusing on iterations of the same basic configuration/power plant numerous models.  For Norton this means the launch in 2009 of the 961 Commando, followed by the SE version several years later.  In 2014 internal design teams were allowed to submit their own ideas of what the next generation Norton platform might be and while this exercise in corporate team building was originally intended to result in just a one-off showbike, when the result was displayed the response was overwhelming and a decision was made to build 50 examples as a limited edition.   The result was the Domiracer, a polished tank and chrome dripped tracker that was barely street legal.  In an almost Ducati MH900E type reaction, within 14 days all were sold despite a hefty price tag of over 20,000 GBP per unit.


2014 Norton Domiracer #35 on ebay uk

Was the Domiracer any good?  Or was it just a few bits of chrome on top of a standard 961 Commando?   Well MCN titled its review of the Domiracer as "A sensory overload- better than sex!" and Cyclenews was nearly as enthusiastic.  Private reviews from actual riders stated that while the café racer stance/lower bars and adjusted footpegs initially appeared fairly extreme, the riding position wasn't really an issue.  Some riders noted that power was still a somewhat low 80-ish bhp so the Domiracerwasn't superbike fast but cafe racer's are typically more about the experience than warp speed anyway and fit and finish  were reported as being the best produced to date by the reborn Norton concern.


The unit for sale on ebay has a low 282 miles and seems to be being offered by a UK dealer.   But before you start looking up shipping companies, there is one major issue- the seller has listed the price at an astonishing 39,500 GBP.  Yes you read that right.  That price is nearly double the original asking price and SE and Commando versions seem to be available for about half that price.

Perhaps the seller is trying to take advantage of the fact that a Norton Dominator (the model after the Domiracer) is rumored to appear in the new James Bond Spectre film, or perhaps the seller is merely using the bike as a sort of stalking horse with no real intention to sell it...I can't honestly say if this price is reasonable or ridiculous...perhaps some of our RSBFS readers in the UK will chime in within the comments section and let us folks here in the states know.


Spectre:  2014 Norton Domiracer in the UK
Benelli November 13, 2014 posted by

Classic Sportbike Recap: Benelli, Moto Morini, and a Dunstall Norton

If your biking interests occasionally run to the historical, take a look at some recent entries over at our sister site: Classic Sport Bikes for Sale. This week featured a Benelli Tornado, the Italian alternative to big-bore British parallel-twins, a jewel-like Moto Morini 350, and a rare Dunstall Norton Commando

1974 Benelli Tornado 650S L Front

With a 642cc parallel twin and a top speed of 117mph, you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading about a classic British roadster. But this 1974 Benelli Tornado had a short-stroke engine that loved to rev and, even stranger, was actually oil-tight... Read more over at

1984 Moto Morini 350 K2 L Rear2

With a jewel-like 344cc v-twin, this Moto Morini 350 K2 emphasized brains over brawn, offering brilliant handling and a wealth of innovative technical details. Moto Morinis have long been bargains of the vintage Italian bike world, but prices are finally on the rise and this one is in amazing shape... Read the full article over at

1969 Norton Dunstall R Front

The 1960's were a golden age of motorcycling innovation, when ambitious and talented tuners could knock up machines in their backyard sheds and compete against the world's best. Some, like Paul Dunstall managed to turn their success into a thriving business, making go-fast parts for a whole range of British bikes... Read more about the Dunstall Norton over at

Classic Sportbike Recap: Benelli, Moto Morini, and a Dunstall Norton
BMW February 1, 2013 posted by

Catching Up with Classic Sport Bikes For Sale [R60/6 Polizei, CB350F GP Replica, Commando Fastback, CB750, CBX, TZ125 & TR2 Projects, LeMans III, CB400F]

Here's the latest from our sister site,

Have a great weekend everyone,


Let's get things kicked off with this cool 1975 BMW R60/6 Polizei that sold for a shade over $7500.

1975 BMW R60/6 Polizei For Sale

Available right now is this Honda CB350F GP Replica, which is wearing an $8800 buy-it-now with 5 days remaining.

Honda CB350F GP Replica For Sale

This lovely 1969 Norton 750 Commando Fastback failed to sell with a starting bid of $8900 and a buy-it-now of $9900.

Norton Commando For Sale

This unusual yet very clean 1971 Honda CB750 sold for just $2920.

1971 Honda CB750 For Sale

This 1979 Honda CBX reached a high bid of $10200 but failed to sell.

1979 Honda CBX For Sale

These vintage two stroke projects, a TZ125 and a TR2 race bike, sold for $11,100!

This 1983 Moto Guzzi LeMans III has a little time remaining with a current winning bid of $4999.

1983 Moto Guzzi LeMans III For Sale

And finally a reader ride, this 1975 Honda CB400F is available in Los Angeles for $4700.

1975 Honda CB400F For Sale