Posts by tag: 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
Events May 10, 2017 posted by

Brrrrr…Britten! Quail Motorcycle gathering 2017 (UPDATED)

UPDATE:  The linked FLICKR album now contains pictures of the 2017 winners.

Quail Motorcycle Gathering - May 6 2017

Here at RSBFS we have certain criteria for what makes a great RSBFS candidate.  But what are the criteria that makes for a great motorcycle event?  How about a concourse-level gathering where you can see some unobtanium up close, such as Britten V1000 or Mondial dustbin racer? Or maybe its a meet with a wide variety of brands and types in different conditions?  What about crowd size - some events can be truly massive and you meet people from all over the world, others are quite small and focused on a particular type of bike.  How about having someone famous attend and speak to the crowd or having good food and/or music, do these impact what makes a great motorcycle event?

Personally I think its a combination of all of these criteria and I am pleased to let our faithful RSBFS readers know that the Quail Motorcycle gathering last weekend met all the above.

The event is held in Carmel California which is about 2 hours south of San Francisco. (Note- for anyone attending next year, bring a good coat, it can be surprisingly cold in California in May). Tickets were $85 online and $95 on site which is pricey but included a really nice lunch and the cost does cut down keep the crowd size down so you can actually interact with the bikes on display. The Quail event has been going on for about 9 years and this year was celebration of Norton. Sadly there was no new Norton V4 but there were lots of other great bikes, good food and Kenny Roberts Sr was onsite for a meet/greet.

For 2017 there were over 250 entries, ranging from unobtainum like the aforementioned Britten to beautiful restorations such as the Brough Superior pictured above.  There were also regular bikes like a nice Honda 600 F2 and numerous Ducati's.  Sadly there were only two of my beloved Laverda's but I guess that means if I enter one of mine next year I won't have to worry too much about the competition.

Award categories included the following:

  • Best of Show - presented to the most significant motorcycle on the field in terms of presentation and historical significance.  Last year this went to a 1925 BMW R37.
  • Spirit Award - presented to the motorcycle that best represents the true spirt of motorcycling.  Last year this went to a 1964 MV Agusta.
  • Industry Award - presented to a factory produced "groundbreaking" motorcycle.  Last year this went toa 2009 Ducati Monster "Leggero".
  • Design and Style Award - presented to the motorcycle based on its industry leading design, concept and style.  Last year this went to a 1960 Velocette.
  • Innovation Award - presented to the most innovative motorcycle on the field in terms of technology.  Last year this went to 1973 Vincati 1200cc (a Vincent engine in a Ducati frame!  More info here)
  • Significance in Racing - presented to the motorcycle that best exemplified the essence of racing.  Last year tis went to a 1957 Harley Davidson KR.
  • Historical Vehicle Associate (HVA) Preservation Award - presented to a historically significant motorcycle.  Has to be scrupulously preserved and be an examply of our cultural past/national heritage.  Last year this went to 1910 Pierce Four

Other award classes included American, British, Italian, Japanese, Other European, Antique, Competiton On-Road, Competition Off Road and Custom/Modified

Here are a few more pics

  • BSA, beautiful restoration

Couple of nice Honda's, including a custom and a garage queen RC30 (tags say registration of 2008)

Nice Ducs

There was really something at the show for everyone.  Oh and did I mention the parking lot?   Walking up to the main entry of the event I saw numerous Ducati 851's and specials (including the one signed by Danny Pedrosa pictured above), Honda Turbo's, a Moto Guzzi Norge, a Ducati Superlight...I could go on and on.  Suffice to say I will definitely be going back again and think this event should be on every motorcycle collectors bucket list.  Main link to the event is here, feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I will try to answer.


Brrrrr…Britten! Quail Motorcycle gathering 2017 (UPDATED)
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
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
Norton January 19, 2013 posted by

And now for something completely different: 1972 Norton-Fiddeman racing sidecar


I know what you are thinking. You came to Rare to see what was new and exciting - perhaps expecting to see an imported smoker, homologation sportbike or even 80's era survivor - to find this. What is this, and why should we post it? This, my friends, is a bicycle built for two. This is your solution for more trackdays AND spending more time with the family. Here is an opportunity to invovle the significant other deeper into your hobby. This is a rare and unique sidehacker racing rig.


This particular bike, although no longer running the original BSA motor, has a racing history in the UK - including the Isle of Man. Currently fitted with a Norton 750cc twin (both sounding and looking period correct) this offering is only the second sidecar we have posted on these pages (the BMW-Krauser Domani being the first). If you are among the vocal set who don't give a hoot about rare Ducatis or hyper exclusive (and expensive) Bimotas, this English-built and raced three wheeler might be more your speed.


