Posts by Category: Norton

Norton February 22, 2018 posted by

Featured Listing: 2015 Norton 961 Commando PLUS 1967 Norton Atlas!

Update 5.21.2018: SOLD! Congratulations to buyer and seller! -dc

When you think of the most storied marques in motorcycling history, what do you think of? The Japanese Big Four have certainly been dominant on the racing scene as of late, with Italy holding their own throughout the ages. But it was the English brands that led the way to greatness, with the great Norton conglomerate - initially launched in 1898 - standing as the iconic representation of what a performance motorcycle should be. From the cafe racer scene to the mighty TT street races to doing the ton, Nortons have been the mainstay of cool and an unmistakable status symbol for those in the know.

Surviving through the rapid changes of the 1950s and 1960s - changing hands to become Associated Motorcycles (AMC - including brands AJS, Matchless, Francis-Barnett and James) in 1953, Norton thrived through the 1960s and into the 70s and even took over BSA and Triumph in an all-British consolidation move. Unfortunately, the bottom dropped out of the UK motorcycle market shortly thereafter, driving Norton (as well as the Norton-Villers-Triumph company) under. Through the 1990s the Norton name was kept alive by enthusiasts and restoration shops, changing hands a few more times. US-based restorer Kenny Dreer created the first iteration of the 961 Commando, but the Norton name was eventually re-aquired and launched in the UK with the resources to make a difference. This Donnington-era version of Norton placed the fantastic 961 Commando into solid production, a beautiful recreation of the Norton glory days faithfully updated with current, cutting edge components. Today's special featured listing is a 2015 Norton 961 Commando, but also includes a well-preserved 750 Atlas model from 1967.

Featured Listing:
Buy a 2015 Norton 961 Commando
and get a 1976 Norton 750 Atlas for free!

Let's start out with the modern bike first: 2015 Norton 961 Commando. The roots of the 961 Commando starts across the pond in the US with Kenny Dreer, a famed Norton restoration expert. As the rights to Norton moved back to the UK, the 961 was evolved and redesigned (virtually every part, so they say). And lest you think this was just the offshoot of a backyard dreamer, post 2008 variants of the 961 involved serious design and development; none other than Pierre Terblanche (of Ducati fame) counted his name on the Norton employee roster.

Powering the Commando is an air-cooled parallel twin with 270-degree crank pins. Bores are Nikasil coated to improve sealing, ensuring power and longevity. The feel and sound emulate the past, but the power delivery through a modern 5-speed tranny is all of the current day. Top shelf Brembos shed velocity, while Ohlins take up suspension duty front and rear. With about 80 HP on tap, this reincarnated Commando holds its own against the Monster or Suspersport lineup from Ducati while exuding more than a little British soul.

This was a $20k machine when new; exclusivity goes hand in hand with a high price tag.

From the seller:
2015 Norton Commando SE 1 of 50, only 566 miles, just in from California, beautiful condition, Dominator pipes, recalibrated ECU, all recalls and TSBs performed.

Putting aside the new Commando, let's step back some 50+ years; that is when the Norton Atlas first came into being. Acting as a precursor to the Commando of the late 1960s, the Atlas featured a 750cc parallel twin housed in a fabled featherbed frame. What makes the Atlas most interesting is the target market: America. Initial units were exclusively developed for export to the US. For the day, the Atlas was a significant motorcycle - all 55 HP, four-speed trans, limited suspension and drum brakes of it. Today these capabilities seem modest, but there is clear DNA in those bones.

This particular Atlas has but 8,000 miles, has been restored to what appears to be a very good standard, and has some star power as formerly being in the collection of Ewan McGregor. Not too shabby as far as a two-fer goes!

From the seller:
1967 Norton Atlas 750, restored and in very nice condition, 8K original miles, runs and rides and is well sorted. Former Ewan McGregor private collection bike.

So here is the deal: Buy the ultra rare 961 Commando, and get the Atlas for free. Offers around $25,000 USD to be considered. The seller is willing to break up the pair for the right buyer, but is offering a pretty good discount for both. Drop Corey a note if you are serious: Good Luck!!


Featured Listing: 2015 Norton 961 Commando PLUS 1967 Norton Atlas!
Norton January 3, 2018 posted by

Players Club: 1974 Norton John Player

Reaching back a bit further than regular RSBFS fare, today's bike is a great example of a rare, motorsports-themed repli-racer. Sure, it's nearly 44 years old, but an iconic model of a legendary marque will always have a home in a collector's heart. In this case, a Norton-Villiers era British twin celebrating success in the death-defying Isle of Man TT, sponsored by a well known brand of cigarettes, John Player. Put all of these fun facts together into one bike, and you have a the very limited production John Player Norton of 1974.

1974 Norton John Player Special for sale on eBay

Based on the successful Commando model, Norton attempted to go racing with a bespoke factory effort. Success was limited, although Peter Williams managed to win the Formula 750 Isle of Man TT in 1973 on a semi-monocoque framed Norton emblazoned with John Player sponsorship. This bred the idea for a limited edition replica, and in 1974 the JPS Norton was born. Only 200 examples of this bike were built, with the distinctive dual headlight fairing mimicking the racer's Peel Engineering-designed unit. While the livery and aero bits resembled the racer, the road going JPS model was much closer in DNA to the 850 Commando. Sadly Norton was unable to compete financially given the rise of the Japanese and the onslaught of the Italians, and racing exploits ceased as British motorcycle companies consolidated to avoid total insolvency. Norton joined forces with BSA and Triumph, forming Norton-Villiers-Triumph. The oddity that is the JPS Norton is a classic remnant of the time.

From the seller:
Rare chance to own an original, unrestored,numbers matching, 3 owner Norton JPN with 6,411 original miles. One of approximately 200 built to commemorate Norton winning the world championship with Peter Williams aboard. Current owner has owned over 25 years. Bike has always been garaged. Bike was last ridden 11 years ago, and was prepped for long term storage. Beautiful bike. Age and health forces sale.

We don't see too many of these JPS models moving at auction. This is partly due to the one year only, limited production of the bike. It is also due to the age of the bike in question; we tend to see older bikes as strictly collectors (rather than riders), and as a result they change hands much less frequently. The history and mileage of this example supports the theory: 44 years old, only 3 owners and 6,411 miles. This particular bikes is available in the US, and looks to be complete. Pictures are not the greatest we have seen, but there is enough there to get the basics (interested buyers should contact the seller for more details). The best part of this JPN auction is the price: the BIN is only $14,500 (which is definitely in the ballpark, re-commissioning costs notwithstanding), and the seller is open to offers. Check it out here, and start the New Year with a ghost of Christmas past. Good Luck!!


Players Club: 1974 Norton John Player
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