One has to wonder if Joe Walsh wasn’t contemplating the Norton John Player Special when the Barnstormers released their seminal album. A blatant tobacco advert in the form of racing sponsorship, the John Player Special was essentially a stone stock Norton Commando with novel bodywork. This was a pure marketing play that intended to drive boatloads of customers to Norton’s door, but instead created a true icon; a limited production, very rare edition that would escalate in value in the passing decades.
The most expensive of the Nortons parked in front of the dealer shop, the John Player Special (JPS for short if you like your acronyms), was a classic British twin wrapped in the cloak of sporty intentions. The bodywork was novel; clean at the rear, with real race bike intent, and more of an endurance look up front with the bar ends covered. The elephant in the showroom, however, was the full frontal view: massive twin headlights with a massive gap between them. It was a love it or hate it moment, not entirely unlike the Ducati 999 debacle that erupted 30 years later. The look is polarizing, but the remainder of the silhouette remains classic and charming.
From the seller:
1974 John Player Special Norton 850cc Commando Factory Competition Replica
One of the nicest JPS Norton’s in existence. She starts, runs, shifts and stops like new, watch the video below. Her condition is near mint… With the exception of the original racing body work in amazing condition, this JPS Norton has only 2 brake-in miles! since a nut and bold restoration completed this summer by SoloMoto in Greenwich, CT and is a proper collectors bike. Aside for two small blemishes on the original faring, she is utterly mint.
More from the seller:
Back Ground: The Norton Road race team sponsorship by the John Player tobacco company was a new commando model, the John Player Norton – or “JPS” for short. It was announced for the 1974 sale season, equipped with a streamlined, twin headlight half fairing and matching tank/seat unit in the John Player livery. Beneath the endurance-race inspired bodywork was a standard issue MK2A Commando 850. The “gas tank” is actually a fiberglass cover hiding an elongated steel roadster tank buffered by rubber mounting on the isolastic frame to reduce vibration. This was the first introduction of the revolutionary feather bed frame.
JPS this is unique and special model, production totaling for 1974 & 75 is only about 200units, with only 120 shipped to the US. The factory JPN won 14international races including the Transatlantic Trophy, the Formula750cc Isle of Man TT, the British 750cc Championship and the MCN Superbike Championship.
Today’s example has seen some restoration work, and the paintwork appears to be bright in color. The white mag wheels are an interesting add on, with the factory JPS bikes sporting laced-up spoke wheels. Those wheels practically make the bike appear brighter than stock, which makes me wonder if the main fairings were repainted a slightly different color than stock. The tail paint also appears slightly different than the standard JPS, as the red paint does not go up all the way to the top of the tail – but again, that could be my eyes or my lack of knowledge of the intricate variants of the model run. Finally, the stripe under the windscreen with the Union Jack does not appear in any of the catalogs or brochures I researched. But again, I do not claim to be an aficionado of the model, and acknowledge that there may be differences across so few bikes from a small vendor. There are some minor marks in the paint in a couple of places, and the fairing bodywork does appear to be delaminating on both sides where the flat edges meet the sides. Mechanically, this bike is said to have gone through a complete nut and bolt restoration, so that should bode well for the next rider. The pipes are not stock, but should emit quite the bark at full song. You can check out all of the details on this one HERE, and be sure to share your thoughts on the JPS. Do you love it, or does the bug-eye look scare you away? Good Luck!!