From the seller:
Norton powered sidecar racer

This amazing vintage sidecar racer is now ready to track test, race, parade or just show off. It's a special way for 2 people, slightly crazy of course, to have a great time tearing up the tarmac. With fresh radial tires, handling is better than ever and the engine, gearbox and brakes are strong and willing.

Two good friends, with a lot of help from others, brought this project to good running order. One, a lifelong Norton enthusiast and the other a passionate motorcyclist, decided to collaborate on breathing new life into this worthy race contender. Its future now appears as bright as its past. The photos tell the story in somewhat chronological order.

Before there was billet alloy and cnc machining there were builders with great skill, cutting & welding high grade steel into very competent race worthy sidecar outfits Made professionally in the U.K in the early 70's by MGF (Mike Fiddeman) racing sidecars, a highly respected constructor, this machine was campaigned in the U. K., including the Isle of Man. At that time it ran from new with a 3 cylinder BSA 750cc engine. It was then brought back to the US by its American husband and wife team, where it continued racing succesfully, mostly on the east coast & Canada. We are in touch with the original owner and he's very excited and helpful about sharing his knowledge. But, this is where our history becomes a bit clouded. It was sold to another racer, taken out west then returned to Chicago. Somewhere along the line it was fitted with a Norton 750cc twin, probably when the BSA engine became too tired to carry on?

I'm hoping this listing will be seen by someone who may be able to share more history? It's waited patiently these many years to come back to life with a mighty roar. Every attempt has been made to respect its originality, and there are now many venues that allow racing sidecars track time. We will be happy to share all that is known about this historic racer with the new owners.

Not for the faint of heart, but definitely for the young at heart.

So if you are finding some difficulty getting the significant other to write a check for that next bike, maybe this one will help. It is already nicely restored and ready for action. Throw in the incentive of matching leathers and helmets and a track day can become a special date outing.


Would your significant other climb aboard? Let us know in the comments. Mine certainly would, but she would need to ride in the driver's seat because I would rather be the monkey on this rig (insert your own monkey joke here). Besides, who could turn down matching helmets and leathers?


So what does a racing kneeler with history run these days? I really don't have a clue, but I can tell you that this very bike failed to sell at the famed Mid America motorcycle auction in Las Vegas earlier this year. Records show it was bid up to $6,500 without meeting reserve. Check out the pictures and videos, and then check out the auction here to see if this one will go the distance.


Norton July 3, 2012 posted by

Rotary Alert! 1985 Norton Interpol 2

For Sale: 1985 Norton Interpol 2

Say you are interested in a rotary-engined bike that is NOT a Suzuki RE5. What choices do you have? Other than a handful of prohibitively rare and prohibitively expensive Van Veen machines, Norton was the only other purveyor of Wankel hardware.

From the seller:
When was the last time you saw one of these gems. This is a extremely rare 1985 Norton (only one known in the US) with Nortons own twin rotary engine. It has been used solely for escort duty in London, such as heads of state and the occasional Royel wedding. Due to the spasmodic nature of this duty the documented miles covered is very low. Amazingly ALL the original equipment is still in place. Flashing blue lights, strobe light, two way radio with speaker. two tone air horns (sounds like a fire engine), "Stop" sign etc. The bike is not a restoration , it is a unmolested original in spotless condition throughout. Riding one of these rotary Nortons is a wonderful experience, smooth as a turbine and sounds like a Turbo Prop plane engine. They rev very freely yet have the low down torque and pulling power of a steam engine. Parts are available from Norton UK. Seller will be glad to assist in transport at buyers expense, or simply fly into Spokane and ride it home.

What really makes this particular bike unique, however, is the full Interpol livery and equipment list. Reading through the resources over on the Norton Owners Club website I found this:

All ex-police bikes have carried a certain stigma with bikers, a fact reflected in their second-hand value. Some were turned into specials and others broken for spares, but many were civilianised. Nearly all surviving Interpols will have lost all trace of their origins as no special engine or frame markings were used. Therefore most survivors look like, and are accepted as, any other civilian machine. Very few examples (perhaps as few as 4 or 5) remain in standard Interpol form, if indeed, a standard ever existed.

So up for grabs today is a pretty rare model by most standards, with equipment not normally found on any Norton Rotary. It is located in the Pacific Northwest area of the US, and appears to enjoy a title as well. I'm thinking this could make the perfect touring bike: smooth, rotary power, a large fairing to protect you from the elements, and lights and sirens to protect you from potential traffic. Mount up!

Bidding is going on right now, with the current price above $6k (at time of writing) and reserve still in place. Action has been very heavy on this one indicating a LOT of interest. I have not idea what it should go for, but I do know that I will be watching it closely. Enjoy!